The Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson is a justly famous Canadian artist, but he had an unknown brother Henry who was also an artist who made his living as a commercial artist in Montreal. But on weekends Henry used to go off into the woods and find various species of mushrooms that he would draw in meticulous detail.
One evening I was attending a cocktail party in Ottawa with Joan Naylor, manager of the McGill University Press, where we both worked, when we got into conversation with a woman who turned out to be Henry’s daughter. When she found that we were publishers, she told us she had a whole collection of Henry’s drawings of mushrooms and perhaps we would be interested in making a book of them. When we saw them the next day we were overwhelmed, and were enthusiastic about doing a book, but the question came up about a text to go with the drawings. She said not to worry, her husband was the Dominion Mycologyist, and could probably be pressed into writing notes to Henry’s extensive journals that would satisfy a university press. She first met him because Henry kept going to him for help in identifying his drawings of mushrooms.
In fact, he did write notes to Henry’s comments on the two sample drawings shown here that we borrowed and sent to England for one of the best English printers, Lund Humphries, to print up. The results show what a wonderful book McGill could have produced, but we could never get the director of the press to move on the project, which would have been of world-wide importance because the same species of mushrooms abound throughout the world in the same climate zones, and our Canadian climate zone is the most common for mushrooms. Just one more still-born project that never got off the ground at McGill, although the ones that we did produce turned out magnificently.