The Ryerson Press, one of Canada’s most important book publishers during the twentieth century, was the general trade publishing arm of a much larger Toronto-based printing, bookselling, and publishing operation known in its entirety as the Methodist Book and Publishing House (MBPH). After the church union of 1925, which brought together the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational Churches into the United Church of Canada, the overall operation was known as the United Church Publishing House. From 1919 to 1970, numerous educational, historical, and literary titles appeared under the Ryerson Press trade imprint, authored by such prominent Canadians as A.R.M. Lower, Earle Birney, A.M. Klein, and Alice Munro.
The Perilous Trade by Roy MacSkimming is the only general narrative on contemporary book publishing in English Canada. It appeared from McClelland & Stewart (M&S) in 2003 with the subtitle Publishing Canada’s Writers, becoming a finalist for that year’s National Business Book Award. Four years later M&S issued a revised and updated edition in paperback with the subtitle Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006. Here MacSkimming reflects on his research for the book, particularly the process of interviewing his subjects. Excerpts of some of his audio interviews are included below with this study.
Amidst the great leaders of Macmillan of Canada in the latter half of the twentieth century stood Gladys Neale — a female visionary thriving in a male dominated industry, who became one of the most respected educational publishers in Canada. Despite facing challenges and discrimination, Neale stormed her way through the business of educational publishing, leaving a lasting legacy as a great publisher, literacy advocate, and staunch supporter of Canadian publications and authors. This study includes an audio interview with Neale, conducted by Roy MacSkimming for his book, The Perilous Trade.
The twenty-one-year span of material in the CURVD H&z collection at McMaster University attests to the intensity and integrity of Canadian small press publishing as an avant-garde venture. CURVD H&z is published by John W. Curry, also known as jwcurry, and dates from his teenage years in Vancouver when experimental poets bpNichol and bill bissett were already well-established in their writing and publishing practice. They introduced curry to the potential of the small press world, but, from the first CURVD H&z publication in 1978, he developed their sense of playful discovery and eccentric eclecticism into a methodical and coherent publishing aesthetic.
Since the mid-1960s, Coach House Press has published poetry, literature, and drama and printed memorable ephemera. From its quirky, well-worn buildings in Toronto, it has produced finely-crafted books for some of the country’s most esteemed authors, brought new writers to the Canadian public, and made a name for itself as it moved from hand-presses and photography to the innovative use of computer technology. In 1997 it became the world’s first publisher of full-text online books of poetry and fiction. This study presents a brief history of the press and features a video tour of Coach House by its founder, Stan Bevington.
Marjorie Harris’s The Canadian Gardener was a labour of love and helped usher in the gardening craze of the 1990s. This article situates Harris within the history of Canadian women garden writers, and describes the process of researching and publishing the book.
The contributions of C.W. Jefferys to the evolution of historical illustration in Canada are revealed through an analysis of his publications and a review of correspondence and speeches. Letters reveal that Jefferys exercised great artistic control during the conception and production of his book illustrations and set strict conditions with publishers. Jefferys is notable, too, for the manner in which his illustrations reflected the attitudes and expectations of his audiences.
In 1971, a Canadian history book debuted at the top of the Toronto Star’s bestseller list, displacing another that had been listed for much of the previous year. Both were written by the same author and issued by the same publisher, and each remained in the top ten for at least another year. The bestseller list, however, did not fully reflect the books’ success because it only counted hardcover sales in Canada, and excluded paperback, book club, and foreign editions. This case study examines facts related to royalties for the two books based on available evidence in the archives of the author and his publisher at the McMaster University Library.
How do Canadian publishers entice readers and other potential customers to buy their books? Canadian publishing has always been a risky business. In a country with a large territory and a small population, a vigilant publisher must be cognizant of the economics of the business even when the forces of the marketplace may be beyond an individual publisher’s control. Publishing is much more than putting a text into print (typesetting, printing, design, and binding). It involves distribution and sales of a cultural commodity for profit or at least making it possible for a publisher to recoup the costs of editing, production, and author’s royalties. This case study focuses on Canadian publishers’ catalogues, their form and function, and discusses other publicity stunts and campaigns used in the promotion and marketing of books.
Marius Barbeau (1883-1969) was nothing if not productive. At the time of his death, his bibliography stretched to over 1,000 items, although we may never know the precise number of texts that appeared under his name. Barbeau’s publishing interests were varied, ranging from reprinted oral traditions collected from First Nations and French-Canadian informants that appeared in newspapers, to scholarly monographs, to tourist-oriented picture books, and to a novel. Barbeau’s long career, his varied publications, and his voluminous correspondence provide a window in the history of publishing in the social sciences in Canada in the first half of the twentieth century.
When he published Alligator Pie in 1974, Dennis Lee (1939-) was an established full-time author, following stints as a university professor and publisher, co-founding the House of Anansi in 1967. His Civil Elegies and Other Poems had won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1972, but Lee’s greatest fame was to come from simple rhymes, written at first for his own children, to give them what Sheila Egoff described as “a sense of their own particular time and space.” Those rhymes were quickly adopted by generations of children across Canada.