Why does this document exist?

People write and publish books and pamphlets for a number of reasons. Some, like missionary R.C. Lundin Brown (Klatsassan and Other Reminiscences of Missionary Life), want to promote and sometimes raise money for missionary work. Some, like Frederick Whymper, likely wrote for the money they hoped to make, and in his case, perhaps to promote his artistic career. The anthropological texts of James Teit give an early 20th century view of what most people believed was a vanishing race. Most authors wish their words to gain them attention and some element of fame. Whatever the reason, it usually influences and biases the content of the publication.

Why would we use this source?

Historic publications tell us a great deal about the times they were published, their authors, and the society at the time. We learn from Lundin Brown, for example, details of the last days of Klatsassin that have not been recorded anywhere else. Long-ago authors have often compiled information that would be impossible or difficult to obtain now. But how can we check the facts in books when the authors are dead and so are the people who knew about what they were writing?

How do we find and use this source?

Just because something is printed, it is not necessarily true. Published sources, just like unpublished letters, diaries, or government records, have to be examined and interrogated critically. Authors have their biases, they often do not have access to a complete set of the evidence, and they make mistakes. So when we find a published source, like Lundin Brown’s account of the conversion of Klatsassin, we have to treat it as an interpretation coloured by his wishful thinking and hopes to gain support as a missionary. Lundin Brown was a missionary and part of the goal of his book is to show readers that Aboriginal People could be redeemed with proper missionary assistance. Understanding this, we may suspect a bias which may exaggerate his success.

Clearly, even published sources have to be compared to other published and unpublished sources to check for accuracy and bias. One statement that something happened is only a piece of evidence until there are other pieces that begin to convince us that the event did indeed happen in the way that is was written.

Published historical sources are usually indexed by title and author, and so finding them is not much different from doing a regular library search except that school libraries and small public libraries may not have older books.

Thanks to the efforts of Early Canadiana Online, much of the 19th century publications about Canada are now available on- line. The website has part of its collection open to everyone and part of it open only to subscribers. Lundin Brown’s Klatsassan book and some of Teit’s books are available to anyone. If you would like to leave this site and explore historic published sources in more detail, go to:

Early Canadiana Online:

Nineteenth century books are fragile and often rare, so in larger libraries they are sometimes kept in a special part of the library called "Special Collections". Two places to look for historic books are the BC Archives library in Victoria, or the UBC Special Collections in Vancouver.

British Columbia Archives Library:

The University of British Columbia Library (includes Special Collections):