Arctic Blue Books Online
"Blue Books and Rat Tails": The History of the Arctic
Blue Books Index
My academic leave from the army extended over a period of a year,
in Montreal, from September of 1949. The normal examinations were
completed in May 1950, but the University of Montreal seemed reluctant
to release on the unsuspecting public anyone with so little command
of the French language as I had. I was sentenced to five additional
courses in French, which I'm quite certain I deserved. With a struggle,
I passed. However, I had considerable time on my hands, which enabled
me to work on the M.Adissertation required for the degree.
With my family, we had a comfortable new apartment near the University's
truly magnificent setting atop Mount Royal -- just a nice walk in
the morning. The best library in the area for my work was unquestionably
that of the Arctic Institute of NorthAmerica, located adjacent to
McGill University's Sherbrooke Street site. There Nora Corley, its
librarian, welcomed me, and the librarian who helped me most was
young and beautiful Selma Huxley, now the distinguished scientist,
Selma Barkham, who madethe remarkable discoveries of sunken 16th
century vessels along the coast of Labrador.
So I spent much of the summer on street cars traveling from Outremont
to Sherbrooke Street and back. At the library, Selma would quickly
fetch whatever books I needed, which I took home for a few days;
then back to the library for more. Reading theexploratory narratives
for the first time was a thrilling experience, especially after
having seen many of the islands in 1947. It was an exceedingly happy
and contented period of my life. My thesis, entitled The History
and Exploration of the Northern Islands Region, was accepted
by the University and I was granted my M.A. in 1950. Its bibliography
included references to four Arctic Blue Books.
Some years later, my M.A. thesis was published by the Canadian
Department of Mines and Technical Surveys as Memoir 3 of the Geographical
Branch entitled, Geographical Discovery and Exploration of the
Queen Elizabeth Islands (1955, 172 pp., maps). It contained
an extensive bibliography which ran to some 30 pages, in which were
listed (under the heading Parliamentary Papers) 16 Arctic
Blue Books, which includedmost of the important items. The book's
greatest public attraction may have been its price --- one dollar.
The language challenge that had confronted me when I first attended
the University of Montreal was so monumental that I had every expectation
of failing in a good many subjects. I was then well over 40 years
of age; not only was I by far the oldestmember of all my classes
-- I was older than some of the instructors. I had little or no
knowledge of the French language, and sat through the first few
classes listening to what to me was pure Greek. However, I devised
a method of circumventing the problem quickly. First, I produced
what must be the worst French into English translations ever made
of two textbooks required for the geography course which immediately
extended my vocabulary. Then, I borrowed French notes kept by several
of my fellow students who appeared most interested in the lectures,
and translated them into English. From that point, I wrote my own
notes and read English texts extensively. And the most redeeming
factor of all, -- I was permitted to write my exams in English.
I followed every possible class without realizing that I was taking
an M.A. course, and also a Ph.D. course simultaneously. I wrote
exams on them all. There were no failures so I qualified for both
degrees in the single year. My Ph.D. dissertation was accepted in
This was a great surprise to me. It was an even greater surprise
to some of my fellow students, who finally philosophized I knew
so little French, and some of the professors had such a limited
command of English, that mistakes were bound to happen.But I knew
the clue to my success was not that, nor was it any higher degree
of intelligence I might have possessed -- it was due to plain hard
work, coupled with the very kind cooperation of Dr. Pierre Dagenais,
Director of the University's Institute ofGeography, and of my family.
My Ph.D. thesis, entitled The Physiography of the Queen Elizabeth
Islands (1956 in 5 vols.) was written under contract with the
United States Navy Office of Naval Research (Washington, D.C.),
and under the supervision of the American Geographical Society,
New York. It was published by that institution as The Physical
Geography of the Queen Elizabeth Islands (1956 - in 12 vols.).
Its bibliography was much moreextensive than my earlier volume.
The Parliamentary Papers were described most meticulously, such
that its 45 Blue Book titles extended through ten pages.
I had learned much on the subject of the Arctic Blue Books
over this period of years so I gathered my material together and
wrote a paper which was published in Diana Rowley's excellent Arctic
Circular (Ottawa, 1955, vol. VIII, No. 3, entitled, "A Preliminary
Guide to the Arctic Blue Books and Parliamentary Papers of the Nineteenth
Century", 30 pp.) It included the 45titles later contained in
the American Geographical Society
12-volume set, and was preceded by a few pages of descriptive material
concerning the Blue Books.
Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson
Vilhjalmur Stefansson was well aware of these Blue Book developments
as they occurred, and had been sent copies of my several papers
that referred to them. In 1955 he encouraged me in every possible
way, briefly acknowledging receipt of a copy of my Memoir 3 ...
" ... we rejoice in the bibliography, both the formal one and the
things in footnotes."
In the following year he commented on my 1955 Preliminary Guide
to the Arctic Blue Books, in a congratulatory letter to Diana
Rowley: "Nothing else you could have given 31 pages to could have
been so important, or at least could have been of more value to
libraries and to collectors of Arctic material as (or than) Andrew
Taylor's ...Preliminary Guide..."
On this continent, in the fifties, Stefansson was undoubtedly the
most knowledgeable person on the subject of the Arctic Blue Books.
He had known of them and used them for many years. He was an habitual
bibliophile, and duringhis many travels across the continent, had
purchased copies of the Blue Books whenever he found them.
