Trade Customers click here
← Back to Book Main Page

Reviews

Review Quotes from www.knowbc.com, the Encyclopedia's Official Web Site

"The EBC is lively, serious, profusely illustrated, authoritative, funny, and a thing we should all be proud of. . . . No household in British Columbia should be without one."

-Terry Glavin, Georgia Straight


"It is clearly written, nicely organized, politically balanced and makes frequent use of explanatory pictures, maps and charts. . . . As far as I know, it's the first succinct source for immediate answers to historical, economic, geographical or miscellaneous questions concerning BC."

-Barry Link, Vancouver Courier


"It's got geoducks and Baby Duck, Cougar Smith and Cougar Annie and the legend of `Twelve Foot' Davis. It's got the Lions of the Canadian Football League, the Canucks of the National Hockey League and the thugs of the Asiatic Exclusion League. And it's the only book in the world where Doug and the Slugs and Major C.H. Douglas, founder of Social Credit, share the same page. . . . From abalone to George Zukerman, the Encyclopedia of BC is packed with weighty entries."

-Tom Barrett, Vancouver Sun


"More than its open-door inclusiveness, the EBC's biggest triumph may be that the sum of all its many parts captures the rustic, contradictory and sometimes downright goofy nature of our province. When Stan Persky and Murray Pezim share a page, you know this bountiful book got us right."

-Lee Bacchus, Vancouver Province


"this is an encyclopedia equally suited for serious use and for casual browsing, and it rewards both."

-Quill & Quire


"BC's first-ever encyclopedia is a magnificent accomplishment. Howard White and Daniel Francis have done the impossible: produced an authoritative reference work that is a joy to behold, and at a reasonable price. . . The meticulously edited articles are surprisingly comprehensive, given that the whole shebang takes up just 824 pages.

"The CD-ROM adds a significant dimension to an already impressive publication. It includes the full content of the squashed-tree version, complete with hyperlinks, and it really shines in its audio-visual material.

"This is a book that should be on every desk in BC. I don't know how we ever got along without it."

-Russ Francis, MyBC.com


"The Encyclopedia promises to be the ultimate record of the people and landscape of the province. The numbers involved in this project - including the 10 years it has taken to guide it this far-are staggering. This is obviously a labour of love - the love of a province and of finding a place for its culture and history beside the flood of global media that swallows up everything in its path."

-Globe and Mail


"For nearly 25 years, Harbour Publishing has been celebrating the people, accomplishments and geography of BC. Now [Harbour] is . . . realizing the largest publishing achievement in provincial history: the Encyclopedia of British Columbia."

-The Voice


Complete Text of Reviews

Made in B.C.
It’s got geoducks and Baby Duck, Cougar Smith and Cougar Annie, and the legend of “Twelve Foot” Davis. It’s got the Lions of the Canadian Football League, the Canucks of the National Hockey League and the racist thugs of the Asiatic Exclusion League. And it’s the only book in the world where Doug and the Slugs and Major C.H. Douglas, founder of Social Credit, share the same page.

The Encyclopedia of British Columbia, 10 years in the making is about to be launched.

It’s a little thinner than the Vancouver white pages, but it outweighs them by half a kilogram. And from abalone (“marine creatures belonging to the class Gastropoda of the phylum Mollusca”) to Zukerman, George (“Canada’s leading bassoonist”), the Encyclopedia of B.C is packed with weighty entries. Like the one on Ceepeecee, on Esperanza Inlet, which was named after the initials of the Canadian Packina Corp. Or loco, on Burrard Inlet, named after the Imperial Oil Co. Or Youbou, on Cowichan Lake, named after two pioneer loggers named Yount and Bouten.

But publisher Howard White wants it to be more than a bunch of fascinating facts. He wants the Encyclopedia of B.C to inject a big dose of B.C. consciousness into a corner of the world that’s being swamped by mass global culture.

"I don’t know if one book can do it, but maybe one book and a Web site and a CD-ROM and a lot of discussion around all of that will help, anyway," White says.

We’ll get to that question shortly, but first, some fun Encyclopedia of B.C. facts for those still scratching - their heads over that first paragraph.

Geoducks: "Pronounced ‘gooey-duck’- the largest clam species living on the B.C. coast."

Baby Duck: "A sparkling, lower-alcohol wine ... for a time the best-selling domestic Canadian wine, though its sweet flavour earned the ridicule of connoisseurs."

