Page images


literature, I will pass on to a short and necessarily imperfect survey of the books of which it is composed, and you will find, as might have been supposed, that our prose literature has naturally followed up those directions which had reference to practical life.

No one, I think, but Rich, had been devoting himself to the bibliography of American books when Faribault published in 1837, at Quebec, in French, his “ Catalogue of works on the history of America with special reference to those relating to Canada, Acadia, and Louisiana.” He had served in the war; but when the Literary and Historical Society was founded he became one of its most active members. He was president and then perpetual secretary, and in his time were published those reprints of scarce works which are now so rare. He had been chief adviser in collecting the “ Americana” in the Parliamentary library which was burned in 1849, and he was then sent to Europe to make purchases to replace the loss. Faribault's catalogue contains valuable notes, both original and extracted.

It is now very scarco-a copy in the Menzies sale brought $8.

Morgan's “Bibliotheca Canadensis” is the next in order. It is a work of great industry and covers the whole period from the conquest down to the time of its appearance in 1867. The same writer's “Canadian Men and Women of the Time," published in 1898, practically continues the first work; for, although it contains notices of a vast number of people who are not in the remotest way connected with letters, yet all the littérateurs are there" all,” I said somewhat inadvertently, for there are a few important names omitted.

In 1886 the late Dr. Kingsford published a book called “ Canadian Archæology," dealing with early printed Cana


dian books, and he supplemented it, in 1892, by another—the

Early Bibliography of Ontario”—for the first had been written too hurriedly to be accurate. Sir John Bourinot also has done excellent work in this field in his “ Intellectual Development of the Canadian People” (Toronto, 1881), and in a monograph for the Royal Society of Canada, “ Canada's Intellectual Strength and Weakness ” (1893).

A work of great importance on Canadian bibliography is by Phileas Gagnon—“Essai de Bibliographie Canadienne handsome octavo of 722 pages, published by the author at Quebec in 1895. It contains valuable notes and facsimile reprints of rare title-pages. Besides these there is an exhaustive annotated bibliography, by Macfarlane, of books printed in New Brunswick (St. John, 1895); Lareau's “ Histoire de la Littérature Canadienne ” (Montreal, 1874); and Haight's “ Catalogue of Canadian Books” (Toronto, 1896). I can mention only these few: there are besides innumerable monographs in French and English, separate and in magazines, for the subject is a favorite one with Canadians. The catalogues of the parliamentary library at Ottawa and of the public library at Toronto are also very useful to collectors and students.

The English kings entertained no jealousy of the printingpress.

William Caxton had a good position at the court of Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy, and her brother, King Edward IV, received him into high favor. In 1503 two of his apprentices were made “ King's Printers," and since that time there has always existed by patent a royal printer (“Regius Impressor ") through whom alone the orders and proclamations of the government were issued.

The office of king's printer became thereafter an important factor in English administration, and it was introduced

into all the colonies. No sooner, therefore, was Canada definitely ceded in 1763 than a printing-office became a gov. ernment necessity at Quebec, and in 1767 Brown & Gilmore published, by authority, a folio volume of Ordinances. William Brown continued to print for the Crown; but the first imprint which appears to indicate the existence of a formal royal patent direct from the Crown is that of William Vondenvelden in 1797. John Bennett was king's printer in Upper Canada in 1801. Christopher Sower was king's printer in New Brunswick in 1785, and John Bushell was king's printer in Nova Scotia as early as 1752. In 1756 we find his name affixed to a proclamation offering £25 for every Micmac scalp. Settlers on the outskirts of Halifax had been losing scalps; for the Micmacs made their collection a labor of love, and the Abbé le Loutre, who controlled the Micmacs, could buy eighteen British scalps for only 1,800 livres. Naturally they had to bid higher at Halifax. All this did not invite to literary pursuits; but the volumes of statutes and official documents were well printed, and if literature did not flourish it was not for want of a printingoffice. These volumes were books, but not literature and cannot be noticed here.

It will be of interest to say a few words about the first books—the Canadian “incunabula" so precious to bibliophiles. The first book printed at Quebec was “Le Catéchisme du Diocèse de Sens" (Brown & Gilmore, 1764_one year after the cession). Only one copy is now known. Then followed, in 1767, an “Abridgment of Christian Doctrine,” in Montagnais, by Father Labrosse. Then Cugnet's 6 Traité de la Loi des Fiefs ”- and other branches of the old French law (for it was in four parts) (William Brown, 1775). Cugnet was a very able civil lawyer. He became clerk to

the Council and assisted the English government by advising them upon the old laws of Canada. The first book printed at Montreal was

“ Le Réglement de la Confrèrie de l'Adoration Perpétuelle du Saint Sacrement” (Mesplet & Berger, 1776). Then we have “ Le Juge a Paix,” a translation of a portion of Burn’s “ Justice of the Peace," by J. F. Perrault, a volume of 560 pages, octavo, printed by Mesplets in 1789. Religion and law are the two organizing factors of society, and this practical people were chiefly concerned with conduct in this world, not forgetting regard to the next, in which everybody fully believed. Later on, in 1810, we find the imprint of Nathan Mower on a reprint of Bishop Porteous's “Evidences.” In 1812 appeared Blyth's “ Narrative of the Death of Louis XVI,and in 1816 a volume of Roman Catholic prayers in Iroquois. These are not all the books printed in those years, but the titles indicate the tendencies of the people.

We have in Huston's " Répertoire National” (the first edition of which is very scarce, but which was reprinted in four volumes at Montreal in 1893) a collection of extracts,

-in fact a cyclopædia of native French-Canadian literature from the earliest times down to 1848. One piece alone (a poem) bears date prior to the English period. It is dated 1734. From 1778 to 1802 there are only twelve articles, It was not until 1832 that the French national spirit became thoroughly awake, and from that year the extracts became increasingly numerous.

The first books in general literature began to appear in 1830 and 1831, and in 1832 the Legislative Assembly passed the first Copyright Act. That year would then be a convenient date from which to reckon the revival of literature in Canada. Do not suppose that the Canadian people were

uncultivated in those days. Although they were too busy to become writers they were great readers, and there were more book-stores in proportion to the population than now.

The first book in general literature published in Upper Canada was a novel, “ St. Ursula's Convent; or, The Nun of Canada," printed at Kingston in 1824. There was also a press at Niagara (on the Lake) which did some reprinting; for we find that in 1831 Southey's “Life of Nelson” and Galt's “ Life of Byron ” were printed there. The same press issued in 1832 an original work by David Thompson, a “History of the War of 1812," and in 1836 was printed at Toronto a book of 152 pages in octavo, “ The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, and the Origin of the North American Indians." This book was reprinted in the United States.

I cannot pretend, in a paper like this, to give more than a general indication of the extent of publication in those days. There were books and pamphlets I shall not have space to mention; but there were very few books published in Lower Canada before 1833, and in Upper Canada before 1841. During all that period, however, there were many prosewriters; for the newspaper press was very active, and in the times before telegraphs, when news came by letter, the newspapers contained more original matter, compared with advertisements, than they do now. Newspapers did not contain so many contradictory statements, for there was more time to secure accuracy. They were diligently read, and editorials were more valued than now. Dare I say they were more carefully written?

The political circumstances of Canada are so exceptional that almost every problem which can arise in the domain of politics has been, at some time or other, encountered by our

« PreviousContinue »