When people say Derek Hayes writes weighty books, they're not kidding.
The White Rock author's latest effort, British Columbia: A New Historical Atlas, weighs two and a half kilograms, or 5.5 pounds - enough to buckle the legs of an inadequate coffee table, for sure.
Its 368 pages include more than 900 rare maps and stories he's collected about our province's rich history of mining, railroad building and, sometimes, plans gone awry.
One story in the book involves a guy who, circa 1913, gave away plots of land in White Rock to those who bought a magazine subscription.
"It must have been some developer who probably had a hand in the publishing business," surmised Hayes. "That's bizarre, really."
Such tales were unearthed by Hayes during frequent trips to museums and libraries across B.C. over the past year.
"There is a fascinating amount of stuff in these little museums all over the place," he noted. "You know, I guess people bequeath these things, because people have died or moved and they don't know what to do with it. And museums don't know what to do with this stuff half the time either. Often this stuff is just crammed into drawers and not properly displayed."
Maps as large as 25 feet wide were photographed by Hayes, usually in sections for better reproduction in the book, his 15th.
"I don't know anybody else in the world who has done as many historical atlases as I have, to be honest," Hayes said. "Seriously. I somehow managed to develop a market niche with this."
Years ago, he published and distributed gardening books. Hayes' fascination with historical maps can be traced to the day, while holidaying in Britain, when he bought a map showing Alaska as Russian territory; that map now hangs on the wall of his Victoria Avenue home office. Next up for the prolific author is a book about pioneer railways of the world.
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