Cecil Cougar Smith: "Bounty hunter, guide - at age 14 he killed his first cougar with an old muzzle-loading musket."

Cougar Annie, a.k.a. Ada Annie Rae-Arthur. "Coastal pioneer - a crack shot who killed so many cougars and bears in defence of her property that she became known up and down the coast as Cougar Annie."

Henry Fuller (Twelve Foot) Davis: "Prospector, trader - came to B.C. from California to take part in the Gold Rush in the Cariboo."

Though he was unable to read or write, he discovered an error that had left unclaimed a rich, 12-foot strip of gold-bearing gravel next to the Discovery Claim, thus earning his nick name.

You could look it up.

In fact, pick any page in the encyclopedia at random and you’ll come across something like: Blessing’s Grave, B.C.’s smallest provincial historic site, is on the road to Barkerville, 44 km east of Quesnel. Charles Morgan Blessing was an Ohioan who came to the Cariboo in the 1860s during the Gold Rush. On 31 May 1866 he was murdered by another prospector, James Barry , who stole his gold tiepin and a large amount of cash. Thanks to the efforts of Blessing’s friend, Wellington Moses, a barber in Barkerville, Barry was arrested while fleeing south by stagecoach. He was trued by Judge Matthew Begbie, convicted by a jury and hanged. Moses erected the headstone and fence that now surround the grave.

If there’s even a Who Wants to be a British Columbia Millionaire, Daniel Francis would be a good bet to win the million bucks.

As the editor of the encyclopedia, Francis put together 4,000 entries, a total of 800, 000 words. While many entries were written by experts, most were written by Francis. In the end, he says it was a humbling experience.

"It’s amazing to finish this project and think about how little I do know about British Columbia."

Francis, 53, grew up in Vancouver, the son of a doctor. He went to the University of B.C. in his home town, then got a masters degree in Canadian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. He has written six high-school text books and six history books.

He says that when he and White first discussed the idea in 1990, he thought the province would be awash in money for 1992 bicentennial of Capt. George Vancouver’s first visit. He hoped some of that money might help float the encyclopedia.

As it turned out, the Capt. Vancouver bicentennial produced about as much fanfare, and about as much cash, as Car Dealers Appreciation Week.

Francis and White looked for money without much success for the next few years, but Francis, says he never lost faith that the project would be completed.

White wasn’t quite as confident. Asked if there, were times he thought the book might never come out, he says: "Like the first six years maybe.

"There were so many ways it could have gone off the rails," says White.

The original plan was to attract some major sponsors for the book. "I totally failed to do that. And that should have killed the project."

Time and again the people with the money told White that the encyclopedia was "too impossible it sounded like too big an undertaking for too small a place. Why does B.C. need an encyclopedia anyway and besides, books are dead, didn’t you hear?"

White decided to finance the project out of his publishing company’s cash flow, which meant that things went slowly. "It was the big project on the back burner for all those years."

Still, Francis kept at it, clipping newspaper articles about B.C. themes and cranking out 100-word entries. The original plan was to have every entry written by a different person, Francis says, but the lack of money made that difficult. Still, as people found out about the project, volunteers came forward. Eventually, the pool of contributors, paid and volunteer, (grew to about 500. In the end, White lined up a list of sponsors including B.C. Hydro, Telus, the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the provincial Education Ministry.)

Francis says it helped that the book includes a CD-ROM, with historical videos and audio clips demonstrating things like the proper pronunciation of place names and native words. "The minute you mention CD-ROM to people, everybody’s ears pricked up and it became much easier to raise money."

Stuffed with wonderful trivia though it is, the Encyclopedia of B.C. has a loftier purpose. More than a reference book, it’s an attempt to paint a true portrait of Canada’s westem-most province. It’s a portrait that the 55-year-old White has been working on for most of his life.

Starting around the age of three, White traveled up and down the coast as his father moved from one logging camp to another. In 1950, White’s father bought his own logging operation on Nelson Island, at the mouth of Jervis Inlet, and that’s where White grew up.

Since he founded Harbour Publishing, White has been nibbling away at the question of B.C. identity. The ruggedness and relative isolation of his province means that it takes a "certain kind of adventurous spirit to want to be here," he says, and that spirit, "has put its stamp on the overall personality of the place."

Producing the encyclopedia didn’t change White’s mind about who British Columbians are, but it did fill his ideas out and give them more depth, he says. "It made me realize that this is a far more interesting place than most of us in our daily lives realize. There are so many great characters and wonderful stories hidden in our history."

