This ancient project has had a long and rather complex history. It dates from the B.C. era – Before Computers. It began nearly half a century ago while I was still in the Canadian Army – an officer in the Royal Canadian Engineers. Following my return to Canada after some years spent in the Antarctic (eventually as colonial Commander of Britain’s supersecret Antarctic Operation Tabarin) I was dispatched with a couple of R.C.A.F. officers as an observer aboard the ice-breaker Edisto on the U.S Navy’s Task Force 68. Most of the operation’s 1947 activities centred in the most northerly sector of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, since called the Queen Elizabeth Islands. Returning to Ottawa, where I was posted, I could find no comprehensive history of them. My interest in the subject was aroused, and I began collecting narrative of explorers who had been there.
Quite unexpectedly, I found myself attending a geography course at the University of Montreal. In the spring of 1950 I was required to write an M.A. thesis and chose to deal with the history of exploration of what I then called the Northern Islands Region of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Its preparation occupied about five months of the summer of 1950, following which I again returned to Ottawwa. It was at this time that I first encountered the Nineteenth Century Arctic Blue Books, which are essentially those British Parliamentary Papers concerned with the Canadian Arctic. Parliamentary Papers were commonly called Blue Books as they were usually issued in blue paper covers. This paper primarily concerns an Index to the Arctic Blue Books.
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.A. dissertation 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 North America, 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 made the 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 the exploratory 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 included most 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 oldest member 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 1957.
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 of Geography, 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 more extensive 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 45 titles 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 to Canada. 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 writings.
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 she worked.
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, 1954)
"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 avoided?
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 an inquiry.
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 Books.
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 Blue Books:
"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 the other".
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 in Montreal.
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 so.
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, he added:
"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 was forthcoming.
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