His attractive wife, Evelyn, compared their own economic position
to that of land-poor farmers, except that they were book-poor through
his bibliophilic expenditures. In my own travels, I often visited
book stores in his wake, cleaned out of Arctic volumes by his purchases.
When I knew him best in the latter years of his life, he was established
at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., with Evelyn, curator of
the Stefansson library. He had an excellent collection of Blue
Books on their shelves, and had duplicates of many in a hoard
of Arctic volumes reposing in a barn on a property they owned at
Bethel, Vermont. Of course, he gave me access to purchase some of
the duplicate copies I needed for my work.
Concerning the Blue Books in his collection, he wrote (April,
1954) "... you are probably right in thinking our collection of
them is one of the best, still we are no more than vividly conscious
--- far from being truly knowledgeable -- - of what they contain;
and we always have the greatest trouble to find what we want, even
when we know it is there somewhere among those thousands of folio
printed pages and hundreds of maps."
I have often felt guilty for not publicly acknowledging the help
and hospitality given me at that time at Hanover by Dr. Lincoln
and Tahoe Washburn during my several visits there. Very belatedly,
but no less sincerely, I do so now. Linc gave me access to his personal
library and also allowed me to buy some of the items I needed, as
I now recollect. He was a great encouragement to me in the progress
of this project. Both my wife, Martha, and I enjoyed the kind hospitality
of the Washburns on several occasions.
Dr. J.M. Wordie
When I knew him in 1946 in England, Sir James Wordie was Master
of St. John's College at Cambridge University. He was the most distinguished
of the triumvirate that controlled our Antarctic Expedition of 1943-46,
known periodically as Naval Party 47 5, British Bransfield Expedition,
and finally as Operation Tabarin. Later, the name was further diversified
as the Falkland Island Dependencies Survey (F.I.D.S.) and now as
the British Antarctic Survey (B.A.S.).
I had not known him when I was first drafted to the Brits in 1943,
but on our return to London in 1946 we encountered each other once
or twice; I lunched with him at his London Club before returning
I was then unaware of the Blue Books.
Wordie was distinguished, of course, for his participation in Sir
Ernest Shackleton's Second Antarctic Expedition (1915), when the
latter's ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the ice and
sunk in the Weddell Sea, and her crew survived on Elephant Island.
He was also one of the acknowledged British experts on the subject
of the Arctic Blue Books. In a 1956 letter he wrote: "I have
had a handlist myself for some time for the set which I possess
(ex-John Barrow's library).Now I shall be using your bibliography
rather than my own... Your paper was quite unexpected, and a very
great pleasure to find that there was now someone else with expert
knowledge of the Parliamentary Papers... I appreciate your
activityin this matter."
Stef, of course, strongly recommended that I get in touch with
Wordie at Cambridge. I do not think Stef was aware that we knew
each other. He suggested that Wordie was the most knowledgeable
source of information concerning the contents of the Blue Books,
and where to find it. "You must find the means to use his learning
early in your work, for it is going to be a large job even if you
have his sources to build on ... In principle he will of course
be glad to help anyone going into afield where he has been hitherto
almost the sole workman..."
But other matters intervened and I never did get closely in touch
with him on this matter. I was dragged off my American Geographical
Society project early in 1955 by the Canadian Defence Research Board
to become the Senior Canadian Engineer on thesiting of the D.E.W.
(Distant Early Warning) line (under a fine ex-R.E. officer - and
ex-Burmese P.O.W. -- named Stephen Cooke-Yarborough). But it delayed
all of my projects several months.
Wordie and I corresponded a little over the years, but we never
got down to specifics, and money for a trip to see him in Cambridge
was out of the question.
Dr. Richard J. Cyriax
One of the acknowledged British experts in the field of the Arctic
Blue Books (according to Wordie) was Dr. Richard J. Cyriax,
a reverend gentleman of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, southeast
of Birmingham. He was an expert on The Franklin Expedition,
and had published a prestigious and rare volume with that title
in 1939. I never met him but we corresponded a little. He once explained
to me the rarity of his magnum opus. Following its publication
in 1939, the warehouse from which copies of the book were being
distributed was destroyed by a bomb during a German air raid. Distribution
into the postal system had barely started. Pre-publication orders
(mainly to institutional libraries) had been filled, but general
distribution had hardly begun; hence the scarcity of the book, for
most copies were incinerated.
Wordie thought highly of Cyriax. He said, "I always regarded Rupert
Gould and Dr. Cyriax as the chief depositories of knowledge ...
Cyriax does not have a run of the books himself, but memorizes most
of his information, and continually quotes them from memory."
On receipt of a copy of my two papers on the Arctic Blue Books
(dated 1955 and 1959), which Cyriax stated would be extremely useful
to him, I apparently had been writing him concerning the progress
of the Index Project (some of our correspondence is at present mislaid).
He replied in October, 1959 to a letter I had written to say I was
nearly finished it. "This index fills a long felt want; I shall
be perpetually referring to it myself, and it will be a most valuable
acquisition to all person's interested in the subject. My only regret
-- the only one -- is that it did not appear years ago; it would
have saved me hours." Alas! Richard. May you rest in peace! (for
I presume you have passed away). It has not appeared yet, following
an interval of over thirty years."
Lt./Cmdr. Rupert T. Gould R.N.
