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Synopsis

At age 75, David Thompson began to write about his life of exploration and surveying in western North America from 1784 to 1812. At this point, how-ever, the odds of ?nishing were slim; his eyesight was failing, his body was worn out after years of strain on portages and mountain passes. For ?ve years he toiled with rewrites and revisions, never able to set the ?nal account in order. On 16 January 1851 he “put his “papers to right” in one last attempt to ?nish his work. By 28 February 1851, no longer able to see, he gave up his pen as well as any hope of completing his Travels. Like a true surveyor, though, he left a well-blazed trail for others to follow.

Drawing from the four surviving manuscripts and Thompson’s 77 notebooks ?lled with daily journals, reports, essays, and anecdotes, Sean Peake ?nished what Thompson set out to achieve: a full account that encompasses the “extent of the forests, of the great Plains, the animals, birds, ?shes &c &c peculiar to each section; the various tribes of Indians which inhabit these countries, their several languages, their religious opinions, manners and mode of life, place and extent of hunting grounds, and the changes which have taken place, by the fortune of war or other causes... a curious and extensive collection of all that can fall under the observation of a traveller.”

This edition of The Travels of David Thompson is a landmark publication in Canadian history, fully deserving of a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in a ?rst-hand account of the tumultuous struggle for control of western North America.

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