A Celebration of Canadian Publishing

McMaster University Library houses the largest and most varied collections of archives on Canadian publishing. These archival resources (McClelland & Stewart, Macmillan Canada, Clarke Irwin, Copp Clark, Guernica Editions, Key Porter, Locks’ Press, etc.) have been used extensively by researchers in the fields of literature, cultural studies, economics, education, sociology, and the history of the book. The history of publishing in Canada is concerned with the spread of printing and literature in Canada, other forms of publication and dissemination, the history of individual publishing houses, the people who have worked in publishing, the network of publishing and associated organizations in the editing, marketing, and the sale of books and serials, and the writers and readers who have participated in this communications circuit (a phrase coined by the historian Robert Darnton) in a geographical and cultural context. These archival resources are of outstanding significance in terms of Canada’s own history and the scholarly interest of the Canadian public, students, and researchers. The archives at McMaster are complemented by collections of imprints (books issued by the publishing firms), specifically those of McClelland & Stewart, Macmillan Canada, and Clarke Irwin. In the case of M&S and Macmillan, staff at McMaster University Library have compiled and published bibliographies with accompanying publishing histories: Bruce Whiteman, Charlotte A. Stewart, and Catherine Funnell, A Bibliography of Macmillan of Canada Imprints 1906-1980 (1985) and Carl Spadoni and Judy Donnelly, A Bibliography of McClelland and Stewart Imprints, 1909-1987: A Publisher’s Legacy (1994).

On 8 October 2009, McMaster University Library, in partnership with Queen’s University Archives and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, launched our latest digital initiative Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing. This website-the combined labour of 100 students, professors, independent scholars, archivists, and library staff across Canada-contains 90 case studies on aspects of Canadian publishing.

Publishers’ archives are diverse and unique. They contain a variety of interesting and fascinating documents. They are primary research materials for publishing history, but they can also be used by scholars and others in a variety of disciplines. There are editorial files and exchanges with authors, executive correspondence, correspondence among publishers and with government agencies, manuscripts of authors, production cards, marketing and publicity plans for books, inventory books, financial ledgers of many kinds, salemen’s record books, designs, mock-ups of books, illustrations, copyright registrations, readers’ reports,  contracts, reviews of books, royalty reports, and photographs.

This exhibition features a great variety of archival documents and imprints on the interaction of authors with their publishers and the promotion of their books: Pierre Berton, Leonard Cohen, Marian Engel, James Huston, Grey Owl, Stephen Leacock, Farley Mowat, L.M. Montgomery, Margaret Laurence, and Alice Munro. On display, for example, is the promotional box for the publicity campaign by M&S for Berton’s The Great Railway, Illustrated (1972), consisting of cut plug tobacco, a cigar, pemmican, a small bottle of champagne, and moustache wax. Many publishers are represented in this exhibition. In addition to the well-known Canadian publishers, this exhibition has interesting material from the fine press (Locks’ Press), the small press (Weed/Flower; Hawkshead’s Press) agency publishers (Bradley Garretson), magazine publishers (Saturday Night and Queen’s Quarterly), and the avant-garde (Curvd H&z Press). 

We also take this opportunity to introduce two new archives related to Canadian publishing: Garamond Press; and Roy MacSkimming’s research materials and interviews for his ground-breaking work, The Perilous Trade: Publishing Canada’s Writers (2003; revised and updated with the subtitle Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006). Formed as a partnership among several other publishers in 1981, Garamond Press the first Canadian-owned book publisher to focus on the university and college market. The archives of Garamond Press consist of three series: Administrative, Editorial (author projects, editorial correspondence, editorial rejects, and book reviews), and Network Foundation for Educational Publishing. In 2005 Garamond Press was sold to Broadview Press of Calgary. In 2008, University of Toronto Press (UTP) officially purchased the Broadview Press publishing lists in Anthropology, History, Politics, and Sociology, as well as the Garamond imprint. Roy MacSkimming has been associated with publishing since 1964 when he worked as an editor with Clarke, Irwin. His archives with regard to The Perilous Trade consist of 88 interviews, sound recordings of interviews, research materials, early drafts and other pieces of writing associated with The Perilous Trade, and correspondence. Eight interviews (Gladys E. Neale, James Douglas, Valerie Hussey, Louise Dennys, John Metcalf, Anna Porter, Francess Halpenny, and Robin Farr) are featured in Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing.

Publishing in Canada has never been an easy business. Yet it is extraordinarily resilient and central to an understanding of Canadian society. It is a complex, cultural force that depends on the energy and creative drive of many individuals to sustain and develop a company’s unique character in the production and development of salable books. We invite you to explore this exhibition and to celebrate this vibrant industry.

 Materials for exhibit selected and displayed by Renu Barrett

 Text by Carl Spadoni

 Online exhibit by Kim Kerr


Exhibit Photo Gallery


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