In 1845 Captain Sir John Franklin led an Arctic exploration to try and discover the Northwest Passage. The voyage included two Royal Navy ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus as well as 129 men. The story of Franklin is now famous as the men were never seen alive again and ever since various expeditions have tried to discover what happened.

One of those expeditions was led by Captain Sir James Ross in 1848 after the Admiralty sent him to try and find the missing crews and Captain Franklin. Two ships, HMS Enterprise and HMS Investigator left Britain and headed for the Canadian archipelago. Although Ross didn’t find anything, one of his lieutenants, W H Browne, created ten colour views that he took during the expedition. 

The copy held here in the library of Browne’s work has an inscription to Mrs Captain Austin with Lieutenant Browne’s Compliments. Captain Austin was in command of the next expedition in 1850 to try and find Franklin, so it seems Lieutenant Browne gave Austin’s wife a copy of his book when it was published in 1850. Possibly so Mrs Austin could have an idea of what her husband was experiencing?!

The volume was donated to the library by Dom Stephen Rawlinson, a monk of the abbey. It would appear Dom Stephen was somewhat interested in the Franklin expedition and acquired the volume at a time when further expeditions were ongoing in the late 1870’s. 

In recent years the wrecks of the two ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus have been located by search teams. Also many graves and relics of Franklin’s expedition have also been discovered. In 2018 a television series by the acclaimed director Ridley Scott called The Terror aired, and despite bending the historical truth somewhat, it follows loosely the Franklin expedition story. The disappearance of the Franklin expedition is still one which captures the imagination and seeing the book here in the library shows in some way why. 

To read more about the library collections click here.