The dedication of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to collecting and preserving books and other published materials about John A. Macdonald is especially fitting since Macdonald was himself an avid reader with a large personal library. As part of its rare book collection, LAC holds about 300 books and pamphlets that are directly related to Macdonald's life and career. Hundreds of other historical and contemporary biographies, histories, newspapers, government publications, pamphlets and other records relating to Macdonald are held in the general library collection of LAC.
Dozens of documents both for and against the union of the British North American colonies were published during the public debate leading up to Confederation. Typical of these is a brochure from 1859 issued in the form of "A Letter Addressed to the Citizens of British North America." Another pamphlet, addressed to Macdonald by "A Backwoodsman," reproduces letters that had been published in Montréal newspapers in favour of Confederation. The author, in reality none other than future Father of Confederation Thomas D'Arcy McGee, signed a copy that is in the LAC collection today.
The LAC collection also includes Macdonald's published speeches, such as the Speech of Sir John Macdonald to the Workingmen's Liberal Conservative Association of Ottawa and Le Cercle Lafontaine, Delivered in Ottawa on the 8th of October, 1886, also published in French as Discours de Sir John Macdonald à l'Association libérale-conservatrice des artisans d'Ottawa et du Cercle Lafontaine, prononcé à Ottawa le 8 octobre 1886. Many other rare books and pamphlets in the collection promote or critique Macdonald's government, including petitions, editorials and congratulatory notices. One of the most remarkable of these is a unique hand-painted book decorated with ornamental letters and illustrations in gold, silver and other coloured paint. This illuminated manuscript, from 1884, was presented to Macdonald to mark his 40th year in politics. The collection also includes more sombre items, such as the Macdonald Memorial Committee's commemorative publication entitled The Proceedings at the Unveiling of the Statue of the Late Sir John Alexander Macdonald . . . in Hamilton, on the First Day of November, 1893.
Today, the sheer range of books on Macdonald's life and politics is astonishing: from children's picture books-including one featuring the treasured daughter he affectionately called "Baboo"-to Sir John, Eh? A Musical in Two Acts by Jim Garrard and Grant Heckman, to the great retrospective collection The John A. Macdonald Album by Lena Newman. The list continues to grow; in 2007, newly published books on Macdonald included a biography by Richard Gwyn called John A: The Man Who Made Us, and a novel by Roy MacSkimming entitled Macdonald. Along with these and other familiar books such as Donald Creighton's classic two-volume biography, The Young Politician and The Old Chieftain, the LAC collection includes other fascinating items such as sheet music, DVDs and sound recordings, all presenting opportunities to evaluate, appreciate and celebrate the political and personal legacy of the man one early biography called "Canada's patriot statesman."
Visit the Gallery of Books and Published Materials to see more from the LAC collection.