Roots

I’m still assembling notes on why art and books often get slammed together in the same phrase, but in the meantime, I thought I’d talk a bit about some other printing-related projects that I have on the go. First up, a labour of love that has had me occupied in spare moments for about fifteen years.

In 1905, my great-great grandfather, Joshua Thompson, then well into his dotage, finished a 250 page hand-written monograph and presented it to his son at a family reunion in Clinton, Ontario. This remarkable document details in biographical sketches what Joshua could remember about his grandparents in Ireland, and his parent’s journey to Canada in 1821, the lives of his brothers and sisters and their pioneer life in Eastern Ontario. Later, around 1850, Joshua moved his family to southern Ontario and so the story continues, with detailed prose essays on the lives of his children, and some later inclusions and notations about grandchildren.

Sample page - Joshua has a pretty fine hand for 82 years of age

The remarkable thing is that Joshua, then in his early 80s, undertook to make four – possibly five – copies of this monumental work for his each of his surviving children.

Photo of Joshua Thompson from the Family History

I don’t want to go on and on about the contents, other than to say that Joshua’s primary literary reference was the bible and being himself a rather stern Methodist of the fundamentalist variety, the Family History can be a bit heavy going – not exactly light reading. Nevertheless, the information held within is remarkable, and naturally, the book is a rather highly regarded family treasure.

About fifteen years ago, I borrowed the book from my father and began to transcribe the text into that new-fangled machine, the computer, the intent being to distribute the information therein to anyone. With the advent of print-on-demand (POD), the project has evolved into creating a small number of hardbound books (digital type set, in case any hand-setters were wondering) for family members, complete with a DVD containing scans of the actual manuscript pages, images and the text again in a ASCI text file. I think for now that is the best I can do to disseminate the information on Joshua’s book. This should be complete over the summer.

Now that my work with the book itself is finished, it is in dire need of restoration. Enter Natasha Herman of the Redbone Bindery who will stabilize the structure and build a box to house the book and the associated bits of paper that have been shoved in over the last century. Then the original will be donated to an archives, probably and hopefully at the Lennox and Addington Museum in Napanee, not far from where the family first settled.

I began it for selfish reasons; I wanted a copy of the History. I’ll be glad when the project is finally finished, because it has stretched out over so many years. But procrastination, in this case, has allowed Joshua’s great labour to be perpetuated throughout his descendants. I think he would be pleased.

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One Comment on “Roots”

  1. Brent Buckner Says:

    A great project.


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