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Collection Overview

Thompson, George Alexander.
Selected Papers of George Alexander Thompson
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.21 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1


Consists of corrected proofs, printed ephemera, and autograph letters of nineteenth-century English scholar and author George Alexander Thompson.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of the original page proofs of the first seven chapters pertaining to post-Iturbide Mexico, eventually removed from Thompson's work, which was published as Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (1829). The excised section, entitled "Narrative of a Mission to Guatemala from Mexico," treats Thompson's departure from Plymouth, his arrival at Vera Cruz, and his journey to Xalapa. From Xalapa he moved to Mexico City. While there he met a F. Iglesias, a close friend of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) during his travels. Thompson describes the general reaction in the country to the execution of Agustín de Iturbide in 1824, his flirtation with a group of young ladies, and the inauguration of Mexico's first president, Guadalupe Victoria. This section includes extensive annotations and manuscript notes in pencil, probably in Thompson's hand. In addition, there are two letters concerning Thompson's appointment as Secretary to the British Commission to Mexico, dated 10 Oct. 1823 and 21 Jan. 1826, in a secretarial hand and signed by Joseph Planta of the Foreign Service. The first letter informs Thompson of his appointment, while the second resolves a pay dispute. Also included is a letter (20 Dec. 1828) from the royal librarian giving permission for the Narrative to be dedicated to the King. The remaining correspondence is primarily between a young Thompson and his father (George Nisbett) and his sister (Matilda), written while Thompson was a student at Rugby School (1797-1802). There are also three items of printed ephemera, including two variant advertisements for a pending supplement (which was never published) to his previously published translation of Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario, entitled Shortly will be Published, A Supplement to Thompson's Alcedo; or Dictionary of America and West Indies... (undated), and a list of subscribers, dated 1831, entitled Subscriptions to Thompson's America and the West Indies.

ALS = autograph letter signed


The collection is arranged by topic.

Collection Creator Biography:

Thompson, George Alexander.

George Alexander Thompson was born at Ullapoor, near Calcutta, India (date unknown). His father, George Nesbitt Thompson (Warren Hasting's secretary and a barrister by training), married an Indian princess who had been captured by the British. A daughter, Matilda, was born in Ullapoor in 1788, the same year George Nesbitt returned to Britain. His wife may have already died, for he married another woman named Catherine Mary Vansittart (née Powney), the recently-widowed wife of Henry Vansittart's son (also named Henry). George Nesbitt purchased a house in Epsom and subsequently Penton Lodge in Andover, Herts. There, George Alexander attended Rugby School (1797-1802) and became a clerk in the Stamp Office. Later, perhaps in 1806, he was encouraged by his step-brother, Nicolas Vansittart (a foreign translator in the Audit Office), to pursue scholarship on a professional level. Thompson's first published work was a translation of Antonio de Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario geográfico-historico de las Indias Occidentales o América (London: printed for James Carpenter, Old Bond-Street..., 1812-15). Thompson also published in 1813, A New Theory of the Two Hemispheres, which attempts to explain the peopling of the Americas. In October 1823, Thompson obtained a Foreign Office appointment as Secretary to the British Commission to Mexico following the abdication of "Augustin I," the creole emperor Augustín de Iturbide. He spent eighteen months in Mexico, and subsequently visited the breakaway United Provinces of Central America (Guatemala, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica) in 1825.

Upon his return, Thompson traveled around London where he repeatedly projected a "Supplement" to his five-volume translation of Alcedo's Diccionario, the stock of which he apparently controlled. He solicited and obtained subscribers in 1829 and 1831, and was still seeking and obtaining new patronage as late as 1848. Thompson's supplement was never printed, despite the commitments of subscribers who, the author claimed, included King George IV (replaced in 1831 by William IV), two archbishops of Canterbury, seven dukes, and other distinguished officials, scientists, and bibliophiles. In 1829 Thompson published, with John Murray, his Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (London: John Murray, 1829). This report did not include any description of his eighteen months in Mexico. Thompson issued another work in 1849 published as Handbook to the Pacific and California, Describing Eight Different Routes, by Sea, Central America, Mexico, and the Territories of the United States, Particularly with Reference to the Ports Frequented by the Steamers of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1849). His later activities are unknown.

Collection History


Purchased from Wm. Reese Company, 2004 . AM2004-109.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Teresa T. Basler in 2004. Finding aid written by Teresa T. Basler in 2004.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Selected Papers of George Alexander Thompson; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1