Ultimately, White says, it will be up to others to decide what British Columbia means, be it last frontier, lotus land, or the place on the edge that all the nuts rolled to when they titled the continent: "Analysing it still has to be done, but I think the animal has been captured and put behind bars. It’s there to be studied now.”
-Tom Barrett, Vancouver Sun


Fie on Furturists: The Encyclopedia Thrives

The truth is, I can’t say enough good things about what Harbour Publishing has done with the Encyclopedia of British Columbia This has nothing to do with the fact that I have a listing in the book, I’m acknowledged as an advisor, and they sent me a free copy. Really. So, to avoid being so gushy about this book that I am embarrassing to the point of causing pain, let’s change the subject a bit, just for a moment.

Several years ago, Vancouver technophile and cyberpundit Frank Ogden caused something of a hubbub with a book he’d written. Boldly titled: The Last Book You’ll Ever Read: And Other Lessons From the Future, it was all filled with fashionably messianic computerswill-change-everything sort of stuff. It was also burdened by a change-or-die tome that had already become – even by 1993, when the book was published – a bit boring.

Ogden’s main point was that books were doomed, and his book came with a little computer disk so you could read it on a computer screen. This was very clever and avant-garde. It was also a wholly tiresome way to read a book, so I read what Ogden had to say in the version with pages. All I can remember getting out of it was the firm conviction that it was the last book by Frank Ogden that I would ever read.

The Age of Gates has changed much of the way the world works. Most of us find ourselves uniquely placed in the history of human communication, freed from the constraints of time and place. We can reach out to one another across time-zones and languages in instantaneous, democratic, and lively ways. Still, almost everything of any real merit in the World Wide Web and its many components has already appeared in old-fashioned forms of media.

There are miss a cantatas from Saint Peter’s in Rome, the latest thing Christopher Hitchens has to say for himself about American political culture in The Nation, the contents of B.C. Ferries schedules, and the rubbish that passes for reasoned debate in the House of Commons. You can have all this before breakfast What’s really new is e-mail. The posts haven’t been this the days of the pneumatique in 19th-century Paris.

But while, all this has been going on, more people are reading more books than ever before. Apparently, history does matter. Place matters. Stories matter. The Encyclopedia of British Columbia is testimony to these things.

Like Ogden’s book, Harbour’s of thing that lots of smart people 806-page encyclopedia comes with digital gimmickry. The difference is, it’s actually useful. A CD-ROM contains an interactive version of the book, with lots of little sound and video clips (former premier Bill Vander Zam’s signature “Faaaaantastic!”, the proper pronunciation of Kwakwaka’wakw, film footage of Ripple Rock being blasted out of Seymour Narrows in 1958 in the largest non-nuclear peacetime explosion in history, et cetera). The digital version can also be updated by subscription through www.KnowBC.com/

Of course, you’ll need highspeed internet access and a computer with at least 32 megs of RAM, and you’ll have to download a few programs to appreciate all the bells and whistles, and it still might be a bit clunky, but never mind. The point is the book itself, and an encyclopedia is a preposterously old-fashioned kind of thing that lots of smart people expected to quickly fall victim to the vast sophistication of digital technology. Encyclopedia publishers more or less believed what these smart people said, but they have generally floundered, financially, on the Internet. But the Encyclopedia of B.C. – just the old-fashioned bound version, the one that exists in the real world – is so engrossing, so entertaining and useful that it isn’t particularly hyperbolic to say that no household in BC should be without one. Thousands of people appear to have decided already that this is so, at $100 a pop. After printing 15,000 copies in its first press run, Harbour sold 10,000 copies before a month had passed, and publisher Howard White was on the telephone ordering a second print run of 15,000.

It may be that British Columbians are uniquely situated, culturally and intellectually to behave this way with books. BC supports the strongest regional book market in North America outside Quebec, and for all the noise about this great new hard-wired, and borderless age, British Colombians persist in being interested in this place, in what happens here, in how it all came to pass, and in who was involved. You know, the real world.

"I don’t make any pretence about making sense of these things," says White, himself a poet, essayist and storyteller. "I just like to write in down. We’re told that people don’t care about the local any more, butt people aren’t given the opportunity to show how they feel about their home turf."

