Papers of James Frederick Schon

Reference code(s): GB 0150 CMS/ACC78
Held at: Birmingham - University of, Information Services, Special Collections Department
Title: Papers of James Frederick Schon
Date(s) of contents: circa 1850-1893
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent and medium: 68 docs., 1 vol.


Name of creator(s):

Administrative/Biographical history: James Frederick Schon (b c.1802) of Ober Weiler, Baden, Germany attended the Basel Seminary and, in 1831, the Church Missionary Society College. He was ordained a deacon in 1831 and priest in 1832 when he went to Sierra Leone. He accompanied the first Niger Expedition in 1841. His connection with the CMS ceased in 1853 after 20 years' service. He was renowned for his African linguistic work, particularly in Hausa, and he continued to be engaged in this work after ceasing to be a missionary. He was the author of numerous works including Journal of the Niger Expedition (1842); Vocabulary and Elements of Grammar of the Haussa Language (1843); Translations of Genesis, Exodus, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles into the Hausa Language (1857-1861); Grammar of the Haussa Language (1862); Dictionary of the Hausa Language (1876). In 1848 he became chaplain to the Melville Hospital, Chatham. In 1877 he was awarded the Volney Prize for his linguistic work and in 1884 received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. He died at Chatham 30 March 1889. Schon married Anne Elizabeth Nylander in 1835: she died in Sierra Leone 5 Nov 1837. In 1839 he married Cordelia Irving who died the following year. On 5 February 1841 he married Catherine White (nee Drake), the widow of James White, a CMS missionary. Catherine survived her husband, dying 26 Oct 1892. One daughter, Annie Catherine married Edward Thomas Higgens, CMS missionary in Ceylon, in 1858.
Reference: Register of missionaries (clerical, lay & female) and native clergy from 1804 to 1904, Church Missionary Society, 1905).

Custodial history: Presented to the CMS by a member of the Schon family in 1948; transferred on permanent loan to the Special Collections Department by the CMS in the 1980s.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: This collection comprises papers of James Frederick Schon, CMS missionary, particularly concerning his translation work. It includes letters he received from CMS headquarters, from native clergy in West Africa and from colleagues and friends. It also includes a translation of the gospel of St Matthew into Hausa.

System of arrangement: This collection forms part of the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers. It is arranged into one series: Family Papers.


Language: English

Conditions governing access: Open Access to all registered readers.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids: A catalogue of this collection to file and item level is available in electronic format on the University of Birmingham Information Services Online Archive Catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation in the Special Collections Department reading room.


Related material: The Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers includes another collection of papers of James Frederick Schon, including correspondence and the incomplete original of Schon's journal of the first Niger expedition in 1841 (GB 0150 CMS/ACC728). The Special Collections Department also holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 0150 CMS), which includes papers relating to Schon's service as a CMS missionary.


Date(s) of descriptions: Created 17/08/2001, modified 16/09/2002

African languages

Personal names
Schon | James Frederick | b c.1802 | missionary

Corporate names
Church Missionary Society

West Africa