The John A. Signature Query

Pursuing my inquiries into the constitutional process of 1858 to 67, I consulted Sir Joseph Pope’s Confederation Documents (1895). Just pulled the book off the university library’s shelves in the ordinary way. Opened it.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but John A. Macdonald’s signature, in pen-nib ink – surely it was ink – splashed boldly across a loose sheet of yellowing paper on which was printed the first page of the first draft of the Canada Bill, the document that the London Conference of 1866-67 was preparing for the perusal of the British Parliament. And, yes, in the margins were hand-written revisions. John A.’s revisions. Well, I felt a flutter of excitement.

But no. The university archivist tells me that what I discovered is a reproduction. Undoubtedly of the period. The paper is right. The contents are right. Yes, I was in all probability holding a piece of paper that John A. had held at the crucial London Conference. (Pope assembled his Documents from piles of manuscripts left him by Macdonald.) And it sure looks right! But it’s a reproduction. No doubt one of many prepared for distribution at the London meetings. Who knew they had such marvelous methods of reproducing printed and handwritten manuscripts in the 1860s?

At any rate the library is not interested. Just put the volume in for reshelving, they said.

Acquisitive feelings rose. What if I eased the document out of the binding? Easy to do. It was already about to fall out. Then, let’s see. A simple frame. Simple, but expensive, of course. I know one thing about exhibiting fakes: the frame must be expensive. Museum-quality glass.

A crisp white picture mat? Or what about Tory blue? Perhaps with a beveled edge showing a “thin line” of British red? It would look great. A memento of my labours over the summer. I deserve it.

I dropped the book off at reshelving. One doesn’t cut pages out of library books. And I’m a deferential and law abiding Canadian, right?

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1 Response to “The John A. Signature Query”


  1. 1 Rob Leone December 3, 2008 at 2:27 am

    So late 19th century photocopiers then? I think Xerox might have a patent infringment suit coming their way…


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