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First hand accounts of people involved in Ontario's forest history

FHO Director Donates Valuable and Important Historical Book.

At a recent meeting of the Board of Directors, for Forest History Ontario one of its long-standing members, Dolf Wynia, known to a great many people in the forestry community, advised the group he had recently donated a copy of the historical book Sylva, A Discussion of Forest Trees, to the Lakehead University Library.

Dolf went on to briefly describe the book and its provenance, which for me at least, was something I was, embarrassingly, quite unfamiliar with.

Sylva, it seems, was first published in 1662; by an English gentleman, John Evelyn (1620-1706) who was a writer and landowner and a contemporary of Oliver Cromwell, Christopher Wren, Issac Newton, and many others who lived through a very extraordinary time in the life of England. He was also a founding Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a gardener, a tree culturist as well as a diarist, who took a great interest in the Forest and how it might be better managed. He travelled to France and Germany to study forestry practices, many of which remain today, basic tools for forestry and land conservation.

In a long list of publications, Sylva, is one of Evelyn’s best-known works. It’s certainly a foundational piece of recorded science, as it is the first handbook on forestry written in English. The book, as Dolf describes it, is richly written and contains fascinating woodcut illustrations; intriguing to say the least, for those with an interest in history in general and forest management in particular.

The copy Dolf donated was one from the third printing sometime in the 1700’s. He inherited it from his father-in-law (Alfred Barnes) who purchased it in England, while on active duty during the war. Alfred Barnes went on to a well-regarded career and became director of the Conservation Authorities Branch of the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests during the 60’s. The third edition, in addition to the original text, contains relevant “Notes” by recognized knowledgeable experts, contemporary up to the time of printing the edition; an interesting feature of a developing science.

When asked why he simply donated such a valuable book, Dolf quietly observed that he felt it important that others be able to see it and learn. He hopes, as well, that every student of forestry might appreciate an opportunity to review the pages and perhaps establish an improved basis for a lifelong respect for the profession of forestry as they set out to explore it. All in all, a very thoughtful gesture.

I think next time I find myself in Thunder Bay and have the opportunity, I will take some time to drop by the Lakehead Library and have a look and get familiar with Sylva. I expect it’s unlikely I’m alone in not being aware of what I expect is a fascinating document and clearly a very notable piece of forest history.

Thank you for your broad perspective and great generosity Dolf!

The Photo includes Valerie Gibbons (Lakehead University Library); Anne Wynia; and Dolf Wynia at Lakehead University Aug 2023

Wynia Donated Book July 2023 1

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