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Richard Francis Burton Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890.
Title: Richard Francis Burton Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1855-1891
Quantity: 0.5 linear ft.
Abstract: British explorer of India and Africa, world traveler, orientalist, author, linguist, translator of The Arabian nights. Collection includes correspondence (1855-1891); contracts with publishers; and essays by Burton. Correspondence includes letters from Lady Burton (Isabel Arundell), including some to Algernon Charles Swinburne, and letters by Burton regarding Africa and the Orient.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was a 19th century British explorer, translator, Orientalist, author, linguist, poet and translator of The Arabian nights.

Born in Devon, England, Burton's early education was largely from tutors due to his family's habit of extensive and frequent travel. He went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1840; upon his expulsion in 1842 he traveled to India, where he began his lifelong study of Eastern languages, societies and customs. The following years were filled with travel and adventure, including a pilgrimage to Mecca for which Burton disguised himself as a native, an exploit which made him famous. In the 1850s he explored the interior of Somali land and made an expedition to the sources of the Nile. In 1861 he married Isabel Arundell (1831-1896) and shortly thereafter entered the British foreign service and was consul in Fernando Po, Brazil, Damascus and Trieste. In his later years Burton produced many travel books as well as translations of The Arabian Nights and an edition of the Kama Sutra in English.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Richard Francis Burton Papers are arranged in four series: correspondence, legal records, writings, and miscellany. A small portion of the papers relate to Burton's wife, Lady Isabel Burton.

Correspondence, approximately 70 items, deal with Oriental languages, translation problems, theories about Africa, mining on the Gold Coast, foreign service and the like. There are also 17 letters from Lady Isabel, three of which are to the British poet Algernon Swinburne.

Legal records consists of two agreements between publishing houses and Lady Isabel.

Writings consist of two articles and two book reviews by Burton, in both published and draft formats.

Miscellany contains a copy of a contemporary review of Burton's translation of The Lusiads and a few other items of ephemera.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically; an index to correspondents appears at the end of this inventory. Other material is arranged alphabetically by type or title.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Burton family.
Burton, Isabel, Lady, 1831-1896.
Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 1837-1909.


Authors and publishers -- Contracts and specifications.


Africa -- Discovery and exploration.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Richard Francis Burton Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Frederick P. Hier, 1955.

Purchase, 1955-1969.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: FED
Date: Apr 1971
Revision history: 25 Apr 2010 - converted to EAD (MRC); 20 Dec 2016 - rehoused, inventory updated, index code updated (MS, MRC)

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Box 1 1855, 1865, 1868-1891, undated (21 folders)
Box 1 Baddeley, St. Clair 1883-1889 - album of letters from Burton
Legal records
Box 1 Agreement, I. Burton with H. King & Co. 1875
Box 1 Agreement, I. Burton with W. Tinsley 1868
Memorabilia - Scrapbooks
Oversize 2 "Agents" 1870-1888 - primarily accounting documents in scrapbook form, with some legal material
See also Commissions, below, for items which were laid in and have been foldered separately for preservation purposes.
Oversize 1 "Arabian Nights" 1885-1886 - clippings of reviews of the 1885 book 'Arabian Nights', including correspondence
Box 1 "Burton's Lusiads" 1876-1889 - clippings and reviews of the 1880 book of Burton's, including correspondence
Oversize 2 [Clippings] 1875, 1886-1887, undated
Oversize 2 Commissions [from the 'Agents' scrapbook] 1843, 1846, 1872, 1883
These items were originally laid in the "Agent" scrapbook above, but have been foldered separately for protections. Items include letters from the Governor Council in Bombay for Burton's Indian Army service, a letter of appointment as Consul to Austria in Trieste, and an appointment letter as Knight Commander in the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George from Queen Victoria.
Oversize 2 "Durrants and other press clippings 1893, chiefly on 'Life' " 1885-1896
Box 1 "The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land" 1975-1876 - clippings and reviews of the 1875 book by Lady Isabel Burton (Mrs. Richard Burton) along with correspondence
Box 2 "Isabel Burton Scraps also Sir Richard's from June'88 to February '89" 1880-1881, 1888-1889
Box 2 [Lady Burton] Scrapbook 1886-1888 - clippings mainly about Isabel Burton's translations of her husband's works
Box 2 Jose Basilio de Gama, the Man and the Poet circa 1878
Box 2 This is How the War Began 1882
Book reviews
Box 2 The Life of Stratford Canning by S, Lane-Poole 1888 - reproduction from The Academy (2 folders)
Box 2 Travels in Tunisia by A. Graham and H. S. Ashbee 1888 - drafts and reproduction (2 folders)
Box 2 Review of The Lusiads, other items 1861-1881

