Early Sketches

Prior to the British presence in the Canadas there were few sketches of the area.

British military officers are to be thanked for their proficiency in recording scenes and incidents of the Canadas during their service in the area.

Before the advent of photography, sketches and drawings were the only visual record of history. Professionals and senior members of the British Army were taught to sketch as part of their training and were expected to augment their reports with sketches. Military draftsmanship focused on representation of objects, scenes, and places, as they actually were rather than the then popular inclination to elaborate and decorate to render the picture more pleasing.

A camera lucida was used by many artists in the early 19th century. This was an ingenious instrument used in a very primitive form as early as the 16th century, rediscovered and improved by the early 19th century. It consisted of an arrangement of mirrors or a prism of unusual shape, together with an eyepiece, so that the landscape or object scene would be reduced to the size necessary for a sketch. The right and left sides of the image were transposed when seen in the camera lucida. The artist could make a pencil or ink tracing in the instrument and later make a free hand sketch from the tracing, reversing the right and left side of the picture. Only a talented and capable artist could do good work with this instrument, but it did increase the speed and accuracy of the work very considerably.

The majority of sketches used in the sail up the St. Lawrence River were taken from the collection of Sigmund Samuel Canadiana Collection at the Royal Ontario Museum and reprinted in The Early Face of Canada.

A second source of sketches were the works of George Heriot.

 George Heriot was sent to the Canadas in 1792 to take a post in the paymasters department. In 1800 he was made Deputy Postmaster General of British North America. In this capacity he travelled throughout the area of the British holdings in the New World. He recorded all that he saw making sketches of various areas and activities.

Much of the information describing the sail approaching and entering the St. Lawrence River is based on George Heriot’s 1807 publication, “Travels Through the Canadas”.