Interpreting the Collections
Knowledge in Print: Logan's Geological Publications
Page from Geology of Canada
As director of a small, nearly autonomous agency, William Logan determined
almost all aspects of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC)'s operations. The most significant area in which his ideas differed from the colonial legislature's, however, was in the need for annual progress reports. In the British context that had formed Logan's views of correct practice, Survey reports were definitive scientific publications, to be issued only when the work was complete. The Canadian legislature, though, preferred to follow the example set by U.S. state surveys, and required Logan to submit an annual description of the GSC's activities for publication along with all other government papers and reports. This created a problem for Logan, who needed to maintain public interest in the Survey without letting his early findings promote undue speculation. His solution was to divide each report into sections describing exploration, stratigraphy, and economic minerals, limiting himself to what was actually observed on each expedition.
As they grew to include separate documents by geologist Alexander Murray (1810-1884),
and chemist Thomas Sterry Hunt (1826-1892), the annual "Reports of Progress"
became larger and larger, but their publication arrangements remained very unsatisfactory.
Some copies were privately printed and distributed by Logan, but the primary means
of dissemination was still in the Appendices to the Journals of the Legislative
Assembly of the Province of Canada. Needless to say, few potential readers
thought to look here for the reports of the GSC.
In 1854, the legislature formed a select committee to address two questions:
how to complete the Survey's work more quickly, and how to circulate its results
more broadly. This inquiry led to increased funding, the creation of a permanent
museum and library, and the publication of a large summary volume in 1863, the
Geology of Canada. This volume, accompanied in 1865 by an Atlas of Maps
and Sections, organized Canadian geology by age of rock formation, from oldest
(Laurentian) to youngest, with an additional major chapter on economic minerals.
The Geology of Canada is an ideal starting point for research on a specific
place, geological formation, or mineral resource, but it must be remembered that
the "Reports of Progress" contain many details of exploration, other
projects, and commentary that do not appear in the main volume.
William Logan's "Geological Map of Canada," 1864
The Geology of Canada and Atlas are part of the Written in
Stone digital collection. As government documents, the "Reports
of Progress" have already been published by Early Canadiana Online
(ECO). Several other important
publications are also included, such as Logan's investigation of potential Lake
Superior mining areas and the report of the 1854 Select Committee. The volumes
in which these documents appear are keyword searchable on ECO,
but it should be noted that each volume contains many other unrelated documents
as well. Users can also search other government documents on ECO
to find examples of Logan's work influencing thinking in areas such as land policy
and economic development.