Interpreting the Collections
William Logan: Author
To keep his Geological Survey going, year after year, William Logan had to
be able to convince the Canadian government of the value of his work. More than
merely scientifically accurate, his written reports also had to be interesting
and exciting. The Written in Stone digital collection shows that, from
personal journals to field notebooks to official publications, Logan succeeded
as a writer because he was a compulsively curious observer.
William Logan was well educated by the standards of his time and reasonably
affluent. Like many of his peers, he was interested both in private writing as
a means of self-expression and travel as a means of broadening one's mind. For
instance, an early surviving document is a journal from an 1829 art and architecture tour in Italy. As well, Logan wrote letters to his brothers and sisters describing his exploits and even wrote poetry when the mood struck him.
Logan put his observational skills to good use in writing for business purposes
when he was the manager of a copper-smelting works in the 1830s. An 1834 journal,
held by the Toronto Public Library, describes a trip to France and Spain, and
includes both commercial and scientific notes.
Logan was a naturally curious individual. He collected information
about rocks and fossils, but also about flora and fauna
As Logan became increasingly interested in geology around this time, he began
a series of field notebooks recording his work around Swansea in South Wales;
these were so detailed that they were officially incorporated into the Geological
Survey of Great Britain. Logan's most important scientific writing during this
period discussed the clay deposits he had observed under seams of coal. He presented this paper at the Geological Society of London in 1840, and it was later published in their Proceedings and Transactions.
Logan was therefore an experienced writer of personal journals, field notebooks,
and scientific publications by the time he began the Geological Survey of Canada.
These documents are an exceptional resource because they reflect both the diligent,
attentive man who created them and the richly detailed world in which he lived.
By the time Logan worked in the field in Canada, he was also
a seasoned sketch artist