Gould is one of the experts mentioned by Wordie in his letter from
Cambridge. His interest in the Arctic Blue Books preceded
mine by many years, and I acknowledged his prior right to the subject
in my 1955 paper, in which I quoted extensive excerpts from his
In a 1928 publication entitled Oddities: A Book of Unexplained
Facts Gould refers to the Arctic Blue Books thus:
"Nothing like selection seems to have been attempted --
every scrap of paper that found its way into official channels,
from the most valuable hydrographic and other information, down
to begging letters and mediumistic ravings, was sure to becast up
in one of these Blue Books in an order partly chronological,
largely fortuitous, and, as a whole, defying analysis. In many cases,
the Blue Books must now be regarded as the best procurable
authorities, the original documents from which they were compiled
being no longer extant -- but they are by no means easy reading,
and probably never were even in their heyday, widely read." (Gould,
1928, p. 87). In the letter from Wordie of July, 1956, he said:
"I agree with all that you have said about Rupert Gould and his
comments on the Blue Books."
Dr. J.K. Wright
In April, 1954, Stefansson directed my attention to Dr. J.K. Wright
of the American Geographical Society in New York. He knew of my connection
with the Society through my office of Naval Research Contract. I was,
in fact, at that time a Research Associate with A.G.S. Stef said that
Wright had been the Society's Librarian, before he became its Director.
He also suggested that I speak to Charles B. Hitchcock and Bill Field,
both of whom I knew.
Dr. Wright gave me a fine letter on my proposal; with respect to
some papers I left for him to examine. "It seems to me you have
an excellent idea. By contrast to some of the over-ambitious and
fuzzily conceived bibliographical projects about whichI have been
consulted now and then, yours strikes me as practicable, well thought
out and potentially very useful. It would open up an uncharted wilderness
of documents which everybody at all familiar with the Arctic record
knows is full of material ofhistorical interest, which in many instances
might well also prove to be of practical value in connection with
present day scientific exploration and resource development. I wish
you all success in carrying this promising enterprise to completion."
So, having quoted the opinions of the several British experts of
the fifties, on the Blue Books, and of the principal North
Americans on the subject there can be little question that the publication
of the Index to theArctic Blue Books was badly needed,
and would have filled a broad requirement for researchers in every
related discipline at that time.
I assume that all these experts have now passed quietly on to their
rewards, and it is my expectation to be joining them shortly, at
which reunion I hope to learn much more about the Arctic Blue
Books than I have ever known.
In the meantime, Marie Tremaine, the distinguished bibliographer
from the Toronto Public Library, was well started upon her prestigious
and monumental volumes entitled the Arctic Bibliography,
with seven thick volumes completed. Of course, she had encountered
the Arctic Blue Books while with Toronto Public Library,
and had already dealt with one of them in Arctic Bibliography
(her Vol.1, No.6107). But because of the complexity of the subject,
she hadavoided entering into it more deeply. She therefore showed
considerable interest in my first 1955 paper, the result of which
was that I was employed to prepare a series of abstracts for each
of the Arctic Blue Books listed in my former Preliminary
Guide for incorporation into Volume VIII of her Arctic Bibliography.
Although most of the work concerned in the preparation of that paper
was done in Ottawa, I worked closely with Marie in Washington and
made several trips to the Smithsonian Institution set-up in which
Recently, I had occasion to refer to our relationship on this project,
when I was invited to write a few words for the Bibliographical
Society of Canada. She used to needle me a little to speed up
my work. She had set aside 46numbers for me in Arctic Bibliography,
and as I have said, "...she had no intention of giving me the slightest
measure of control over the publication date of her Volume Eight".
They, too, were pleasant days.
It was no easy matter in those times (1954) to stimulate public
institutions into loosening the purse strings sufficiently to fund
any private project. I had approached the Department of Northern
Affairs and also the Arctic Institute with the proposal
that abstracts should be prepared, but both had rejected me. However,
when Marie became interested in having it done, she knew which strings
to pull to arrange it. I learned then, had I not known before, never
to underestimate the power of a woman.
With transparent naiveté Marie Tremaine wrote (on 6 May,
"I am glad you are going ahead on your investigations
of the 19th Century Arctic Blue Books. The Arctic Bibliography
project has postponed dealing with them because I know that the
search and identification requires considerable time, and the analyses
of their contents, special skills. These Parliamentary Papers
enclose a large body of literature and data on the Canadian Arctic.
But to make what is valuable in them accessible, the conglomeration
ofreports, journals and documentary appendices which comprise them,
must be sifted and analyzed - by someone who knows the area, and
the literature as well as present needs. And the results should
be thoroughly widened. Your work when published will be apositive
contribution to Arctic Research."
Alas, Marie --- may you, too, rest in peace for the index is not
published yet --- in 1991.
As mentioned, I sent my 1954 proposal to Montreal. The Arctic Institute
of North America quickly returned a rather vapid reply dated 17
May, 1954, stating that "it was unable to provide funds for your
project from any source at present available."They acknowledged
that my work was urgently needed, which was cold comfort indeed.
In 1954-5 I was extremely busy with a number of projects demanding
my immediate time and attention. My progress on the Blue Books
project was seriously impeded by two letters from the Arctic Institute
of North America, both dated 17 May, 1954. The first was from P.D.