Without claiming to be a futurist of any kind, my bold prediction here is that the real world will continue to be interesting, no matter how snazzy virtual reality might be, now or in the future we’re always hearing about. The EBC is lively, serious, profusely illustrated, authoritative, funny and a thing we should all be proud of. It will also be worth having on your bookshelf long after you’ve forgotten what a CD-ROM was.
-Terry Glavin, Georgia Straight


New B.C. Encyclopedia: A is for abalone, Z is for Zokol

It begins with the unassuming “abalone”, (a shellfish that hangs out in our tidal pools) and ends on a classy note with an entry for “Zukerman, George,” the famous Canadian bassoonist, who here keeps company on the last page with Zokol, Richard (Dick), the famous Canadian golfer.
And between the mollusc and musician, the 800-plus-page Encyclopedia of British Columbia dispenses close to 4,000 entries accompanied by 1,500 photos and illustrations. The book, due in stores Sept. 30, comes with an interactive CD as well.

When they get around to a B.C. version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, then the EBC (as its editors fondly call it) may be just the ticket.

Peruse its succinct-yet-authoritative entries and you’ll encounter an eclectic gathering: Bryan Adams and Adams River; avalanches and Avalon dairy; Raymond Burr and Burrard Inlet (total shoreline of 152.6 km), bears and Bennetts; Doug & the Slugs, James Douglas (the first governor of the colony of B.C.) and Doug Coupland; films, fish and forests; Foxes Michael J. and Terry; Greenpeace, Nancy Greene and Greenwood (Canada’s smallest city, pop: 784); killer whales, Krall and Kinsella; a hatful of Harrys - Jerome, Rankin, Snepts (though flamboyant retailer and ‘70s aldermanic candidate Harry Hammer - real name Bernie Cobin - is conspicuously absent); Doug Hepburn (former world’s strongest man) and Ben Heppner (opera superstar); Sarah McLachlan and H.R. MacMillan, Meeker and Menghi, Pattison and Pattullo; and a roster of Robinsons (Red, Spider and Svend).

The tome is lavishly (and mercifully) relieved by photos and illustrations, some of which might surprise (as in the 1982 shot of hooded Ku Klux Klan members handing out pamphlets on Hastings Street, According to the EBC, the group’s former Shaughnessy headquarters is now the site for Canuck Place).

You will learn that a pair of camels once loped around Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, remnants of a failed scheme to use the beasts as pack animals during the Gold Rush. You’ll discover that the worst transit accident in Canadian history was the 1896 Point Ellice Bridge collapse on Vancouver Island, when a streetcar plunged into the Gorge, killing 55 people.

You’ll read about the infamous McLean Gang, a quartet of cowboys who terrorized the Nicola Valley in the 1870s and who were later hanged in New Westminster.You may flinch at the entry for Pamela Anderson Lee (b. 1 July 1967, Ladysmith), who, "at the end of the century could claim to be the most widely recognized Canadian in the world."

Along with our Pam, the EBC includes a lonq list of B.C.’s expatriate entertainers - Kim Cattrall (Sex in the City), James Doohan (Star Trek), Margot Kidder, and sisters Jennifer and Meg Tilly among them.

Everyone and everything seems to get its due in the EBC. Among its many thmeatic sections, you’ll find the history of B.C., the natural history of B.C., a gallery of B.C; visual arts, an overview of B.C.’s First Nations and the booming B.C. film industry, as well as extended entries on everything from Buddhism in B.C. to the province’s lively women’s movement. And grey it isn’t. Along with its many archival photos, the encyclopedia brandishes more charts than a legion of marketing reps.

There’s an extended entry on loggging, with its history and technology neatly accompanied by iillustrations and photos (one shows a pair felling a massive Douglas Fir in 1880s Kitsilano).

The EBC appears to be cqnscientiously up to date. While you may not find Olympic triathlon gold medallist Simon Whitfield in its pages yet, the encylopedia chronicles Greg Moore’s career and tagic crash last October, and neatly summarizes the Glen Clark fiasco.

Few stones in the province’s ‘mosaic of diverse landscapes” (see "Physical Geography of B.C.," pages 549-59) were left unturned. Every truck-stop town appears to warrant an entry. There’s Dot, a village north of Merritt whose name indicates its size on even the largest map, and there’s Buick (pop. 100), rumoured to be named after the car of one of its first inhabitants.

More than its open-door inclusiveness, the EBCs biggest triumph may be that the sum of all its many parts captures the rustic, contradictory and sometimes downright goofy nature of our province. When Stan Persky and Murray Pezim can share a page together, you know this bountiful book got us right.

