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Brian Douglas Tennyson, comp. Cape Bretoniana: An Annotated Bibliography.

Brian Douglas Tennyson, comp. Cape Bretoniana: An Annotated Bibliography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. xiv, 789 pp.; $110.00. ISBN 0802087124.

Attempting "the impossible" is how Tennyson introduces this large bibliography of Cape Breton Island. Even though the task may be impossible, Tennyson claims that the bibliography is important because "the world needs Cape Breton" ([ix]). By delving into the more than 6220 entries (actually fewer, since numerous cross references are included in the numbering) a reader can quickly realize why this island of stunning beauty and rich cultural heritage merits the attention that Tennyson's bibliography provides.

Whether through isolation, containment, or other factors, islands often develop unique and vibrant cultures, and the large body of literature emanating from these environments has resulted in island bibliographies worldwide. In the last two decades, for example, bibliographies have been published about Corsica, Crete, Greenland, Guam, Madagascar, Puerto Rico, Sicily, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Tasmania. In Canada, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton Island are widely recognized as places with unparalleled cultural heritage and where people have fervent attachment to land and community. Island culture is a commanding feature of Atlantic Canada.

Populated largely by peoples of Native, French, and British (primarily Scottish) origin, Cape Breton Island had, by the end of the nineteenth century, established unique characteristics that define its citizens. With the remarkable renaissance of Celtic culture (which on the Island has become an amalgam of Scottish, Irish, French, and Native cultures) in the twentieth century, Cape Breton Island has become a focus for Celtic language, arts, and music. The annual Celtic Colours festival, held when fall colours show off the Island's landscape at its best, is one indicator of this international attention. This island has generated teachers, politicians (premiers and federal cabinet members), entrepreneurs, lawyers, scientists, musicians, artists, and cultural icons by the score. The breathtaking beauty of the Island has attracted visitors for centuries; Alexander Graham Bell, one of the more notable, established a summer residence on the Island, where in 1909 he and his colleagues achieved the first successful flight of an aircraft in the British Commonwealth, and later they piloted hydrofoils on the Bras d'Or Lakes that still command attention.

Tennyson's bibliography is bound to receive extensive use because of growing interest in Cape Bretoniana. Genealogists alone will turn to this volume as an entree into family history. Others will use the bibliography to tap into the sizeable number of subjects that are covered. The bibliography is a successor to an earlier edition in 1978. But, as Tennyson discovered when he returned to the task of compiling the current edition 25 years later, a "veritable explosion" in regional studies had occurred, and the volume of literature about Cape Breton Island had increased "more than five times," in part because Cape Bretoners had come to realize that their own culture was valuable (x). Tennyson attributes fostering of this cultural resurgence to Ron Caplan's Cape Breton's Magazine, begun in 1972, and all of the articles from the Magazine are listed in the bibliography. Tennyson included "books, journal and magazine articles, and postgraduate theses" (xi), all of which were published by the end of 1998. He excluded "annual reports, directories, brochures, programs, newsletters, newspaper articles, scientific and technical publications, undergraduate theses or book reviews" (xi), although his criteria were not definitively applied, since, for example, some scientific and technical literature is included (entries 7, 9, 11, 18, 19, 28, and others deal with scientific topics). Clear criteria are important for defining the parameters of a bibliography, but often the idiosyncratic methods of a compiler prove valuable because the knowledge of the bibliographer can be extensive, and the reader of a bibliography benefits. Tennyson acknowledges that he had "not succeeded in arriving at an entirely clear or consistent definition, and at the risk of offending the sensibilities of professional bibliographers," he "generally included items even if privately 'published' but ... excluded unbound reports generated by governmental or institutional departments, consultants, and individuals." Nonetheless, he made "exceptions to this rule when a report seemed to be of sufficient importance"(xi).

Tennyson grouped the entries in the bibliography under 11 headings: General, Mi'kmaq, Early History, French Regime, British Regime, Canadian Regime, Coal and Steel, Local, Religion, Culture, and Genealogy. This structure is "obviously subjective" and open to criticism, as Tennyson admits. The topics overlap, as many publications do not fit nicely in one category or another. Publications that span two or more subjects are entered in the first in the sequence. Unusually, however, entry 2003 (under Canadian Regime) is repeated as entry 2974 (Coal and Steel). Each entry in the bibliography "lists the author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, volume and issue number in the case of periodicals, and page references, followed by a brief description of the item" (xiii). This statement is not strictly correct, because place and publisher are not given for periodical articles, and many of the "entries" (i.e., the numbered items in the bibliography) are cross references.

To compile the more than 6000 entries in the bibliography Tennyson searched library and archival catalogues (primarily of institutions in Nova Scotia). Regrettably, the bibliography does not list a location for publications, which would have been a simple matter to include to aid readers, especially for obscure publications that may be difficult to locate. Tennyson included "not found" publications, which is appropriate if the bibliographer is confident of the source of the information. However, ghosts can be perpetuated by bibliographic entries, which may be the case with entry 427--a map of similar description was published in London in the previous year. Why Tennyson listed some publications as "not found" is a mystery, since they are readily available in library holdings that he searched. For example, entries 319 and 449 have been republished on microfiche by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (now

Indexes are essential for printed bibliographies of this size. Two extensive indexes (author and subject) provide access points for the entries. The author index includes both personal and corporate authors. Authorship should be straightforward, but Tennyson applied corporate authorship to some titles, which is not obvious when the publication is examined. For example, the federal Department of Energy, Mines & Resources is listed as the author of entry 2003, when that publication was authored by Gardner Pinfold Consulting Economists Limited. Although the Department was the publisher and not the author in this instance and several other entries in the bibliography, it was assigned authorship in the index. The subject index, while extensive, is not comprehensive. The concept "science" is not found in the index although publications (e.g., 7) discuss this topic. Nonetheless, the subject index is likely to be used frequently to trace publications that overlap the broad categories of the entries.

Will Tennyson's bibliography be used? Definitely. Researchers and all others interested in the history and culture of Cape Breton Island, as well as island studies generally, will be indebted to Tennyson for compiling this bibliography. The informative introduction, the large number of clearly articulated entries, the two indexes, and additional references make this bibliography an important, rich reference tool. Still, the daunting effort required to produce a bibliography of this sort raises the question of whether the effort is warranted, especially when the end result is a bibliography with the limitations imposed by printed format. The obvious benefits of current database software and web access, which provide much greater searching flexibility as well as updating capabilities, place this bibliography released only in print format at a decided disadvantage. Not only is the arrangement of this bibliography problematic, forcing a reader to examine multiple sections in order to be comprehensive, but the bibliography is already dated (there are no entries post 1998). Although Tennyson does not state that database software was used to generate the bibliography, the whole file could be taken by an institution like his academic home, Cape Breton University, and placed on the web as a searchable database for the benefit of a wider audience. This bibliography deserves that sort of treatment.


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Author:MacDonald, Bertrum H.
Publication:Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2005
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