Canadian Illustrated News, 1869-1883

First issue of the Canadian Illustrated News

First issue of the Canadian Illustrated News,
October 30, 1869, featuring a half-tone image of His Royal Highness Prince Arthur.

The Canadian Illustrated News database is a selection of almost 4,000 images of people, places and events across Canada and around the world taken from the popular weekly 19th-century magazine. Canadian Illustrated News was published in Montreal, Quebec by George Desbarats from 1869 to 1883 and was notable for its innovative use of half-tone photographs.

On this page:

You can search the database with these variables:

  • Title
    Enter a search term (e.g.  nova scotia) or part of a term (e.g. Scot)
  • Artist
    Enter the artist's name or Unknown
  • Year
    Enter the year only

Each search will provide you with the following information:

  • Item number
  • Title
  • Artist
  • Date (yyyy-mm-dd) 

To view the image, select the link in the first column you wish to consult or scroll to the bottom of the page and choose "Next" to retrieve more pages.

Selected issues and sample articles

Get a sense of the range of subjects covered by Canadian Illustrated News by browsing through the complete first and last issues of the magazine, or by reading articles from 1870.


The illustrations and articles in Canadian Illustrated News reflect the views of the artists, authors and editors of the newspaper and represent the era in which they worked. These views are by no means those of Library and Archives Canada.

About the publisher

"By picturing to our own people the broad dominion they possess, its resources and progress, its monuments and industry, its great men and great events, such a paper would teach them to know and love it better, and by it they would learn to feel still prouder of the proud Canadian name."
—George Edward Desbarats

George Edward Desbarats (1838-1893) was born in Quebec City, about 300 kilometres from Montreal, where the offices of the Canadian Illustrated News would be located. Desbarats came from a family of master printers that could be traced back more than two centuries.

Early in his life, it seemed that young Desbarats would not be following in his family's footsteps. At Holy Cross College, he was recorded as having difficulties with English and French. It was apparent that he had trouble separating the two in his writing. However, in pursuing his education at Holy Cross College and Montreal's Collège St-Marie, he eventually mastered the languages. He went on to successfully complete his studies in law at Laval University. After finishing his term with a law firm, Desbarats put off practicing to take a trip to Europe, where he saw the original family printing office. He at once experienced a great sense of tradition, and his true passion was awakened. From then on, George Edward Desbarats's life would be dedicated to setting new standards for Canadian printers.

"The imagination is so closely linked to the perceptive faculties, that the speediest and surest way of reaching the mind and impressing thereon facts and objects, is to lay them vividly before the eye (the main feeder of the imagination) either in their reality, or in the drama, or even through their image painted or engraved."—George Edward Desbarats

The Canadian Illustrated News was the first magazine in the world to produce photographs at a consistently successful rate. Many inventors sought this rate of production, but none could match the level of performance achieved by George Desbarats and his engraver, William Leggo. Desbarats had the financial means and business sense, while Leggo was the mastermind behind this new innovation, known as photo-engraving. This chemical process involved the development of relief engravings, or half-tones, from photographs. The first half-tone produced by the Canadian Illustrated News was of His Royal Highness Prince Arthur. It attracted much attention after its appearance in the first issue of the magazine on October 30, 1869. This was only one of over 15,000 half-tones produced by the Canadian Illustrated News in its illustrious 14 years.

Copyright and ordering images 

The images from Canadian Illustrated News are in the public domain and may be reproduced without asking for permission or paying a copyright royalty.

Reproducing an image from this website

The source of the material should be acknowledged as follows: "Canadian Illustrated News, Vol. #, No. #, Page #. Reproduced from Library and Archives Canada's website: Canadian Illustrated News, 1869-1883."

Reproducing an image from a photograph obtained from Library and Archives Canada

The source of the material should be acknowledged as follows: "Canadian Illustrated News, Vol. #, No. #, Page #. Photo: From Library and Archives Canada."

Ordering images

To order images from the Canadian Illustrated News collection or to find out about photographic reproduction fees, consult the Copy services section of our website. Include the full title and date of the image, as well as the pagination and item number, found by selecting the "Item Number" link in your search results.

Further research 

  • Canadian Illustrated News issues digitized by Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (Interface in French only)
  • Canadian Illustrated News, Library and Archives Canada, Amicus 133120
  • Canadian Illustrated News: A Commemorative Portfolio. Selected and introduced by Peter Desbarats. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, c1970, 6 parts.
  • Harper, J. Russell (John Russell). Early Painters and Engravers in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1970, xv, 376 p.
  • Retfalvi, Andrea. Canadian Illustrated News (Montreal): Index to Illustrations. Toronto: University of Toronto, Dept. of Fine Art, 1977, 28 vols.
  • Retfalvi, Andrea. Canadian Illustrated News (Montreal): Index to Illustrations. Supplement, volume XVI, 1877, July-December. Toronto: University of Toronto, Dept. of Fine Art, 1982, [2], 14 leaves.
  • Retfalvi, Andrea. Canadian Illustrated News, Montreal, 1869-1883: An Index. Toronto: Dept. of Fine Art, University of Toronto, c1989, xv, 368 p.


This site would not have been developed without the generous support and assistance of many individuals and organizations, to whom we express our sincere thanks. We would like to recognize the contributions of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the National Gallery of Canada Library.

We also gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the Canada's Digital Collections Program of Industry Canada, and Canadian Heritage's Canadian Digital Cultural Content Initiative (CDCCI), whose financial assistance made this work possible.

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