"There were moments of reckoning - definitely," says Howard White, the EBC’s publisher. "It did expand before our eyes enormously."

And so what began as a modest plan for a B.C. fact book 12 years ago, inflated into an encyclopedia that’s not only big and bold enough to be a coffee-table book, but big enough to be a coffee table.

"There were long periods when we were totally convinced it couldn’t be done. it was only through the sheer doggedness of Dan Francis (the encyclopedia’s editor, who wrote close to half of the entries] and some last- minute corporate funding that we got through it."

White says that after logging the obvious entries, and contacting as many experts as possible, many decisions were based on "intuition and happenstance."

But more hair was pulled over not what should be included but rather what should not. Of course we knew we’d be asked, ‘What? You didn’t leave room for the mayor of Pouce Coupe?'" White says. But when the information "got down to minor villages and minor characters, the decisions got pretty arbitrary."

For White, who has helped publish more than 350 books with largely B.C. themes, the project even taught him a few things.

"I learned an enormous amount. For instance, I had never heard about the Kamloops Kid."

On page 357 you will learn that the Kamloops Kid was one Kanao Inouye, a Kamloops native of Japanese descent who went to Japan with his mother in 1935 and later worked as a prison-camp interpreter during the Second World War. He was eventually executed for treasonous war crimes. Ah, but that’s just one of a million (or at least 4,000) stories in the naked province. Stories that comprise one very big book.
-Lee Bacchus, The Province


B.C. From A to Z

Ten years ago, publisher Howard (Howie) White and editor Daniel Francis were driving to Vancouver from White Rock when snow began to fall - an occurrence as rare in Vancouver as Albertans sending Liberals to Ottawa.

They were despondent because a project had fallen through. As they drove, White, the owner of Harbour, confided an idea that had been simmering at the back of his mind for at least two years. What did Francis think about working together on a one-volume encyclopedia of British Columbia?

"I thought he might be the one person who didn’t think the idea was crazy," remembers White, a tall lean man with long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail and a pair of black wire-framed granny glasses. Dressed in jeans, a faded blue shirt and a tweed jacket, White looks as though he could have warped from a late 1960s commune to the bar across the street from the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University where we are having a drink.

White believes that for all their seeming "smugness," B.C. people feel a lot of insecurity. "We are used to being called the political buffoons of Canada or Canada’s outback and we are not so sure we 'belong in the modern world,'" he says. For him, publishing an encyclopedia that covers everything from natural resources to literature to population statistics "offers a lot of evidence that we are a real place after all."

Even though snowstorms are supposed to be conducive to making radical decisions in this country, Francis should have laughed at White’s proposal. In Newfoundland, former premier Joey Smallwood’s dream of a provincial encyclopedia had turned into financial and logistical nightmare, and Mel Hurtig, the country’s best book marketer since the heyday of Jack McClelland, had gone broke publishing a children’s version of his Canadian Encyclopedia.

Hurtig had a national profile, financial support from the Albertan government and a prominent publishing company to serve as a base. By constrast, White’s company, Harbour Publishing, was strictly a regional press. What he shared with Hurtig was grit and vision.

With a mixture of what he later described as "arrogance and ignorance," Francis said yes. "I thought, ‘one province’, heck, that should take two years.’" He figured it would be finished in time for the B.C. bicentenary in 1992, when "everybody would be madly celebrating Captain George Vancouver.

"We didn’t finish it in time for the bicentenary," Francis confesses in a telephone conversation from his Vancouver home office, "because there wasn’t any excitement about Captain Vancouver."

After plopping the finished book, all eight pounds of it, in my lap, White says he had thought of doing an encyclopedia many times over the years. The book feels as solid as a child, but not so squirmy. "It is hard to find out ‘salient facts about B.C," he says, sipping a glass of white wine, "especially for people like me who don’t live across from the Vancouver Public Library." Because Harbour Publishing, located in Pender Harbour, is so remote - a ferry ride and a half-day’s drive from Vancouver - White has combined calls on local booksellers and meetings with editors and authors with a late-afternoon interview with me in the city.

"And even if you do," he continues, "you have to spend hours looking through books, just to find out basic information." So partly White was motivated by the desire to fill an information gap. But there was a larger and stronger urge. "I was born with this bug that I didn’t discover until I was 25 and I realized that I was a publisher," he says. "I have this really strong desire to write and publish B.C. stories and make them known."

