Here we are in 3 million words

It's the Encyclopedia Canadiana,ten new volumes about the people, place, lore and life of the nation— along with some things we've never known about ourselves

ALAN PHILLIPS April 27 1957

Here we are in 3 million words

It's the Encyclopedia Canadiana,ten new volumes about the people, place, lore and life of the nation— along with some things we've never known about ourselves

ALAN PHILLIPS April 27 1957

Here we are in 3 million words

It's the Encyclopedia Canadiana,ten new volumes about the people, place, lore and life of the nation— along with some things we've never known about ourselves


This June will mark a milestone in Canada's growth as a nation: the unveiling of two new books, predestined bestsellers. the first fifth of a ten-volume set soon to be the popular arbiter in arguments about Canada—the Encyclopedia Canadiana, a unique invitation to learning.

Here is the world's first encyclopedia devoted entirely to one country: New York, for example, is mentioned only as a stop for Canadian airlines. In its ten volumes, the last to be published in 1958, is found the world's only atlas depicting ancient Indian trails, the only dictionary in which mush is described as “travel by dog team,” not “porridge," the only reference work to explain that the nickname “Blucnose,” as applied to a Nova Scotian, may have originated either with sailing skippers whose noses turned blue with the cold, or a type of Maritime potato that turns bluish when exposed to light.

The first two volumes, A to COA, will spearhead the main body: thirty-three pounds of Camuliana, ten thousand articles written by eight hundred experts, 4,280 pages, three million words and five thousand illustrations. Volumes 3, 4 and 5 (COA to K) will make their appearance next fall, the last live in the spring of 1958.

The Owen Sound, Ont., printing firm that put it all between covers used eight freight-car loads of paper and seventy-five tons of metal. 1'his is the biggest printing job ever undertaken in Canada—and the costliest: one million dollars.

The books open a vast new territory for armchair explorers, who will find that Flin Flon, Man., was named for Professor Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the fictional hero of a book found on a nearby portage by prospectors; that Hepworth, Ont., picked up the “h” in its name beWilliam Plows, continued on page 69

cause its founder

Here we are ¡n 3 million words continued from page 24

Blow me down!” sang out the sailors and the cry became a name

who meant to call it Epworth, was a Cockney; that Cape Blomidon in Nova Scotia, 570 feet high, is "possibly a corruption of ‘blow-me-down,’ a name by which it was formerly known among sailors;” and that the famous Kicking Horse Pass through the Rockies was named when the first white man to use it, Sir James Hector, geologist of the 1857 Palliser expedition, was kicked by his horse while crossing it.

Students abroad, writing their theses on Canada, will no longer have to consult the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Browsing through the ten volumes of the Canadiana they’ll learn that “in shape, Canada is roughly like a diamond." that the first history of Canada (1664) was written in Latin by a Frenchman who "never came to the New World,” that “the duel was a feature of social life . . . throughout the French regime,” that James Naismith of Almonte, Ont., invented basketball, and that the world’s richest silver strike occurred at Cobalt. Ont., because a CNR blacksmith threw his hammer at a fox, missed, and chipped an ore sample off an outcrop.

The books fulfill a long-held dream of A. E. McBride, a portly gracious man who, at Winnipeg in 1912, opened the first Canadian office of the Grolier Society, the biggest publisher of reference books in the world. Though calling itself a society, Grolier is in fact a business corporation, started in Boston in 1895 and named after a treasurer of sixteenthcentury France, Jean Grolier. Today its works of reference, led by the best-selling Book of Knowledge and the Encyclopedia Americana, ring up sales of more than a million dollars a week.

McBride, now in Toronto, tried for years to convince his head office in New York of the need of a Canadian encyclopedia. True, there was the six-volume Encyclopedia of Canada brought out in 1935 by Dr. Stewart Wallace, librarian of the University of Toronto, but it was limited in scope. Finally, in 1952 on the eve of McBride's retirement, Grolier gave a green light to the project.

As a starter McBride bought the rights to Wallace's outdated volumes and cast about for an editor, a dyed-in-the-wool Canadian who combined a passion for detail with broad scholarship. Kaye Lamb, the dominion archivist, suggested John Robbins.

Dr. Robbins, slight, grey and fiftythree, supervised the Canada Year Book, and for sixteen years he had been director of education for the Dominion Bureau of Statistics in Ottawa. "It could have been just a job of counting the number of kids in the schools.” says Roby Kidd, director of the Canadian Association for Adult Education, "but he made it the most important link in the country between educators. For years this quiet little man was the hub of all the major educational developments in this country.”

Robbins mentioned a few names one evening at Lamb’s house. None seemed quite right. Robbins was leaving when Lamb said, “Maybe you should think of it yourself.”

