Friday, August 9, 2013

News on the Astrolabe?

I wish that there were more Randy Boswells around.  There is far too little historical content in the mainstream Canadian media.  Boswell's latest is a piece entitled "Discovery of 19th century document sheds light on the unearthing of astrolabe reportedly used by Samuel de Champlain", which reports on Carleton University professor Bruce Elliott’s discovery of an 1893 journal penned by steamship captain Daniel Cowley.  This journal, which has been since May on exhibit at the Pinhey's Point museum just west of Ottawa, sheds a little light on the circumstances in which the astrolabe was discovered.  “It was in my desk on the steamer for some months afterwards,” Cowley writes. 

Readers should be advised, though, that Boswell and his editors somewhat overstate the extent to which the document tells us something new about whether or not the object ever belonged to Champlain.  And the article glosses over the fact that Prof. Elliott has had the journal in his possession for over a decade, if my memory serves me.  It seems to me that this places the excitement over a "discovery" in the realm of journalistic hyperbole.  Still, this is a good excuse to get the public to think about the looming figure and about an object that has taken on iconic proportions in the historical consciousness of Canadians.   


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