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The Canadian Encyclopedia, Second Edition

By Marilyn McCulloch
Ottawa Public Library, Ottawa. Ont.

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

The long-awaited second edition of the Canadian Encyclopedia came out in September 1988. There was much publicity in the press and other media, not all of it favourable-in particularly the price discounting by the large chain bookstores received so much publicity that the encyclopedia itself received relatively little attention. Mel Hurtig must now face a dual dilemma. whether to market any future encyclopedias through the retail trade and how to pay for future projects such as the new Junior Encyclopedia of Canada, projected for a 1990 publication date.

This Canadian encyclopedia is truly a monumental work, and Mel Hurtig should be congratulated for giving us a greatly revised and enlarged vision of our country. The addition of 750,000 words, 1,700 new articles and 695 pages has given us four volumes instead of three. The most obvious improvement is in the index. In the first edition it occupied 97 pages: now it covers 372 pages. It is easier to read and the cross-references are excellent.

The next feature that everyone will notice is the physical layout of the volumes. Over three hundred new photographs, fifty new maps and one hundred pieces of new art, combined with new covers, make this set much more visually appealing. New end covers by Michael J. Lee show Canada as it must appear from outer space.

Over ninety per cent of the entries in the first edition have been revised and updated to include events up to January of 1988; statistics have been revised to include the 1986 census figures. New entries include premiers such as David Peterson, sprinter Ben Johnson, and pop musician Brian Adams. New subject entries appear-Meech Lake Accord, free trade, AIDS, Expo 86. Examples of greatly improved coverage are Acadia, a new article on French-Canadian periodicals, and a much improved article on theatre (both English and French).

The organization of the encyclopedia is in alphabetical order, with an attempt made to facilitate the search for information on particular subjects, i.e., humorous writing in English. The major subject areas have been broken down into several types of entries to meet varying needs of the reader, i.e., the article on architecture. Biographical entries are placed under the most common form of the name, i.e., Frontenac; John Buchan, Articles on authors are placed under their real names, not pen names, i.e., Ralph Connor is under Gordon, Charles William.

Many entries for book titles are under the title, i.e., Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. This again was done to help students who many times search for a book under title instead of author.

James H. Marsh, the editor-in-chief of the Canadian Encyclopedia was also the editor of the first edition. A former Ottawan, Marsh has been an editor of Canadian books since 1966 and was for ten years a member of the Institute of Canadian Studies at Carleton University, where he was the editor of the "Carleton Literary Series." He is also the author of several books on Canadian history such as The Fur Trade (Collier MacMillan, 1971) and The Discoveries (Collier Macmillan, 1972). He has received the medal from the Royal Society of Canada and the Secretary of State prize for excellence for his contribution to Canadian studies. He has an honours degree in history from Carleton University.

Most of the articles are signed by their contributors and there Is a list of these contributors at the beginning of Volume 1. Marsh has stated in his preface that many special reports have been commissioned from subject experts and have been verified and corrected to the best of his ability and that of his staff. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for the editors to read every article and they counted on the contributors to write accurate articles. Suggestions have been made by thousands of Canadians since the first edition (over two thousand letters were answered in the last three years) and these suggesitons resulted in a number of new or greatly revised articles.

Unfortunately, the set contains a great many errors, many of them typographical errors, and some errors in fact. Many of these have been well publicized. We can only hope these errors will be corrected in the next edition.

For example, in the article on children's literature in English by Jon Stott of the University of Guelph, there are at least four errors. Brian Doyle's Up to Low becomes Up from Low; Ian Wallace becomes Jan Wallace; Cora Taylor's Julie becomes Julia and Ken Nutt is given as the pseudonym for Eric Beddows. The opposite is true.

In the short biography of David Peterson, submitted by his own policy director, there are two major errors of fact.

Another major factual error may be found in the article on Margaret Atwood by Barbara Godard, associate professor of English at York University. She states, "More recently [Atwood] has continued to fight for literary censorship as president of PEN" (italics added)!

Many of us who work with children and youth in libraries and schools would like to see more emphasis on biographies of current literary figures, musicians, athletes and others of great interest to these students, in particular longer biographies of authors such as Kevin Major and Gordon Korman. Perhaps this information will be contained in the next edition or in the new Junior Encyclopedia of Canada.

In the meantime we can be proud of this new and much improved encyclopedia with its beautiful graphics, sturdy binding, excellent articles and index--an impressive achievement.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Hurtig Publishers, 1988.

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