Robbins paused. Fie was not long back from the Near East where he had been setting up tent schools for the Palestinian refugees. He was restless. “It might be interesting,” he said slowly. Within twenty-four hours Robbins, now Canadiana’s editor, was started on the

monumental task of deciding who and what should go in the encyclopedia.

He began by enlisting advisers, friends who knew their regions: Alfred Bailey, dean of arts at the University of New Brunswick; Jean-Charles Falardeau, pro-

fessor of sociology at Laval University; Walter Herbert in Ottawa, director of the Canada Foundation; William Morton, a history professor at the University of Manitoba: Edgar Robinson, head of Vancouver’s public library; and R. D. Hilton

Smith, a retired Toronto librarian. “For a fee of two hundred and fifty dollars a year.” Robbins says dryly, “1 bother them quite a bit.”

With a pair of scissors Robbins and his two secretaries cut up Wallace’s old encyclopedia, pasted its articles on cards and grouped them by subjects. With the aid of the Canada Year Book index, he broke down subjects like Agriculture into entries ranging from Apple growing to Wheat. Then he sent his advisers the typewritten lists, with plenty of space between items. When they all came back

his lists were three times as long.

Between Foleyet. Ont., and Folklore, for example, one adviser penciled in Folk Dancing, so that on page 187 Helen Creighton tells of New Brunswick’s "unusual custom known as dancing the northern lights down. These lights were supposed to be the souls of people who had not yet gone to heaven or hell, and certain tunes were used to entice them to earth.”

Policy questions arose. What age level should they aim at? To reach all highschool students they decided on thirteen or fourteen. Who rated the longest biographies? They tried to divide that honor between Mackenzie King and Sir John A. Macdonald, but it looks as though King (346 lines now in print) will edge out Sir John (an estimated 325 lines).

The thorniest question was who should go in. In his encyclopedia Wallace had included no one who was living. But Robbins decided "we just had to have stories of twentieth-century people." That posed a problem. Where did you draw the line? There was only so much space to work with. "We said we'd only use people born before 1900,” says Robbins. "But that left out people like Morley Callaghan and Hugh Macl ennan. who’ve made an international reputation as writers. So we compromised—we moved it up to 1910.”

"I think the greatest disappointment will be in the names," says Ottawa adviser Walter Herbert. "It’s going to be a little tough to look up Marilyn Bell and not find her mentioned. But if you put in Marilyn Bell, do you put in Roloff Beny (a Canadian painter with a New York reputation)? If you put in Beny do you put in Alfred Pellan (another painter)? It just opens the door

for a lot of headaches. It happens that modern painting is a young man’s game and most successful modern painters were born after 1910. You don't really know who’s good and who isn’t. All you know is who’s accepted. Experience tells us that seventy-five percent will fall by the wayside. This holds for any of these fields. The only test is time."

Robbins met this issue with another compromise. At the front of each book he explains that persons too young to be listed can be found under the subject for which they are known. An article by Paul Duval on Painting includes Beny and Pellan, and Marilyn Bell is mentioned under Swimming.

When playing cards paid bills

In the archives, Wessie Lamb, wife of archivist Kaye Lamb and ex-associate professor of French at the University of British Columbia, tracked down information on three thousand names. Some were sent in by professional, labor, women’s and farmers’ groups: household

names like Tamblyn, Simpson, Eaton. Loblaw and McIntosh (who developed our best-known apple); glamorous names like Eva Tanguay, of Marbleton, Que., who though described as “not beautiful, not talented, not clever, not artistic," became America’s highest-paid actress in 1912, queen of musical comedy.

Half-forgotten names were resurrected: Michel Begon, intendant of eighteenthcentury New France, who signed playing cards to give this country its first paper currency; David Fife, of Otonabee. Ont., whose Red Fife wheat helped settle the prairies; Anna Swan, an eight-foot Nova Scotian giantess, who toured Europe in 1871 with her husband. Captain Van Buren Bates, a Kentucky giant, and gave

birth to two twenty-pound children, neither of whom survived.

The fields of business, science and journalism contributed such unknowns as Abraham Gesner, of Nova Scotia, whose process for distilling kerosene (1852) was the start of modern oil refining; Harcourt Morgan, an entomologist from Kerwood, Ont., who became the outstanding authority on the boll weevil, helped control cattle tick in the south, was president of the University of Tennessee and headed the great power project called the Tennessee Valley Authority; and William Herder, who when jailed for refusing to name the writer of a letter to his paper, the St. John’s Evening Telegram, rejected prison garb and served four days in his underwear until a petition signed by almost every St. John’s adult led to his release.

"We even staked out a claim to Paul Bunyan whose revival was an advertising stunt by the lumber industry in Minnesota,” Robbins says. “I don’t mean he was any single person; he’s probably a composite figure. But the chances are the legend grew out of beginnings in New Brunswick or Quebec.”