Baird, who was then, I believe, Director of the Institute's Montreal
Office. He rejected my 1954 proposal, but recommended that I approach
the American Philosophical Society and the Guggenheim Foundation.
The second letter bore a Kingston, Ontario address, in which Ron
G. Wallace (apparently of the Grants Committee) said the Institute
was fundless, but also suggesting that I approach the Guggenheim.
Since both writers suggested the latter, and only one the former
of Baird's suggestion, I decided to go for the Guggenheim.
A considerable correspondence led to my filling in a long application
form for a Fellowship. Six month's later I was informed it was rejected
because I proposed to do the work outside of the United States.
I was unaware of this requirement, but wasthe Montreal Office of
the Arctic Institute of North America, not aware of it? If so, why
was I not informed, so that the six month's delay could have been
However, as I have said, one must never underestimate the power
of a woman. Marie Tremaine had withheld dealing with the Arctic
Blue Books for the reasons she enumerated in her letter of 6
May, 1954. She saw in me the personification of "someone who knows
the area, and the literature as well as present needs". It was not
long before she offered me a contract to make abstracts of my Blue
Books for her Arctic Bibliography. As I recollect, it
was for $3,000. This was but part of the proposal I had made, but
I was operating on a very thin shoestring at the time, and a crust
of bread was better than nothing at all.
The project hung fire for about a year, but it was eventually accepted.
After writing the abstracts, she edited and reduced my verbiage
by about 50%, and it was published under the title of Arctic
Blue Books. British Parliamentary Papers on Exploration in the Canadian
North, as part of her Volume VIII. She gave them the numbers
45212 to 45257 - a total of 46 items, as she had dropped my original
No. 1852d from publication. At the time, I believed they were the
only group of numbers in the Arctic Bibliography volumes
that were not prepared completely by Marie and her staff, in the
cramped quarters they occupied in the Smithsonian Institution. I
do not know today if that still holds true.
In examining Marie's condensation of my abstracts, I find that
she described the main points of a paper, but that she omitted much
of the detail, some of which is of considerable importance. This
discarded material, of course, is lost to the usersof Arctic
Bibliography, Vol, VIII. Doubtless my style of writing was more
verbose than that of a bibliographer, for I was inexperienced at
such work. I now consider that some of her severe cutbacks were
both unnecessary and even harmful.
Referring to Arctic Bibliography, No. 45213, (my original
No. 1834a) almost every reference to the last eight pages of the
Committee's report was omitted. This included the questioning of
Capt. John Ross on the division of responsibility between himself
and Cmdr. J.C. Ross: the questioning of Sir Francis Beaufort re
Ross's contributions in the fields of geography, N.W. Passage, The
North Magnetic Pole, etc.; questioning of Cmdr. J.C. Ross on division
of command with Capt. Ross, his scientific duties, his pecuniary
losses, his disagreement with his uncle, his promotion and his claims
for compensation; questioning Admiral Lord de Saumerez on Capt.
John Ross's good character between the years 1802-12; questioning
of J.G. Children (Sec. Royal Society) on the importance of the Ross
expedition's discovery of the North Magnetic Pole, and its contributions
in the fields of magnetism, natural history, and meteorology, etc.;
questioning of Felix Booth respecting his financial support of the
Ross expedition; and finally 5 Appendices -- on agreements between
Ross and the Admiralty for payment of wages due to the crew of the
Victory. Both accounts (Nos. 6107 and 45213) give a generalized
description of the map attached to this Parliamentary Papers
without listing its title, size, scale, etc.
It may therefore be seen that a rather substantial elimination
of important material was made from the description I provided in
1959 with that of the other 46 items in my original list of 1955
(i.e. in the Preliminary Guide). Without having examined
any of the others carefully at this date, I anticipate that similar
cutbacks may be discovered.
I prepared an application dated 1954 to the Arctic Institute of
North America requesting a grant of nine thousand dollars to finance
my project, "..to compile a complete bibliography, to catalogue
all documents, charts and illustrations of the British Parliamentary
Papers concerning Arctic Expeditions issued between 1833 and
1878, and to provide a suitable index to the catalogue based upon
subject, person and place." The presentation was dated 6 November,
1954 and ran to seven single spaced pages. Its last suggestive paragraph
should perhaps have been omitted, as I tried to cross a bridge before
coming to it. "This work is primarily for public use, and is not
worth doing without publication." Perfectly true, but lethal. I
ought not to have suggested the prospect of non-publication.
In my travels, I had opportunities to show the proposal to several
internationally acclaimed authorities. Stefansson wrote on 9 April,
1954; The Arctic Blue Books, he said, "...are beyond comparison
the most important tool of knowledge in this field, but also the
least wieldly tool. ... you are on the right track."
In my initial proposal, of which Marie had accepted part, I had
suggested indexing the four thousand odd pages of the Blue Books.
This proposal was accepted by the Department of Northern Affairs
about 1959 and I began to create it immediately.
Stone Age Data Processing
The project covering the indexing of the Arctic Blue Books
certainly developed from Marie Tremaine's interest in the subject.
Doubtless the mandarins of Ottawa's Department of Northern Affairs
and National Resources became moreaware of the Blue Books
through the work I had in hand for Marie's Arctic Bibliography.
I cannot recall any evaluation Marie ever made of my work for her.
