Case 8 Thompson Today

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Tyrrell ed. tpThompson, David, 1770-1857. David Thompson's Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916.

Thompson’s travel narrative is arranged in two parts, and exists in several drafts. The first covers his early life and his employment with Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies from 1784 to 1807; the second his western travels as a partner in the North West Company from 1807 to 1812. Thompson wrote the text in his old age, and on his death in 1857 the narrative was passed on to one of his sons, who in turn sold it to Charles Lindsey, of Toronto. J. B. Tyrrell (a “prince of modern surveyors”), while working for the Geological Survey of Canada, explored some of the terrain previously surveyed by Thompson and was struck with the accuracy of his work. After purchasing the manuscript (for $400, almost one-quarter of his annual salary) he began working on and editing the text for publication. The Champlain Society edition, with an extensive introduction and notes by Tyrrell was published in 1916, 'with the hope that it may assist in confirming David Thompson in his rightful place as one of the greatest geographers of the world.'

Glover ed tp.Thompson, David, 1770-1857. David Thompson's Narrative, 1784-1812. New ed., with added material, edited with an introduction and notes by Richard Glover. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1962.

A new edition of the 'Travels' was published by the Champlain Society in 1962, twenty-six years after the first. While praising the work done by Tyrrell, and agreeing that Thompson was a great geographer, Glover took exception to the 'hagiographical myth that has long hidden the real man', and presented a more critical examination of the explorer and his work. Glover for the most part, accepted Tyrrell’s transcription, but edited the notes, and included recently discovered additional pages to the 'Travels' which had been held at the Archives of Ontario.

Hopwood tpThompson, David, 1770-1857. Travels in Western North America, 1784-1812. Edited by Victor G. Hopwood. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1971.

Victor Hopwood wished to make ‘one of the world’s great travel books’ available to a more general audience. He selected sections of the 'Travels', combining them with Thompson’s journals and reports to fill in some of the gaps he saw present in the surveyor’s own account, unfinished at his death. For Hopwood, Thompson is ‘the foundation mythmaker of the Canadian West …one of the map-makers of the Canadian mind.’

Belyea edThompson, David, 1770-1857. Columbia Journals. Edited by Barbara Belyea. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994.

David Thompson’s journals, held at the Archives of Ontario are the records from which the 'Travels' was written. Never before published, they are a laconic, straightforward, daily account of travels, events, and surveys made. Barbara Belyea selected those accounts covering the years 1807 to 1812 when Thompson established the Columbia Department for the North West Company, and travelled the length of the Columbia River, mapping a navigable route from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

Thompson, David, 1770-1857. 'The Writings of David Thompson.’ Edited by William E. Moreau. To be published by the Champlain Society and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008-

William Moreau is preparing a complete edition of David Thompson’s writings for publication in three volumes. Several of the initial manuscript pages for a new edition of the ‘Travels’,  to be published as volume one, have been donated by the editor for this exhibition.

Woman of the paddle songClutton-Brock, Elizabeth. Woman of the paddle song. Vancouver: Copp Clark, 1972.

Charlotte Small, David Thompson’s wife, is only briefly mentioned in the 'Travels'. This novel about her life is, according to the author, based on contemporary fur traders’ journals.

KooKooSintSmith, Marion R. Koo-Koo-Sint: David Thompson in Western Canada. Red Deer: Red Deer College Press, 1976.

The author, Marion Smith writes in the prologue to this book of poetry: 'David Thompson’s chief interest was surveying and exploration. He made constant astronomical observations to determine longitude, so much that the Indians called him Koo-koo-sint, "‘You That Look At The Stars." They thought that his constant use of the telescope, together with the notations and calculations he made every day, gave him occult powers. If, they said, he sought to determine direction and distance, he would look at the ground, not at the stars … All through his years in the west, he recorded, along with his survey notes, many observations of the Indians, their way of life, their attitudes, their legends and beliefs. Indeed, David Thompson became a legend himself, as inextricable from the rivers and land of Western Canada as the water and soil.'