The Magic Leaves: A History of Haida Argillite Carving


Peter Macnair and Alan Hoover recount the history of Haida argillite carving since it began in the early 1800s, and they describe more than 200 examples from the extensive collection of the Royal BC Museum. Argillite is a dense, black shale mined from a quarry on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), reserved for the exclusive use of Haida carvers. Argillite works are unique in style and character, ranging from ceremonial pipes and model poles to elaborate platters and chests.

"The careful scholarship of Peter Macnair and Alan Hoover has ensured that The Magic Leaves remains an authoritative text on the types, subjects and history of argillite carving. Argillite carvings made for the souvenir, ethnographic and fine-art markets maintained and developed Indigenous stylistic and narrative traditions. The beautiful black slate of Haida Gwaii continues to be a vehicle for profound expressions of Haida history and artistic innovation." – Dr. Martha Black, from the Foreword.


Peter L. Macnair is former curator of ethnology at the Royal BC Museum, a post he held for more than 30 years. He is widely recognized for his knowledge of the art and history of the First Nations of the Northwest Coast.  Alan L. Hoover worked in the RBCM's anthropology collections for 33 years and retired in 2003, as manager of the department.

Dimensions: 157 pages, 10 1/2 inches x 9 1/2 inches, published in 2002