In 1841, aged just sixteen, the intrepid young Scotsman Robert M. Ballantyne (1825–94) joined the Hudson’s Bay Company. Posted immediately to North-Eastern Canada, he spent five years traversing the region’s inhospitable terrain by sleigh and canoe. His journal and letters home were so evocative that, upon his return, he was persuaded to publish an account of his experiences.

Combining anthropological observations with descriptions of landscapes, plants, and animals, the account was applauded by the Dundee Courier for ‘opening up a mine of information to the curious’ and ‘describing the everyday life of a novel and singular existence’ with ‘buoyancy and animation’.

Appearing within a year of the first edition in 1848, the second edition reproduced here is illustrated throughout with views and vignettes. ‘Free from tedious details and unnecessary wordiness’, Ballantyne’s fast-moving and readable narrative challenges many misconceptions about nineteenth-century Canada and its indigenous peoples.