I never knew whether it was good, bad or indifferent. However, I
wasgrateful that she had never publicized any complaints on the
subject, so far as I was aware.
As I recall, I made a proposal to the Department to provide an
index to the Blue Books, I think for about seven thousand
dollars. A glance at the problem today is sufficient to realize
how badly I had underestimated the volume of workinvolved.
When it was completed, I had produced about 44,000 index cards
(at about 15 cents apiece), involving 250,000 entries. The total
number of pages in the 47 Blue Book Papers with which I had
become involved was about 4300 pages which means that the indexing
of each page involved roughly 60 entries. I was being paid about
$1.75 a page; or three cents per entry. Looking back upon it, I
am wondering should I not have investigated the possibility of suing
the government under The Minimum Wage Act? But I know that it was
not the government's fault -- it was my own.
The mechanics of my process were to inscribe by hand each indexed
item on a double columned sheet --- line after line --- until each
of the sixty lines in each of the two columns was filled. Each line
was rubber stamped with the page number and thechronological reference
number of that particular blue book in which the entry appeared.
This information was then transferred manually onto the appropriate
card in the alphabetized file. Where no previous entry had been
made on a subject, a new card was typed, and the slip details (Blue
Book ref. no, and page) transferred to it. This was a very slow
time-consuming process, and the project became endless. I was forced
to employ "slave labor" in the persons of my wife and three children
who gave their reluctant assistance in the sorting process (for
they all had more important matters to attend to) until it was completed.
The family connotation for the project was not the formal Index
to the Arctic Blue Books. They irreverently named it "The Rat-Tails",
and we all knew what was meant. This work was started I think early
in 1957, before Marie had given all but one of my 47 bibliographical
Blue Book items its numerical digital number. Of necessity,
I had to use my own chronological reference system given in my Preliminary
Guide ... (1955), since that was the only one available. All
the cards in the card index, therefore, carried only my chronological
reference numbers. When Marie's digital references came along in
1959, they were widely adopted, since the Arctic Bibliography
volumes had a world wide distribution. Diana Rowley's scholarly
Arctic Circular had an extremely limitedcirculation. And
thereby, a problem developed which forestalled publication of the
Index for decades.
Reverting to the mechanics of its production, sheet after sheet
was covered with 120 index entries, line after manuscript line,
each bearing a page number and a reference number. With a total
of 250,000 entries, at 120 per page, there were over 20,0 00 of
such sheets, representing a pile of standard 8-1/2 x 11 inch papers
3-1/2 feet high, each bearing 120 entries. Each one was slit in
half to separate the columns, and each entry was then cut transversely
to make 120 slips about 4 inches in length and 1/4 inch widths -
250,000 times. I had difficulty in diverting my mind from paper
dolls. The sorting process began and proceeded as the sheets were
produced --- sorted and resorted, and finally each was entered on
the appropriate card. My oldest son,Andrew, Jr., was about 16 when
he found himself drafted into the endless sorting process. After
graduation from Queens, he was fortunate in finding employment with
IBM -- and became a computer expert; looking back upon his child-laboring
days, he tells me that the antediluvian process I had evolved could
be described as manual data processing. I have named it, "Stone
Age Data Processing".
Apparently, I finished the indexing early in 1959. My entire family
was heartily sick of "Blue-Books and Rat-Tails", and wanted little
more to do with them. The little remaining enthusiasm I had evaporated
when the Department of Northern Affairs let it be known that they
would not be publishing the index --- this despite the fact
that at that time its cost would have been only seven or eight thousand
dollars. I turned the 44,000 index cards comprising the project
over to the Department, and was destined never to set eyes upon
them again for another thirty-two years.
In a footnote on page 1, below an introductory page, Marie Tremaine
had written (of my British Parliamentary Papers on Arctic Expeditions
published in Arctic Bibliography. Vol. VIII) this note: -
"The documents have been indexed in depth by Dr. Taylor
for the Canadian Dept. of Northern Affairs and National Resources,
and this index, an extensive card file, is available for use in
the Northern Affairs Library, Northern Resources Co-ordination Center."
The Blue Books remained serene and very quiet for a couple
of years until the still waters of their solitude were disturbed by
Toronto Public Library
In 1961, the Toronto Public Library began to show an interest in my
Arctic Blue Book index. On the distant horizon, Canada's 1967
Centenary was approaching, and I was told that library was considering
its publication as a Centenary project.
I do not mean to suggest that it occurred to anyone at these great
heights in Ottawa to inform me about such matters. I later learned
of government's interests in an author about 1970 when my wife unexpectedly
found a copy of my Memoir 3 on the History of Exploration of
the Queen Elizabeth Islands which had originally been published
in Ottawa in 1955. She bought it because it looked different from
the one I had at home. It was different, for it hadbeen published
in an unusual second edition (or printing) some years before ---
in fact six! Its publication date was 1964. None of the great minds
in Ottawa had considered this might be of the slightest interest
to its author. Therefore I assumed itunlikely that I would be informed
of any intention to publish the index. However, I used to hear things
--- a word here, another there -- that did provide a little information.
In this case, there unexpectedly came to me a carbon copy of a letter
datedin November, 1961 from H.C. Campbell (Chief Librarian of the
Toronto Public Library) to one of the mandarins in what was now
called the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources
(they have people there to think up and change these ponderous names,
as soon as one has become accustomed to the current one). Negotiations
must have been underway for some time, as the letter set out in
general terms a description of a contract the Toronto Public Library
Board was prepared to accept from the Department to edit the index
and to supply cross references where needed for the sum of $2,000.
