Publishing Blues

Or should I say “yellows?” The plan was to put out a new edition of Documents on the Confederation of British North America (Carleton Library No. 40), a fine collection of original material on the making of the British North America Act (1867). But the pages of the original edition (1969) are too yellow. They can’t be scanned.

Will they have to be – for goodness sakes – retyped? Three hundred and seventy-seven pages of small print, with cramped margins. Three hundred and seventy-seven yellow-brown pages, fraying at the edges, foxed, speckled.

The old Carleton Library failed Canada. They published books of great interest. You probably own some. Sure, but remember the nasty, orange, eye-blistering covers! The spines that cracked if you so much as looked at them! Everything was cheap and mean.

The new Carleton Library publications from McGill-Queen’s University Press are in another category: well bound, handsomely designed, with superlatively attractive, prize-winning covers.

The proposal is to bring Carleton Library No. 40 in under the MQUP tent. A “second life” for No. 40.

So here’s the pitch. If you have a copy of the original cloth-bound edition of Documents on the Confederation of British North America, Carleton Library No. 40 – not a yellowing paper edition between library boards, thanks just the same, I’d like to hear from you.

12 Responses to “Publishing Blues”

  1. 1 Craig March 26, 2009 at 1:53 am

    That’s great news.
    Now if we could only do what the Americans have long done and publish all the legislative debates, pamphlets, newspaper essays, etc.

  2. 2 Brian Busby March 27, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I may be exposing my ignorance here, but I’d always thought that Documents on the Confederation of British North America was a paperback original – and that there was never a hardcover edition. I write this without the paperback at hand – my copy has long since disintegrated – and so realize that the copyright page may tell a different story. My very best wishes with the hunt.

  3. 3 Alastair Sweeny April 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I have the original Debates (1865). Is there any digital version available?

  4. 4 janetajzenstat April 5, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks Craig. Good thought. I wish. Brian: I think you are right and the editor at McGill-Queen’s is persuaded. There was no cloth edition.

    Hello Alastair. By the “original debates,” perhaps you mean the debates on Confederation in the Province of Canada (1865). I think of those debates and the debates on Confederation that took place in the other six jurisdictions in British North America from 1864 to 1873 – British Columbia, the Red River Settlement, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland – as Canada’s ratification debates.

    What I want are records of the process of drafting the British North America Act. And not all the records; I want just the ones selected and published by Professor G.P. Browne for the Carleton Library in 1969, in the volume entitled Documents on the Confederation of British North America, a Compilation Based on Sir Joseph Pope’s Confederation Documents, supplemented by Other Official Material. I’m sure you know it. It’s this particular volume that we want to put back in circulation, with Browne’s 1969 Introduction, and his notes, and Index (and an additional Introduction by Janet Ajzenstat). It’s value lies in the fact that it contains in addition to records from the Quebec conference (mainly Hewitt Bernard’s Minutes), and records from the Charlottetown and London conferences, and drafts of the British North America Act, correspondence with the Colonial Office from 1858 to 1867. You will appreciate that Browne’s compilation is not complete. A thorough scholar would have to do some additional digging. But it’s a nifty collection, very well put together. It forms a coherent whole, and in my opinion it’s sufficient for the general scholar. It’s been out of print for years. It should be available.

    I’ll just add that Paul Romney and I (and two others) made a selection from the “ratification” debates in all the legislatures. The book is entitled Canada’s Founding Debates (U of T Press, 2003; Laval, 2003). It too does not offer the complete record; moreover the excerpts are organized thematically interrupting continuity in each particular debate, but enabling the general reader to compare themes across the board. The new edition of Browne would (will!)make a good companion volume. Browne shows the drafting process; Ajzenstat et al, show what happened when the Fathers of Confederation took the Quebec document back to the provincial parliaments for approval.

    Is there a digital version? Not of G.P. Browne’s book, of course. And, to repeat, it’s that particular book we want to bring back to life.

  5. 5 Craig April 6, 2009 at 12:08 am

    I have access to the U.C.L.A. library. I can see if they have it (assuming no one in Canada responds).

  6. 6 Maureen September 27, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Dear Jane,

    Is their an update on the publication of the new edition of Documents on the Confederation of British North America?

    We have a son atteding an American college and there is a group of Canadian students interesting in discussing these documents. We would like to send him a copy if possible, but we were under the understanding they were out of print.

    Thanks very much.

    • 7 janetajzenstat September 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

      Hello Reader. As you may imagine I am very interested to hear that students in an American university would like to read the documents on Canadian Confederation. We need a study of the Canadian political founding informed by knowledge of the American founding. I’ve written to the Press to see what is holding up publication.


      • 8 Maureen September 28, 2009 at 2:06 am

        Yes, these are Canadian students who are beginning to look at “Canada’s Founding Debates”. They are at a Great Books college where they read no commentaries.

        My son will be happy to know that there is a new edition of
        Documents on the Confederation of British North America in the works. I’ve sent him your blogsite.

        Thanks very much and I’ll look forwared to hearing about the status of the new edition.

      • 9 janetajzenstat September 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm

        Hello Maureen. McGill Queen’s tells me that the book is now being printed. The editorial staff urges you to order the book now. Janet Ajzenstat

        p.s. You should be able to order directly from the press, or from Amazon. Write back if you’re having trouble, and I will send further directions. J.A.

      • 10 Maureen September 29, 2009 at 11:10 pm

        Thank you, Janet, for the update. It is great news.

      • 11 janetajzenstat October 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm

        Hello Maureen. Documents on Canadian Confederation is out. I’m holding it in my hand. Order from McGill-Queen’s or from Amazon. Amazon is already offering a discount. Regards, Janet Ajzenstat

  7. 12 Jeremy Fraser October 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Hello Janet,

    I recently got a copy of your book ‘Canada’s Founding Debates’. I think it is is awesome what you are doing to re publish the original confederation debates. I am from Calgary, but I am pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts at Thomas Aquinas College, California along with a number of other fellow Canadians. We recently formed a new organization called the Canadian Expatriate Society here on campus to help our fellow Canadians in the college community keep up to date and involve in Canadian affairs and to promote academic and career opportunities in Canada.

    As part of our liberal arts program we study the American founding documents and debates. This prompted us to come up with an extra-curricular seminar on Canada’s political founding in the process of confederation. Two of the professors here are Canadians by birth and are both interested in leading such a seminar. We have therefore begun research into what to use as material. Your book has been very helpful in our search. After reading your bibliography we thought that the ‘Documents on the Confederation of British North America’ by G.P. Browne would be ideal for a seminar. We are hoping that it will be republished in time to get copies of it soon. Do you know if there is some way I can be notified as soon as it comes out? All the best,

    Jeremy Fraser
    President, Canadian Expatriate Society, Thomas Aquinas College, California

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