In six months Robbins had the encyclopedia’s framework: subject headings starting with Abalone (a west-coast mollusk) and ending with Zouaves (lastcentury soldiers of the Pope, whose Canadian volunteers won the title les diables da Bon Dieu, the devils of the Good Lord). Now came the crucial job: selecting his writers, for a reference work is judged by the authority of its writing, which is why librarians rate the eleventh edition of Britannica, rich in world-renowned bylines, the best encyclopedia ever assembled.

But Grolier had found the one man for whom this was an easy job. For

years Robbins had given spare time to two councils, Social Science Research and Humanities Research. Between them they had given out six or seven hundred research grants covering many of the encyclopedia’s subjects. And Robbins, as secretary of both, had a card record of each scholar. He also knew every prominent Canadian educator. As Walter Herbert says, “There’s never been a job and a man brought together with greater perfection than this.”

A twelve-volume work on the Arctic’s Queen Elizabeth Islands written by Andrew Taylor, an Ottawa geographer, became five pages in the Encyclopedia Canadiana. Duncan MacGibbon, who wrote the most authoritative book on the grain trade, distilled a lifetime’s knowledge into 491 lines, Bruce Waugh, then surveyor general, wrote on Land Boundary Surveying; the Hon. E. Fabre Surveyer, on Quebec's Civil Code; Col. C. P. Stacey, Canada’s official historian of World War II, on Military History. The article on the stove-and-furnace industry was written by a retired craftsman who insisted on remaining anonymous; he didn’t want to be harsh on the new automatic stoves, but he looked back with obvious enthusiasm on the days of the kitchen’s wood-burning range.

Dr. Garnet Page, manager of Canada’s Chemical Institute, did a solid if rather dull piece on the chemical industry. But on an equally difficult subject—eating— he waxed almost lyrical, describing Winnipeg goldeye “when cured with willow smoke” as “somewhat like Dover sole with overtones of brook trout.” He touched on the “firm flaky texture and clean sharp taste of Canadian Cheddar,” the “dry racy lightness of Canadian whisky,” the “engaging liveliness” of “highly aerated” Canadian beer. He mentioned “thor-

oughly sturdy” Canadian wines, and remarked that the “essential quality of Canadian cuisine is the attempt to bring out the natural flavors rather than the liberal use of herbs, spices and wines.” Robbins made little attempt to alter his authors’ styles, however spare or florid. But he often had to cut by half the work of verbose writers. “You couldn’t have one author giving you three thousand words on Montreal, and another giving you five thousand on Toronto,” he says. Nevertheless he often let interesting articles run on. The Ottawa River rates 259 lines, 97 more than the great St. Lawrence. “The St. Lawrence man treated it as a body of water flowing to the sea,” Robbins says. “The Ottawa was treated as part of the life of the Ottawa Valley.”

There were articles to be written on every place with more than three hundred people—three thousand places in all. “Instead of sitting down here with a tourist guide and a Hammond map,” says Robbins, “we set out to get stories from someone on the spot.” The retired head of the Ottawa library, F. C. Jennings, traveled fifteen hundred miles through western Ontario, checking records and talking to old-timers in more than ninety communities.

“What impressed me most," Robbins says, “is the willingness of people to have a hand in the book. There weren't half a dozen people who said no because we weren’t offering much money. Many authors wrote for nothing, refusing the two cents a word offered.”

“We made up our own rules”

It was hard to find authors for sports Subjects, for no central reference files exist. Robbins’ secretaries had to leaf through years of yellowing newspaper files to exhume the triumphs of the 1890s, when George Orton, of Toronto, won sixteen American championships in middle-distance running; when Toronto’s George Gray was the world’s best shotputter; when Harry Gill, of Coldwater, Ont., was the international all-round track-and-field champion, followed by the fabulous Walter Knox, of Listowel and Orillia, Ont. Knox captured five Canadian titles in one afternoon. In a single summer in Scotland he won a hundred and six prizes.

Often, one author suggested another. Sir Ernest MacMillan, who wrote the longest of nine articles on music, recommended that Church Music, Other Than Roman Catholic be handled by Charles Peaker, a Toronto organist. And Peaker wrote, “Some of the clergy preach on sensational subjects and demand melodramatic music in an effort to fill their pews at night, while others engage visiting evangelists who may make a sensitive musician’s lot difficult . . . Thus it is seen that the organist is not entirely his own master. It is the minister who trims the sails of the ecclesiastical ship and endeavors to bring the greatest number of souls to Heaven’s shores.”

