Best known for his role as chief librarian at Queen’s University, H. Pearson Gundy spent much of his career gathering information on the early publishing history of Canada, particularly that of Kingston, Ontario. This case study briefly summarizes Gundy’s career as a publishing historian and provides some examples of the stories that he uncovered.
As literary editor of Saturday Night (1922-8), the Mail and Empire (1928-36), and the Globe and Mail (1936-60), William Arthur Deacon (1890-1977) was Canada’s best-known bookman. He aimed to create a readership for the appreciation of Canadian writers and for the purchase of Canadian books.
As C.P. Snow's "two cultures" pointed out, we are accustomed to thinking of the arts and humanities as being somehow removed from or even opposed to science and technology. But a closer look at actual cases often shows a more complex and friendly relation; nowhere do we find a more interesting case than Coach House Press in Toronto, a tiny literary publisher and fine-art printing house that in the 1970s drove headlong into the digital era, finding the bleeding edge of digital technology, and anticipating by three or four decades the moves that their peers in the book industry are beginning to make only now.
Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943) was the first of the Confederation poets, the loosely associated group of Canadian poets who came to prominence in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. His Orion and Other Poems (1880) inspired the others, especially his cousin Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Duncan Campbell Scott. In “Two Canadian Poets: A Lecture,” Lampman recalled that, as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, he “sat up all night reading and re-reading Orion in a state of the wildest excitement ... It seemed to me a wonderful thing that such work could be done by a Canadian, by a young man, one of ourselves.”
During his lifetime, Reverend Edward Ahenakew received little or no payment for his writing, and struggled financially. Through family ties, Ruth Buck became the steward of Ahenakew’s manuscripts after his death. Her association with the Ahenakew papers, eventually editing and publishing his Voices of the Plains Cree (McClelland & Stewart, 1973), brought Ahenakew’s writing to the reading public and brought Buck herself considerable literary success.
Founded during the early years of the Depression, Clarke, Irwin & Company was a major publisher for over 50 years. One of the company founders, Irene Irwin Clarke, would become its president and general manager in 1955, earning the title “the first lady of the publishing industry.” The firm focused on quality educational materials for Canadian schools, but also published such authors as Robertson Davies, Marian Engel, Adele Wiseman, and Timothy Findley, several poets, including Alden Nowlan, and the writings of artists Emily Carr and A.Y. Jackson.
Founded in 1952, the Contact Press emerged over its fifteen-year history as the most ambitious independent venue for modernist poetry in Canada. Including the Contact’s founding editors Louis Dudek (1918-2001), Irving Layton (1912-2006) and Raymond Souster (1921- ), thirty-three authors were published in sixty-one separate editions. Contact Press served as durable model for author-owned, non-commercial literary publishing in Canada and proved to be an inspiration for a generation of Canadian poets, some of whose first books were published by Contact, and who followed Dudek and Souster, in particular, in advancing the small press cause in Canada.
Like many Canadian writers in the first half of the twentieth century, Stephen Leacock sought publication outside of Canada in order to establish himself as a bestselling author. This case study explores why an author of Leacock’s stature regarded Canadian publishers in a subsidiary role.
From its beginnings in 1906, McClelland & Stewart (M&S) has been one of Canada’s leading publishers of children’s books. Initially focused on distributing successful foreign titles written by authors such as Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs, M&S soon promoted homegrown literature that included such classics as works from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series and Marshall Saunders’s Beautiful Joe. The firm continued this tradition with publications such as The Secret Circle series, numerous hockey books, the Aboriginal stories of Christie Harris, and children’s titles by Farley Mowat, Pierre Berton, and Mordecai Richler. With the acquisition of Tundra Books in the mid 1990s, M&S re-asserted its commitment to publishing quality children’s books in Canada.
Harvest House was a small English-language publishing house established in 1960 by Maynard and Anne Gertler in Montreal. At one time it was the most important English-language publishing house in the province. May Cutler, founder of the successful children’s press, Tundra Books, told Montreal Gazette reporter Joe Fiorito, that Maynard Gertler ran his business “like a one-man university press,” focusing on intellectually rigorous books pertaining to politics, history, and the environment. Most importantly, Harvest House produced English-language translations of the works of Québécois intellectuals, academics, novelists, and poets, fostering a significant cultural exchange within Canada.
Nellie Letitia McClung (1873-1951) is remembered as a social activist, a leading figure in the first wave of Canadian feminism and the first woman to be elected to the legislative assembly of Manitoba. By profession, however, McClung was an author. There are many parallels between her remarkably successful literary career and that of Lucy Maud Montgomery, so why are her books rarely read today?
Ryerson Press published E. J. Pratt’s first Canadian book of poetry because its editor, Lorne Pierce, saw promise in Pratt’s work. Although the press dropped Pratt because his second offering of poetry was deemed inappropriate, the life-long correspondence between the two men reveals Pratt’s importance to the Canadian literary legacy that Pierce nurtured and helped produce.
By the time she won the Atlantic-Little, Brown Award for Jalna in 1927, de la Roche had been a published writer for more than twenty years, having forged personal as well as professional relationships with such publishing figures as Ellery Sedgwick, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and Hugh Eayrs, president of Macmillan of Canada. Nevertheless, the award catalyzed de la Roche’s transformation from a minor player in English-Canadian letters to a best-selling author of international repute, changing the nature of her relationships with her editors and publishers in the process.