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Richard Francis Burton Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: FED
Date: Apr 1971

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.



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.

Table of Contents


Legal records

Memorabilia - Scrapbooks



Index to correspondence


Index to correspondence