Manuscript Collection MS COLL 00021 - David Thompson Papers

Identity area

Reference code



David Thompson Papers


  • 1784-1914 (Creation)

Level of description

Manuscript Collection

Extent and medium

11 boxes and items

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

David Thompson, born in London, England, in 1770, was one of North America's greatest explorers, surveyors and mapmakers, as well as one of the finest travel writers of his era. In 1794, he was appointed as a surveyor for the Hudson's Bay Compay. He broke with the HBC and joined the North West Company as a surveyor in 1797. From 1792 to 1812, he mapped most of the country west of Hudson Bay and Lake Superior, across the Rocky Mountains to the source of the Columbia River, and the length of the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. He died in 1857.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Joseph Burr Tyrrell was a Canadian geologist, cartographer and mining consultant. In 1895, Tyrrell purchased the records of Canadian overland explorer, cartographer and fur trader David Thompson and, in 1916, he published them as David Thompson's Narrative.

Archival history

The holograph manuscripts of the Narrative remained in the possession of David Thompson's family after his death in 1857. One of his sons sold the manuscripts to Charles Lindsey of Toronto. J.B. Tyrell purchased them from Lindsey in 1895 and donated them to the University of Toronto Library in 1939. The other holograph material was probably included with the manuscripts Tyrell purchased from Charles Lindsey and was donated by him to the library at the same time.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by J.B. Tyrell, 1939, 1957.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection consists of holograph manuscripts and copies of manuscripts by Thompson, including two drafts for his projected book: a narrative account of his explorations in western America from 1784 to 1812. It also includes several sketches of mountain elevations, some of which were published in J.B. Tyrell's 1916 edition of the Narrative, and several other fragments of manuscripts by Thompson, typed transcripts of his journals, and photostats of other original Thompson material held elsewhere.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form:

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

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Existence and location of copies

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Description identifier

Institution identifier

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

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