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Index to correspondence

  • Isabel Burton : Dec 1881; 12 Jan [no year]; to Edwin de Leon, 14 Sep 1890, Trieste; to I. A. S., Dec [no year]; to Miss Smith, 27 Aug 1875; to Euphemia Mackay Smith, 27 Nov [no year], London; to Euphemia Mackay Smith, 28 Sep 1884, Trieste; to Mrs. Suverkopf, 9 Mar 1885, Trieste; to Mrs. Suverkopf, 20 Apr 1885, Trieste; to Mrs. Suverkopf, 2 Jun 1890, London; to Mrs. Suverkopf, 7 Apr 1891, London; to Algernon Swinburne, 3 Aug [no year], London?; to Algernon Swinburne, 7 Jul 1874, Trieste; to Algernon Swinburne, 3 Dec 1879; to Mr. Tinsley, 1869; to Mr. Watts, circa 1875; to Mr. Watts, 24 Sep 1875, Trieste
  • Richard Burton : [no date], 3 items; 24 Mar [no year], Trieste; 30 Jun [no year], Trieste; 23 Nov [no year], at sea; 13 Dec [no year], Lisbon; 25 May 1877, Trieste; 3 Jun 1877, Trieste; 5 Dec 1884, Trieste; to E. Allen, 29 Sep 1865, London; to E. Allen, 26 Mar 1886, Trieste; to J. B. Andrew, 18 Jan 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 26 Jun 1883, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 25 Jul 1883, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 23 Dec 1883, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 1 Apr 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 30 Apr 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 18 Sep 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 3 Dec 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 4 Mar 1884, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 15 Oct 1887 [?], Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 11 Apr 1889, Trieste; to St Clair Baddeley, 18 Sep 1889, Trieste; to William Beke, Athenaeum Club London, 27 May 1875; to Lord Broughton, London; to Andrew Chatto, 5 Jun 1882, London; to Cotton, 7 Nov [no year], Geneva; to Cotton, 12 Dec 1885, Tangier; to James S. Cotton, 12 Aug 1865, London; to James S. Cotton, 24 Oct 1869, Trieste; to James S. Cotton, 11 Sep 1885, London; to James S. Cotton, 30 Jan 1886, London; to James S. Cotton, 13 Jul 1886, London; to James S. Cotton, 22 Sep 1886, London; to James S. Cotton, 20 Nov 1888, Geneva; to James S. Cotton, 10 Jan 1889, Territet, Switzerland; to James S. Cotton, 23 Jun 1889, London; to the editor of The Academy, 18 Jun 1888, Switzerland; to W. F. Kirby, 16 Aug 1888; to Mr. Irvine, 27 Sep, [no year], Pall Mall; to Mr. Mon [?], 22 Mar 1870; to Mr. Monson, 27 Apr 1873, Trieste; to Mr. Ravenstein [?], [no date]; to Stratford Redcliff, 22 Jul 1855; to Mr. Saunders, 2 Mar 1874, Trieste; to Mr. Saunders, 19 Mar 1874, Trieste; to Smith, Elder & Co., 28 Oct 1875 [?]; to Lady Stangford [?], 30 Sep [no year]; to Mr. Suerth [?], 17 May 1877, Trieste; to Reginald Talbot, Athenaeum Club London, 1878 [?]; to Mr. Trikley, 1 Jun [no year], Trieste; to Wilson, 21 Mar 1865

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