A provincial encyclopedia has got to be the ultimate title for a regional publisher.

White agrees. "It fits in exactly with what Harbour has been doing over the years, which is to put B.C. on the map, both to prove it to ourselves and to show the rest of the world."

White’s encyclopedia bug bit hard in the late 1980s when B.C. librarian Vicke Bassewitz showed him a copy of The California Compendium, a state encyclopedia, but White says he still "dithered around for a long time and made several false starts." For the first five or six years, people kept telling him he was crazy, and sometimes he was inclined to believe them.

"If we had worked out a clever business plan and gone out seeking investors, it never would have happened," he says, "because everyone I talked to in the early stages said: ‘Why does the province need an encyclopedia in the first place?’ and, ‘Haven’t you heard about Mel Hurtig and Joey Smallwood?'"

He kept going for two reasons: his own desire and his "good luck in running into Dan [Francis], who had cut his teeth on the three Hurtig encyclopedias." Francis was the ideal editor for the project. A historian by training and a prolific author (he has published six social studies textbooks and 10 historical studies including National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History), Francis had worked in the 1980s with Jim Marsh, the general editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia. Francis wrote entries for the first two editions, served as a contributing editor for the junior version and from 1985 to 1987 worked, as editorial director of the Horizon Canada project, a bilingual history of Canada.

"The main thing Dan brought," says White, "was a lack of intimidation. Because he had been through three or four previous projects, he had the nerve to go out there and start putting Wacky Bennett [W.A.C. Bennett, the longest-serving of B.C.’s premiers] in his place in history. You have to have a lot presumption to do that, but presumption is a necessary ingredient for an encyclopedia maker."

Like legislation-drafting and sausage making, the business of ranking and compiling encyclopedia entries is best done away from public view. The big subjects - geography, history and literature - are easy to assign. The hard part is selecting the people, places and things to include. How much space should Margaret Trudeau Kemper or Greenpeace have? Those are the questions that "drive you crazy," says White.

To this day, there are people who revile Marsh for the editorial decision not to include separate entries on Waterloo, Burlington and Dartmouth in The Canadian Encyclopedia. So what if all three are part of larger urban centres? People who buy encyclopedias expect to be able to find their home towns. According to Marsh, some citizens of Burlington became so irate at their exclusion that they burned him in effigy.

Making an encyclopedia is really about putting everything in perspective and keeping the interests and the information level of potential readers in mind. Schools and libraries, it turns out, are insignificant as a market, compared with parents buying reference books for their children and grandparents bestowing encyclopedias on their families as a testimonial to the past and an intellectual and cultural investment in the future.

Quirky items fight for space with the worthy and often win for the very simple reason that readers like to be surprised and amused by curiosities such as the origin of Nanaimo Bars, the legend of John Cameron’s wife, the sighting of the Cadborosaurus and the location of Wreck Beach.

Meanwhile, Francis was plugging away, writing articles, assembling a team of about 300 contributors, and a corps of consultants and advisers. "We paid some and others did it gratis, or got free books, but basically everybody did it as volunteers because we didn’t have a budget," White says with a laugh that tinges on the manic.

A couple of years ago, White went looking for corporate support.

The project, which had been financed all along by Harbour, was desperately short of cash. The insurance Corp. of British Columbia and B.C. Hydro both came in with big donations, money that White says went into content.

Telus and Telefilm Canada supported the CD-ROM, but Harbour is on the hook for the printing, which is up to half a million dollars - about the net worth of the company.
Most of the first print run of 15,000 sold quickly after its Sept. 30 publication date and White quickly ordered a second printing of the same size. "I am amazed when I sell 5,000 copies of a B.C. book," says White, "and this one is looking like we are going to sell out 30,000 copies in one fall season."

That is not to suggest, even if White’s sales predictions prove true, that it will be smooth sailing from now on at Harbour Publishing. White has never counted the costs of having the encyclopedia as his main project for close to a dozen years, but it probably cost at least $1.5-million. What White will say is that Harbour will break even on the first print run and be in the black if they sell out the second 15,000 copies.

Separately, both Marsh and Francis point out that Hurtig’s downfall was not in publishing an encyclopedia, but in going back to the editorial trough one time too often. The first two editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia sold well; it was the junior version that bombed at the cash registers.

And that is where time may be on Harbour Publishing’s side. The product’s long gestation has coincided with the on-line revolution in publishing, so updates can be done on-line - a cheaper and more flexible solution than publishing annual yearbooks or new editions between hard covers.

