The Calf with Two Heads

By (author): Louisa Blair

These beautifully illustrated stories of natural history in nineteenth-century Canada are about the curious men and women who crossed the oceans from Europe to explore, map, draw, puzzle about, collect and exhibit nature in Canada. Informed by French, British and Indigenous naturalists, they tried to understand what they saw. What did it all mean about the origins of the world?

Louisa Blair, an amateur naturalist in Quebec and a transatlantic species herself, tells tales on Darwin, Russell Wallace and James Cook, and lingers on the strange and colourful details of Canada’s stubborn resistance to evolutionism and its first natural history museums with their penchant for deformities.

These stories feature Indigenous mapmakers, botanical artists, bug-bitten rock fanatics, arctic explorers, and a trio of Quebec women who managed to get plants named after themselves. In short, muddy boots, cold hands, a pocket full of fossils, a mind full of existential questions. To make her case, Louisa Blair has gathered a vast collection of vintage illustrations.

Blair also salutes their successors, the citizen scientists who are now frantically mapping Canada’s biodiversity before it fades to bio-monotony. What does it all mean for the end of the world?


Louisa Blair

Louisa Blair is a writer, editor and translator. Author of The Anglos: The Hidden Face of Quebec City 1608-1850, she lives in Quebec City where she was born. Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in history at Université Laval. He played an instrumental role in the restoration and establishment of the Morrin Centre from 2004 to 2009, including a brief stint as Executive Director. He lives in Montreal. Donald Fyson is a professor at Université Laval, specializing in the history of Quebec and Canada. He has published extensively on the history of crime, justice, and the law.


FINALIST 2023 Foreword Indies Award, Category Nonfiction, Nature

“Blair is a really delightful writer and has the skiIl of maintaining the reader’s interest for topics as diverse as Captain Cook’s sounding of the St. Lawrence River, the Franklin expedition to the Arctic, and Logan’s epic geological survey of Cana­da.” Sandra Stock, Quebec Heritage News

“Wow! I’m impressed. Stop scrolling on your phones and hava a look at this.” Tomson Highway (Cree playwright, author, musician.

“These stories about the passion for nature are an antidote to climate despair.” Jean-François Gauvin, Professor of Museum Studies and Scientific Herigat, Université Laval

About Louisa Blair’s work.

“A captivating book.” Caroline Montpetit, Le Devoir, on The Anglos, The Hidden Face of Quebe

“A loving and readable history,” Macleans, on Iron Bars and Bookshelves

“So good, so rich in anecdote and warm humanity, that it’s hard to capture its flavour in a few lines.” Morris Wolfe, Globe and Mail, on Louisa Blair’s 3-part investigative piece on Indigenous land rights in the James Bay, Catholic New Times, 1992.


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160 Pages
9.35in * 7.50in * .35in


November 01, 2023


Baraka Books



Book Subjects:

SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Zoology / Entomology



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