There’s a very short bio – three paragraphs – in Anne Innis Dagg’s The Feminine Gaze: a Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and their Books 1836-1945, and the first paragraph goes like this
Kenton, Edna 1876-1954. Edna Kenton is known best for her editing the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (Relations dej jésuites), voluminous annual reports describing all manner of conditions and experiences sent home in the 1660s to France by priests of the Society of Jesus stationed in Canada. She never married.
OK, maybe it’s just me, but that last line kills me, really.
So, why looking into the life of an unmarried woman (gasp!) editing Jesuit letters?
Because Edna Kenton wrote The Book of Earths.
The Book of Earths is a collection of world-views and models about our planet.
A straightforward, almost-chronological selection of world creation myths and descriptions of the world.
Want to know what the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Mongols or Medieval Europeans thought about the shape, size and nature of our planet?
It’s in here.
Want the pictographs describing the Lenape Delaware Indians flood myth?
It’s in here.
A quick catalog of lost continents?
It’s in here.
The Hollow Earth?
You must be kidding – of course it’s in here.
The Earth-Moon Catastrophe, the Wheel of Life, and what’s really the deal with all these mountains and stuff?
And it’s illustrated!
Published in 1928 and currently available in a number of formats – from paperback reprints to old used copies to free online versions – The Book of Earths is one of those books that I imagine graced the shelves in the Library of Miskatonic University.
The sort of book that the professor character in a pulp story pulls out of his backpack to translate the mysterious Atlantean script.
Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG1 certainly owned a copy.
What is interesting is not only the scope of the collection (the Tetrahedral Earth Theory? Really?) , but the clear, historian-like attitude of Kenton – that does not offer an evaluation, is not pushing her own vision, is simply stating the facts.
This is not a ranting crackpot’s compendium of truths, but a simple overview of the many different ways in which our reality has been interpreted by different peoples in different ages.
Edna Kenton also wrote stories (for Munsey magazine), edited a collection of works of Henry James and published a number of historical works – including a biography of frontier legend Simon Kenton.
The fact that she’s remembered mostly for The Book of Hearts almost feels unfair.
And yet, her book is a delightful read for an earth scientist (that, for all practical purposes, is what I am), a quirky diversion for the general reader and is also pretty useful as a resource for fiction writing.
And it makes for a great role-playing game handout.