Browse Case Studies (alphabetical by title)


Exiled from their homeland after the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, two authors – a married couple – conceived the bold idea of publishing their own works and those of their fellow exiles. By 1994 they had issued more than 200 books from their press in Toronto, earning accolades for their tenacity and contributions to literary and cultural freedom.


Stan Bevington, one of Canadian publishing’s most intriguing figures, founded Coach House Press in 1965 – a press renowned for its support of poetry and fiction writers and its leading role in design and technological innovation. Bevington himself is a master printer and award-winning designer whose works are coveted by collectors and bibliophiles. He talked to Sarah Hipworth about his life and times at Coach House in the audio interview that accompanies this study. Excerpts of the interview (numbered in the text) can be accessed at the bottom of this page.


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.


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.


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).