- Peel's Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies to 1953
For two generations now, Bruce Peel's Bibliography has been an essential starting point for students of prairie history. And it is easy to understand why. Peel serves as a kind of gateway to the known literature, much of it scarce or rare, on any number of prairie themes, topics, and events. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that for anyone starting a new project, from undergraduates to seasoned scholars, it is a must-see source on what's been published, by whom, and equally important, when.
The usefulness of this reference guide has now been enhanced with the 2003 publication of an enlarged and revised edition, renamed Peel's Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies. Ernie Ingles and Merrill Distad of the University of Alberta assumed the task of completing this third edition upon Peel's death in 1998. It is long overdue. Peel had started compiling a [End Page 212] prairie bibliography during his days as a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan in the mid-1940s and published the first edition (2769 entries) with University of Toronto Press in 1956; the terminal date of 1953 was chosen to coincide with the beginning of the National Library of Canada's deposit program. Peel produced a supplement in 1963 and then a second edition ten years later - with 60 per cent more entries than the original edition. But new titles continued to be chased down, especially by booksellers who took special delight in uncovering items not mentioned in the Bibliography, and Peel started work on what would eventually serve as the basis for this latest edition.
The third edition features a remarkable 7429 entries, arranged chronologically, as originally devised by Peel, with accompanying subject, title, and author indexes. The chronological organization of the materials provides the reader with some sense of the larger historical context, something that would not be possible if the individual entries were simply listed alphabetically. In my own recent work on the Saskatchewan centennial, for example, I regularly consulted Peel for published material on certain critical periods in the province's early history. I was rewarded with several contemporary accounts, including some little-known gems, that ultimately made for a better story. In fact, among the more enjoyable exercises in preparing the new history of the province for the 2005 centennial were the hours I spent reading Peel for sources. Editors Ingles and Distad have done a fine job updating the bibliography to ensure that it remains the key reference source for prairie studies.
It is also a handsome publication, a credit to University of Toronto Press. Apart from the attractive design, the new edition is supplemented with several black and white photographs, many from the William Pearce Collection of the University of Alberta Archives. There is also a colour insert featuring eight Department of Interior immigration posters - naturally, from one of the sources listed in the Peel's Bibliography. The work should be part of the library of anyone working in the field or those seriously interested in prairie history. [End Page 213]
Bill Waiser, Department of History, University of Saskatchewan