These beautifully illustrated stories of natural history in nineteenth-century Canada are about the curious men and women who crossed the oceans from Europe to explore, map, draw, puzzle about, collect and exhibit nature in Canada. Informed by French, British and Indigenous naturalists, they tried to understand what they saw. What did it all mean about the origins of the world?
Louisa Blair, an amateur naturalist in Quebec and a transatlantic species herself, tells tales on Darwin, Russell Wallace and James Cook, and lingers on the strange and colourful details of Canada's stubborn resistance to evolutionism and its first natural history museums with their penchant for deformities.
These stories feature Indigenous mapmakers, botanical artists, bug-bitten rock fanatics, arctic explorers, and a trio of Quebec women who managed to get plants named after themselves. In short, muddy boots, cold hands, a pocket full of fossils, a mind full of existential questions. To make her case, Louisa Blair has gathered a vast collection of vintage illustrations.
Blair also salutes their successors, the citizen scientists who are now frantically mapping Canada's biodiversity before it fades to bio-monotony. What does it all mean for the end of the world?