Nevertheless, the second most frequent question people ask is: Why publish a hardcover edition at all?

"If I ever had any doubts about people abandoning books, they are over now because they are, lining up in the stores to buy the encyclopedia. Basically, nobody cares that it comes with a CD-ROM. We have had about three requests for the CD-ROM by itself," he says.

"People still want the book. They look at it and they get a little glow because they realize B.C. is a pretty remarkable place after all."

-Sandra Martin, The Globe and Mail


BC encyclopedia has on-line updates

There’s a tongue-in-cheek tribute roaming around the Internet these days. The mini-essay proclaims "a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. Just lift its cover. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere." It's smaller than a bread box; it's made of a material that would please vegetarians but might infuriate tree-huggers. What is it? A book, of course.

But in this wired age of ours, it isn't enough to produce B.C.'s most comprehensive reference work just on paper. The 850-page Encyclopedia of British Columbia is packaged with its own interactive CD ROM, so that its information can be read on a computer, and updated through an on-line connection.

This amalgam of old and new media has caught the attention of the Ministry of Education, which is providing funds that should put an encyclopedia in every school.

The curriculum branch gave a $50,000 subsidy to Harbour Publishing so that schools can buy copies at $47, less than half the advertised retail cost. And did the education ministry get its money's worth?

"They've exceeded our expectations," said Dave Williams, director of the curriculum branch, speaking from his Victoria office. "We are very pleased with its comprehensiveness and its appropriate inclusion of First Nations material."

Another vote of confidence has come from the Greater Victoria Public Library, which has ordered 14 copies for its branches.

Perhaps the new encyclopedia will help build the sense of history and tradition that is lacking, when 52.2 per cent of us were born elsewhere. Political scientist Philip Resnick of the University of B.C. complained recently that our province is "a place where people have no past and they don't want to hear about history."

The Encyclopedia has taken 10 years and $1 million to create, aided by such donors as CBC Television, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and B.C. Hydro. But there wasn't enough money to pay most contributors, admits B.C.-born editor Daniel Francis, who laboured on the encyclopedia for 10 years and ended up writing many of the entries himself. Victoria’s Martin Segger, who provided the two sections on art and architecture, shrugs off the issue of non-payment as of "part of the obligation of being in the world of academe."

Segger, who is director of the Maltwood Museum and Gallery and teaches art history at the University of Victoria, plans to be at a celebration to salute the new work at Chapters book store on Douglas Street, Oct. 28, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bolen Books is also planning a gala celebration at its store in the Hillside Centre at 7 p.m. Oct. 10. What Segger accomplished in a few months in 1999 was a masterful sifting of the artists and architects with a B.C. connection, and the influences on them. "My job was to provide an overview of the development of art and architecture ,mainly focused on the personalities," he said in an interview. "There obviously wasn't room for thousands of entries so I tried to balance them according to their significant influence with the present generation, and interns of media and thematic balance.

"I wanted the entries to be illustrative of the themes and changes in B.C. art rather than to be all-inclusive." Writing for an encyclopedia is not the place in which to take an academic stance, he emphasized. He said production of an encyclopedia is a "massive undertaking" and was delighted to get a sneak preview or the encyclopedia late last month.

"Pretty Impressive," he said, as he reviewed the reproduction of art works by such B.C. icons as Emily Carr and Robert Bateman.

Other Vancouver Island contributors include Nanaimo's Rick Harbo, a marine life expert, and Marie Paquet from Port Alberni, on endangered species. Victoria contribbutors include David Lai on Chinatown history, Peter Corley-Smith on aviation, Leona Taylor on the Tofino area and Lyn Gough on women's suffrage and Russ Francis on freedom of information.

The Encyclopedia of B.C. involved more than academic research for historian and editor Francis. He went to see for himself the world's tallest totem pole at Alert Bay, the goats on the roof at Coombs and the waves breaking on to the stone beach on Yuquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

"I learned something new every day," he said. One of his biggest surprises was that Mandrake the Magician was from B.C.

The book has more than 4,000 separate articles and 1,500 illustrations, many in colour. While it includes mandarin oranges - Francis said that entry reflects his fond childhood memories.

. . .in the on-line updates[,] new entries can be added - our Olympic medalists will rate an entry when the encyclopedia goes on-line by the year 2001.
-Anne Moon, Victoria Times Colonist