Saskatchewan Journals and Correspondence. Edmonton House 1795-1800 / Chesterfield House 1800-1802.

“The main theme of this volume is the westward advance of the Hudson’s Bay Company along the northern and southern branches of the Saskatchewan River at the end of the eighteenth century.”

p. lxxxv, Peter Fidler in 1800: …provided himself very well with the means to spend profitably any time he could take off from fur trading or hunting buffalo, for he undoubtedly took to Chesterfield House the instruments, nautical almanacs and books which had been sent to him by the ship of 1799 and on which he had spent no less than £30 out of his salary of £60 for season 1798-99. Note 6: the books sent to Fidler in 1799 (in the order listed in London) were 151 ‘Poets & Novels’ at 6d. each; 33 ‘Hennes Eng.’ Costing 162. 6d.; Goldsmith’s Grecian History and his RomanHistory costing £1 12s 0d.; Charles Hutton’s Mathematical and Philosophical Dictionary (2 vols.) at £3 8s 0d., his Compendious Measurer at 4s. 6d., and his Diarian Miscellany (?5 or 6 vols.) at £1 11s. 6 d.; John Gay’s Fables at 92 0d,; ‘Guide to old age’ at 4s. 0d.; Charles Vyse’s Arithmetic (2 vols.) at 7s. 0d.; an abridged edition of Buffon’s Natural History (w vols.) at £1 4s 0d.; Samuel Hearne’s Journey… to the Northern Ocean at £1 7s. 0d.; 18 Monthly Reviews for £1,14s.0d; Annual Register at 11s. 0d.; John Imison’s School of Arts at 11s. 6d.; Samuel Vince’s Practical Astronomy at 61s. 0d.; John Wilson’s Trigonometry at 2s. 6d.; and Leadbeater’s Drawing at 4s. 6d.

p. xciii, Fidler in Saskatchewan in 1801-02: Fidler had his family with him and again the employees under his orders were all Orkneymen. When the Indians were absent from the post he had time to follow his own pursuits: he drew maps of the journeys he had made in earlier years, and for leisure reading he must have had the books which had been bought on his account and sent out from London by the ship of 1800. [Footnote 3: Costing nearly £8 they included: one on surgery, one on wounds, one on geography, one on ancient and modern geography and history, one on astronomy, some solar and lunar tables, the Annual Register for 1799, a History of Jews(sixty parts to be bound in one volume) and aHistory of the Bible(also in sixty parts to be bound in one volume).]

p. xcviii, re Chesterfield House: The young clerks or writers, described by Colen as ‘petty Officers come from England’, probably obtained entry into the Company’s employ through relatives or friends already in the service or by being recommended to Committee members. These young men had received varying degrees of education and the pleasures of reading were theirs if they were so inclined, but the time was still far distant when the Governor and Committee would provide ‘Post Libraries; those wanting books had to spend their own money. Nothing is known about the contents of parcels sent to York Factory by the relatives or friends of Company employees, but the book of ‘Servants Commissions’ for 1787-1802 makes known those who provided themselves with the means to follow their individual interests. The choice made by such men as David Thompson, Peter Fidler and Malchom Ross included many surveying instruments to add to those provided by the Company, Nautical Almanacs, necessary text books, and reading matter for pleasure. Mention has already been made of the books Fidler is thought to have taken with him to Chesterfield House; his earlier purchases included the Mysteries of Adolphus(sic) and Harrison’s British Classics. James Bird acquired a violin about 1795 and some three years later added an Ancient Universal History in twenty-one volumes as well as Pleasures of the Imagination by Ackinside [Akenside] to his personal library. Again, in 1799, the supply-ship brought him ‘Tasso Jerusalem 2 volumes…; Popes Select Poems 1 vol.; Rowes [trans.] Lucans Pharsalia 2 vol. …; Lewis’s [trans.] Thebaid of Statius 2 vol. …; [Roger’s] Pleasures of Memory 1 vol. …’ costing £2 9s. od. For lighter moments, David Thompson’s many purchases included Milton’s Paradise Lost, several volumes of Dr Johnson’s Rambler, Blair’s Belles Lettresand Hooper’sRecreations.

p.xcviii-xcix: Unlike Colen, whose interests were wide and who consequently kept the secretary busy with the commissions he sent to London each year, Tomison was obviously no great reader of books for his requests for them were few. In fact, Tomison’s personal requests of any kind were limited. He did, however, acquire six volumes of Evenings at Home in 1797, issues of the Oeconomist for one year in 1798, and The Monthly Magazine and British Register for May 1797 to April 1798. The last-named publication started in 1796 and it is likely that Tomison took the issues for 1796-1797 with him on his return to Edmonton House from Britain in 1797, but what he read at Edmonton House during the first year of its existence is not known. George Sutherland does not appear to have bought any books.

[Footnote 6: Mrs Ann Radcliffe’s ‘Gothic’ romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho,first published in four volumes in 1794, was sent to Fidler by the ship in 1795. ‘But now, really, do you not think Udolpho the nicest book in the world: enquires the heroine of the hero in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey….’

[Footnote 9: When Colen finally left Hudson Bay in 1798 he claimed to have disposed of to his successor certain private property which included such diverse items as 21 prints…. He also left behind a private library of about 1400 books to be sent to England at a later date.]

p. 127, footnote 1 records purchases of books and manuscripts to be sent to Cumberland House: … and sundry (unlisted) Books costing £12 11s, 0d. He was also sent Nautical Almanacs for 1797, 1798 and 1799 costing 10s. 6d.