One of Canadian publishing’s most famous friendships was between author Farley Mowat and publisher Jack McClelland. The two outspoken, strong-willed men shared a passion not only for books and Canadian culture, but also for boats and the sea. Their maritime skills and friendship were tested when they jointly purchased a schooner. The boat and the adventures shared by its owners became immortalized in Mowat’s book, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float.
A distinctive feature of early printing in Canada is the central role of newspapers. Often the first production at a new press, the modest four-page weekly sustained not just the community but the printer himself. This small book of receipts issued from 1793 to 1798 by John Neilson, heir to the Quebec Gazette/La Gazette de Québec, records payments to printers, newspaper carriers, a translator, an illustrator, and other members of the Quebec trade.
Penguins, kangaroos, bantams, and seals. A veritable menagerie danced along the spines of pocket books sold in Canada during the twentieth century, accompanied by one nimble-footed, Winnipeg-born Harlequin whose international travels stunned the Canadian publishing industry. While Montreal publishers successfully produced for the domestic French-language mass market, the Toronto trade made its mark by producing quality pocket books that enabled students and general readers to experience Canadiana in inexpensive reprint editions.
Margaret Laurence (1926-87) was a well-known and critically praised Canadian novelist in 1976 when her novel The Diviners (1974) first came under fire. The book had won a Governor General’s Literary Award as had her earlier novel, A Jest of God, in 1966. Challenges by religious, conservative groups to The Diviners continue to the present day, but these disputes in turn galvanized groups and associations of authors, librarians, teachers, publishers, and booksellers to champion Laurence, and also led to the formation of Freedom to Read Week. In the annals of censorship in Canada, the attack on The Diviners is one of the most significant events of the twentieth century.*
The Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGs) have evolved over the years to become Canada’s premier book awards. This case study explores the history of the awards, their importance to publishers, how winners’ books are marketed, and the effect of the awards on book sales.
A flagship Canadian publisher, the Macmillan Company of Canada was a crucial catalyst in the shaping of Canada’s literary heritage from 1905 to 1986. Macmillan championed leading Canadian authors including Stephen Leacock, Mazo de la Roche, Grey Owl, W.O. Mitchell, Adele Wiseman, and many others. The company also launched some of Canada’s enduring classics, such as Donald Creighton’s John A. Macdonald (1952, 1955), Ethel Wilson’s Swamp Angel (1954), Hugh MacLennan’s The Watch That Ends the Night (1958), and Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie (1974).
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.
Duncan Campbell Scott enjoyed a long and congenial publishing relationship with Lorne Pierce of the Ryerson Press, as over twenty years of correspondence between the two men attests. Scott was never shy, however, about speaking his mind when he disagreed with Ryerson’s vision for his work.
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.
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.”