“It is hard to say how long the book has been in my family, but a reasonable guess would be ten decades,” Larry Keddy said. “I inherited the book from my mother 51 years ago.
“My grandmother’s name is in the book, and I think my mother inherited it from her, sometime around 1932. The book was published in 1903, making it over a century old.”
Keddy is referring to one of several published histories of Nova Scotia, a book that has been around for almost 120 years. The title of the history is “Markland or Nova Scotia”. The title for the book comes from a belief that Norse explorers discovered Nova Scotia around 1000 AD and named it Markland or forest land. It’s questionable that the Norsemen landed here, however, but this name for the province has been perpetuated in literary and historical circles.
Markland was compiled and published in Berwick where Larry Keddy grew up, so he has a natural interest in the book. According to Keddy, a business (the Markland Publishing Company) was formed in Berwick explicitly to publish Markland. “I did a little searching on the internet,” Keddy says “and I noticed the publisher (and the treasurer of the company) are shown as being in Berwick. I think the company was created for the sole purpose of publishing the book.”
There was an Acadia University connection with the Markland Company as well, Keddy says. “The preface to the book refers to the president of the company being a professor at Acadia.”
As a history book of just over 600 pages, Markland is unique in that it is also covers Nova Scotia geology and promotes tourism. However, it isn’t the first Nova Scotia history that has been published over the years. Perhaps best known is Beamish Murdock’s three-volume history, published in 1866. Then there’s Beckle Wilson’s book, Nova Scotia, The Province that has been Passed By, published in 1912.
Also, a Truro historian, John B. Calkin wrote and published a history and geography of Nova Scotia in 1866. In 1899, John G. Bourinot published Builders of Nova Scotia and in 1916, David Allison compiled a two-volume history of the province. All these journals are in the public domain and reproductions have been published by a British company based in London called Forgotten Books.
Getting back to Markland, the author, Robert R. McLeod, does an admirable job of summing up tourist attractions at the turn of the century. McLeod describes Kentville, Wolfville, and Canning as worthy of visiting, Berwick as “beautiful and enterprising.” Port Williams is dismissed as no more than “a station on the D.A.R.”, and Harbourville and Halls Harbour as precarious shelters on the Bay of Fundy. On Hants County, McLeod reminds readers that the general area around
Windsor was once a major Acadian settlement, a fact often overlooked today with Grand Pre getting most of the attention.
While McLeod dismisses the expulsion of the Acadians as “a mere fly bite” compared to other historical outrages, he does admirable work in describing the natural resources of Kings and Hants County, describing the dykes in these counties as a natural and national treasure.