It was estimated that the job would occupy four months. Campbell
had been in touch with others on the matter, including Dr. W.K.
Lamb (Dominion Archivist) and MarieTremaine, who had given distinguished
service to the Toronto Public Library for many years. It was further
proposed that the preparation of the manuscript for publication
would be done by "the Defence Research Board, Scientific Information
Section, or some other body"; and that the publication be done under
the auspices of the National Library and the Queen's Printer. He
hoped the work might be completed by the end of 1962; so did I!
Annexed to the letter is a two page supplement of which this is
its first paragraph:
"The British Parliamentary Papers on exploration in the
Canadian north on the list below have been acknowledged for many
years to be the most extensive source of information in print for
the particular areas covered. The information is difficult to access,
however, due to the character and complexity of the documents and
particularly because of the lack of indexes --- the papers have
recently been re-issued in microprint."
This letter may have reached me years after its date. However, I had
learned that of the 35 drawers of index cards in the Northern Affairs
Library, two were taken to the Toronto Public Library to give the
project a trial run.
Looking back on the matter, although the library was quite aware
of the problem, it would seem that Toronto Public Library had greatly
underestimated the difficulties they would encounter in "applying
cross references." The greatest cross referencesneeded were those
that involved the provision of the Arctic Bibliography serial
numbers corresponding to my chronological numbering system used
on the cards. At least one such reference was needed for each of
the 44,000 cards, and in manycases several were required. These
transposed references had all to be done by hand for this was in
the Dark Ages before computers. The incidence of human error proved
immediately to be so great that the project was abandoned by Toronto
Public Library and it was dropped like a hot potato, everything
being left where it fell.
Dr. Alan Cooke
The late Dr. Alan Cooke was a great admirer of Stefansson while
he was an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. He and I met during
the sixties on one of my periodic visits there, and he may have
been infected by Stef's enthusiasm for the Arctic Blue
On graduation, he drifted off to England and enrolled at Cambridge
University for his doctorate degree under Dr. E.E. Rich, long famed
as the eminent editor of many of the Hudson Bay Record Society
volumes. Cooke's dissertation was entitled The Ungava Venture
of the Hudson's Bay Company; 1830-1843.
In 1967 the Scott Polar Research Institute appointed him Assistant
Librarian and Curator of Manuscripts. This led to his appointment
as Editor of Britain's prestigious Polar Record, a post he
held for some years.
Alan and I corresponded fairly regularly for the remainder of his
life, and some of our letters concerned the Arctic Blue Books.
He strongly advocated that financial support be given to publish
the work I had done on the Index.
In his earliest letter on this subject (d. Scott Polar Research
Institute, 27 Sep. 1973), he wrote; re the Index to the Arctic
"I have persistently urged its publication, and, lately,
have had an expression of interest in the possibility of publishing
it from Mansell Information Publishers Ltd. of London. They are
a firm that specializes in the publication of bibliography and have
handled some large jobs. They are at present doing union catalogues
of the Library of Congress, and of the British Museum. They have
expressed interest in doing our library catalogue (i.e that of the
Scott Polar Research Institute), and it was during a discussion
of that possibility that I mentioned your index.... Mansell's have
agreed more or less firmly to publish your index if they can have
an acceptable manuscript--- that is to say, the cards would have
to be retyped to be standard inform and blackness and more economical
in space. I have got money from the Northern Science Research Group,
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa, (the Departmental
name had again been changed) to retype the index and have lately
received the cards themselves. Before sending them here, the Librarian
of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs made a microfilm
of them for protection, an excellent idea. I have just today discussed
the format of the new cards with an officer of Mansell's, and I
hope to hire a typist soon to begin work on this important task.....
Now that the cards are here, it seems to me that a certain amount
of condensation of this index is possible, and that perhaps more
cross-references should be supplied".
As a postscript, he added: "Mansell's are thinking also of publishing
the whole set of Arctic Blue Books on micro-fiche, the notion
being that with the index available, the one thing will help to sell
Needless to say, I was enthralled at the prospect of the index
being published, and as reasonable arrangements now seemed to be
in hand, I felt certain that it would be. I replied to his letter
immediately (3 Oct. 1973). I said that his news was an"astonishing
surprise", as I had no word of that possibility for many years.
However, as Robbie Burns once said, "The best laid schemes o' mice
an' men gang aft agley".
Alan's next letter dated 7 Nov. 1974, described in great detail
the snag that had developed in the form of a very special electric
typewriter attachment that Mansell's demanded for preparation of
the index cards; it had a "carbon ribbon attachment".It was ".....a
device that can be fixed to an electric typewriter which keeps the
ribbon passing smoothly at a constant tension and ensures a fine
black letter." Alan approached Ottawa for an extension to his contract
which would absorb this unexpectedexpense, but Ottawa replied that
the contract could not be re negotiated. A few acrimonious letters
were exchanged, and the project died.
In the same letter Alan wrote that he had decided to return to
Canada, and had resigned his position in Cambridge as of the end
of 1974, though he was prepared to stay on briefly till a replacement
could be found. He said (on 14 Feb. 1975) that he was sailing for
Montreal on 14 April aboard the Stefan Batory, and planned
to take the index cards with him to do the work in Canada himself.