Problems of presentation cropped up constantly. Could the names of railways and provinces be abbreviated to save space? Yes, Robbins decided, if, like B. C. or CPR. they would normally be used that way when talking. Should a French name be given its common English translation? No. The name Three Rivers, Que., for instance, doesn’t appear in Canadiana; it’s Trois Rivières.

“We follow Oxford rather than Webster in spelling,” Robbins says, “and for rules of presentation, the Chicago Manual of Style. But we had to make up a lot of rules of our own. For instance, we could put a hyphen in musk-ox, but if we followed Oxford in putting a hy-

phen in muskrat, Canadian women would find it almost as unrecognizable, I fear, as they do under the name of Hudson seal. We're hoping that this will set a standard in Canada for spelling.”

if so. most people will have to re-learn "Algonquin” as “Algonkin” and "tepee” as “tipi," for Tom Mcllwraith, head of the anthropology department at the University of Toronto, who wrote on Indians, seldom uses the common spelling. But Robbins says that Mcllwraith is turning out more anthropologists than anyone in Canada, and if these aren't the accepted spellings now, they will be by the time he fills the country with his protégés.

The article on French Canada caused most concern. It was written by Mason Wade, director of Canadian studies at the University of Rochester, who wrote bluntly of Quebec’s “narrow provincialism, an admixture of religion and politics.” Grolier’s New York officials passed it on to their Montreal people who questioned Robbins' judgment and the stature of his writer. Robbins talked it over with Jean-Charles Falardeau, his regional adviser, who said it was time there was plain talk about Quebec. Robbins wrote back that the article would stay in the book—unless they wanted a new editor. The article stayed in. The publication a few months later of The French Canadians, a book Robbins had read in proof, made Mason Wade the undisputed authority on French Canada.

All through 1953 the articles trickled in, swelling in 1954 to a hundred thousand words — an average-sized book — every month. To produce and market the books, McBride, who began it all, formed Canadiana Company, Limited. By March of this year Robbins had fifteen people on staff. Four PhDs check facts in the Parliamentary Library, in the Archives, with government experts. Assistant editor Crom Young prepares copy for the printer, putting difficult passages into simpler clearer words. Ken Brown, Canadiana vice-president, who stopped producing Canada's health department publications to gamble on the encyclopedia, has the job of giving each page eye appeal.

“We’ve taken a different approach to illustration,” Brown says. “We’ll have big margins, lots of white space for eye resting. We'll have 296 pages of picture stories in color. Every sport will be illustrated with diagrams. Wherever figures make an article hard to read we've taken them out and put them in chart form— one article, Public Finance, has twentyone charts. There’s no Canadian animal, bird or fish that isn’t illustrated.” John Crosby, of the National Museum, drew most of the illustrations of animals.

The maps now used in Canadian schools, made by the U. S. firm of C. S. Hammond and Company, biggest mapmakers in the world, all erred in some detail, Brown says. “The Yukon boundary was inaccurate. Towns were shown on the wrong side of rivers. They’re still calling Tuktoyaktuk (on the Arctic Ocean) Port Brabant. Whitehorse is still spelled White Horse. They show settlements like Nachvak and Zoar in Newfoundland that are now abandoned. They show rivers such as the Waterfound in northern Saskatchewan, that according to government geographers don't exist, while a river as well known as the St. John isn't shown.”

The maps, redrawn by government cartographers in their spare time, took six months of original research. “These maps will show for the first time,” Brown says, “the real location of the railways. We’ll have the only detailed maps in existence on northern Ontario and northern Quebec. Every town with over three hundred people is located on a map, and

the city maps show not only streets, but industries." Eighty-two maps will show the changing physical face of the country, starting five hundred million years ago.

The ten-volume set of the Encyclopedia Canadiana is now being offered at $98.50. After publication the price will jump to $129.50, because of high storage and sales costs. Brown thinks Canadiana Co.. Ltd. can sell ten thousand sets in the first year after publication. Grolier thinks half that many may move off the shelves. “They aren't sure they'll

get their investment back." says Brown. “We are. This country is growing so fast that once it reaches twenty million, this will pay—not much, but it will pay.” Orders are already pouring in from libraries, schools, universities, business corporations and government offices. But these sales, at best, will pay for only five percent of the books. The huge home market will have to be tapped by doorrappers—the same selling technique used by William Caxton in 1481 when he brought out Mirror of the World, the first English encyclopedia.

The problem now is to keep up to date with the pell-mell pace of Canadian development. A year book is planned for this purpose, an annual compilation of events and people in the news. “New York hasn't okayed it yet,” Brown says, “but I’ve no doubt there'll be one."

Robbins will have finished his part of the project by fall—five years of work to make Canada better known. But for anyone who wants to know more about this obscure man. one of Canada’s greatest educators, the encyclopedia will be no help. He's not listed. ★