He had rethought the method of handling the project, and was now
in the era of the computer, when the transition from my now ancient
chronological reference system to that of Marie Tremaine's Arctic
Bibliography could be accomplished by the push of a button,
with all possibilities of human error completely eliminated.
On arrival in Montreal, he joined McGill University's Centre for
Northern Studies, under the direction of our mutual friend, Professor
Trevor Lloyd. The Arctic Institute of North America moved from Montreal
to Calgary in 1977, taking with it its library. The University expanded
its northern facilities, and Alan Cooke began the assembly of a
library to replace that of The Arctic Institute of North America
My wife died of cancer late 1979, and I lost interest in everything.
Alan and I met occasionally on his visits to Winnipeg and on my
rarer visits to Ottawa and Montreal. We were both invited to attend
a Symposium on the Centenary of the Arctic Islands at Yellowknife
in August 1980 which extended over several days. We had a few chats
about the index cards which he now had in his possession at Montreal.
He still wanted to work on them, but he was becoming involved in
so many projects of one kind and another that little of his time
was his own any more.
In Alan Cooke's letter of 27 September, 1981, he said; "We applied
to Manpower for a grant to hire student assistants last summer to
begin typing your Blue Book index into a computer program,
but we were unsuccessful. However, with ourCentre's new direction,
I think we shall be able to find money soon for this important work."
At this time, when Alan was fairly well established in Montreal,
the Index to the Arctic Blue Books was incomplete, as many
thousands of the 44,000 index cards were missing. Of this fact no
one seemed cognizant --- not Alan Cooke, nor Mansell's Information
Publishers, nor the Department of Northern Affairs (or whatever
it was currently called). Following one of the many proposals Alan
had made in this fruitless effort to get the Index published, he
happened to check over his holdings, which were then contained in
numbered cartons corresponding to the drawer numbers they once occupied
in Ottawa. Two boxes were missing. He phoned me asking if I had
the missing items, but I explained to him I had not seen the index,
nor any parts of it since 1961. But next day, I recalled the Toronto
Public Library interest in the Index. Alan Cooke received them a
few days later.
This problem arose initially through Toronto Public Library's carelessness
in not returning the two drawers of cards to Ottawa following its
sudden loss of interest in the project. It was compounded by the
further carelessness of Ottawa in not checking the shipment (less
the two missing boxes of cards) made to Alan Cooke in England in
the early 1970's. In turn, Alan apparently assumed the shipment
to be complete until he checked them after transporting them from
Cambridge back to Montreal. However, they were now together again
--- all 35 cartons. Many things can happen to 44,000 loose index
cards in 32 years. It is rather amazing that after so long a period
they have remained intact and complete; let us presume that to be
Alan still had not forgotten the index a year later, for in a paper
he published entitled, "Historical Evidence for Innuit Use of the
Sea Ice", (Workshop, 15/4/82), he refers to the Arctic Blue Books
"...more properly called the British Parliamentary Papers,
relating to Arctic expeditions. Most of these documents, printed
by Order of Parliament, are field records kept by members of the
British naval Arctic expeditions on their evidence at hearings.
They record activities and describe the regions explored in more
explicit detail than the narratives and scientific papers prepared
for the general public.
"Polar scholars owe Dr. Taylor a great debt of gratitude for having
organized the mass of information these Parliamentary Papers represent.
He has published excellent analytical abstracts of them and has
prepared a detailed index to their contents,an index that is, alas,
still unpublished." But in 1983, a McGill University librarian expropriated
the library Alan had formed for the Centre for Northern Studies,
and he resigned in protest. Soon after, he started his own Hochelaga
Research Instituteon Montreal's Atwater Street, which eventually
led to his final accomplishment --- the creation of his brief-lived
journal, Arcana Poli in July of 1988. During this period
he spent in Montreal, he made several efforts to proclaim the importance
of the Arctic Blue Books, and the work I had done on them.
In 1984, Alan Cooke published a paper entitled "A Bibliographical
Introduction to Sir John Franklin's Expeditions and the Franklin
Search". It was based upon an address he gave at a colloquium in
the Hudson's Bay Company Archives Research Centre atthe University
of Winnipeg on 28 and 29 May, 1984. He described the paper as a
"...guide to the published and unpublished literature, related to
Franklin and the Franklin Search, special attention being given
to the Arctic Blue Books...".
After referring to the standard sources found in any good library,
"The most important of the less obvious sources are without
doubt the Arctic Blue Books. I have had occasion before (Cooke
1981: 52, 1981: 66) and I welcome another opportunity now, to thank
Dr. Andrew Taylor publicly forhis great service to polar scholarship.
In 'A Preliminary Guide to the Arctic Blue Books and Parliamentary
Papers of the Nineteenth Century', Dr. Taylor (1955a) has described
the confused and confusing series of Sessional Papers of the British
Parliament. Among more than 50,000 nineteenth century Sessional
Papers, he has found 47 that deal with the Canadian Arctic, most
of which are related to the Franklin Search. Arctic Bibliography,
Vol. VIII, Nos. 45212-57, carries excellent analytical abstracts
that Dr. Taylor has prepared for these documents, and they are described
and indexed (at the end of the volumes) for their geographic content,
data on environmental conditions, expeditionary health, and organization;
some essentially administrative matter is indicated, but no attempt
made to trace history of exploration! (Taylor, 1959: 317).
'Dr. Taylor has done yet more. He has indexed this wilderness
of information in considerable detail. I have had this index in
my custody, on loan from the library of the Department of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development, for some ten years now,and hope
that the interest in Franklin's expedition and the Franklin Search
manifested by this conference may be the means of securing at
last financial support for its publication". (In Sutherland, Patricia
D - The Franklin Era In Canadian Arctic History, 1845-1859.
National Museum of Man, 1985. x. 220 p. [Mercury Series, Archaeological
Survey of Canada.
"Well done, Alan, and I do appreciate it," I said to myself. But
five more years passed by, and by that time, my good friend Alan
Cooke had suddenly and unexpectedly, at the age of 58, arrived at
the end of his road.
Alan Cooke still had hopes of securing financing for publication
of the Blue Book Index in midsummer of 1986. We were both
in Ottawa on 15 July, and I accompanied him to visit Ramma Kamra
and Ms. Jean McNiven, Reference Librarian, Department of Indian
and Northern Affairs, Ottawa on a pleasant afternoon, but no money
Ever hopeful that he would succeed in raising the necessary funds
to allow him to publish my Index, Alan had kept trying at every
turn to do so. As things transpired, he came nearest to accomplishing
his purpose in 1974 with Mansell's Information Publishers Ltd. in
London, with money in hand through a grant from Ottawa's Northern
Science Research Group (Dept. of Indian & Northern Affairs --- by
this date again altered). But the arrangement foundered on the cost
of the typewriter attachment required by Mansell's, the cost of
which was rejected by Ottawa. With the advantage of hindsight, I
now see that I should have paid for the attachment myself to save
Ottawa that added expense. I did not quite understand exactly what
the attachment was, but I assumed it to be the predecessor of I.B.M.'s
electric typewriter. It ought not to have cost more that $1,000.
However, on that day in 1974 my hindsight was not working very well
Alan Cooke's death brought the prospect of publication down to
a point lower than it had ever been. I hadn't a clue which way to
turn, nor had I the index cards, which suddenly struck me as the
most immediate problem.
While I myself was hospitalized, Alan Cooke passed away in Montreal
on 11 July, 1989. I read of his death with shock in a book trade
paper which happened to reach me by post on 14 August --- 5 weeks
after his demise. Of course, I was aware of his serious and worsening
medical condition over the preceding year or more, and often wrote
and phoned him, even after he was hospitalized. But no one in Montreal
thought to inform me of his passing --- a rather common component
in the aging process.
He had formed the nucleus of a library in the office of his Hochelaga
Research Institute. He wanted my personal polar library to supplement
his own, and I had agreed to sell it to him based upon appraised
prices, perhaps ten years out of date. He had constant hopes of
raising the purchase price, but all were fruitless.
Under these circumstances, Alan had chosen to invest his limited
library funds in journal subscriptions covering the subjects of
current interests. Following his death, book dealers from Canada
and the United States descended upon his office and cleaned it out,
muttering their disappointments at its paucity of good books. My
mind reverted to the boxes of Arctic Blue Book Index cards, that
Alan had for more than a decade. The booksellers had shown no interest
in them. I envisaged the possibility of their being cast away or
burned in some civic incinerator. In an effort to prevent this,
I approached the Executor of Alan Cooke's Estate in Montreal ---
his former secretary --- Jennifer Cram, who kindly agreed to permit
me to remove the several largeand heavy boxes, from her home, where
she had taken them for safekeeping. My son, Robert, picked them
up and shipped them from Ottawa to Winnipeg, collect. I now saw
them again after 32 years.
No specific plan was in my mind for dealing with them at this time,
but the vague thought persisted that the publication of the index
might still be possible. Shortly after the arrival of the index
cards I spoke to my friend, Dr. W.O. Pruitt, Jr., (Prof. of Zoology,
U. of Manitoba) on the possibility of the University of Manitoba
publishing the index. He advised its first need was for some publicity
on the Blue Books, and sent a freelance writer, Martin Zielig,
over for a couple of interviews. He wrote a good article which was
published in the Winnipeg Free Press on 10 July 1990, but
many of his references to the Blue Books were eliminated
by his editor. But without Pruitt's interest, the Blue Book Index
would still be dormant.
On account of my advanced age, I thought it advisable to have the
British in on the picture and wrote my old Ottawa friend, Dr. Geoffrey
Hattersly-Smith, of Cranbrook, Kent, England on the matter. He said
he had interested a few Arctic people in Cambridge on the publication
problem, and although hopeful, the matter was far from decided.
His estimated cost of publication was £5,000 which is likely
well below that if done here. Meanwhile, the index project has been
taken over in Winnipeg by Dr. W.W. (Skip) Koolage, of the Dept.
of Anthropology, University College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg,
who was with Pruitt a member of the Northern Studies Committee.
Koolage has made great progress in the few months since he took
over. He has made detailed operational plans for its publication
and, as I write, has recently been granted start-up financing from
the Research Development Fund (of the University ofManitoba). This
will permit the work to begin immediately, with the needed computer
already on order. For the first time in its 32 year history, I feel
that the publication of my Index to the Arctic Blue Books
is really in prospect.
1 August 1991