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  • History of the Book in Canada/Histoire du livre et de l'imprimé au Canada
  • Hermina G. B. Anghelescu
History of the Book in Canada/Histoire du livre et de l'imprimé au Canada. Edited by Patricia Lockhart Fleming, Gilles Gallichan, Yvan Lamonde, Fiona A. Black, Carole Gerson, and Jacques Michon. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004, 2005, 2007. Vol. 1, 500 pp., ISBN 0-8020-8943-7; vol. 2, 670 pp., ISBN 0-8020-8012-x; vol. 3, 696 pp., ISBN 0-8020-9047-8. $200.00.

Developed by a team of historians, literary scholars, librarians, and information specialists, History of the Book in Canada/Histoire du livre et de l'imprimé au Canada defines Canada's place within the international network of book history studies.1 These volumes are the product of a multidisciplinary project to publish six volumes (three in English, three in French) in conjunction with the University of Toronto Press and Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal and to develop five databases of electronic resources chronicling the history of print culture in Canada.2

Through this project the goal of Canadian book historians was to become part of the international network of scholars involved in "writing national histories of the book to define a field of study, to set goals for further investigation, and to provide foundations for international exchange." The three-volume set brings together research conducted across Canada's provinces based on the investigation of unexplored sources, both in English and in French.

Volume 1, Beginnings to 1840, examines the role of print in the political, religious, intellectual, and cultural life of the colonies that eventually became Canada. The volume is organized into seven parts ("Print and a New World," "Printing in British North America," "The Circulations of Books and Print," "Readers and Collectors," "The Uses of Print," "Print and Authority," and "Authorship and Literary Cultures") and consists of more than seventy short essays and case studies. The History of the Book project is interested not just in books but also in print culture, including newspapers, magazines, forms, printed music, and illustrations. Contributions to this volume identify books that were in circulation during this period, discuss the sociopolitical and economic conditions of printing, and provide "institutional" histories of collectors, libraries, and printers.

The volume begins with a discussion of Aboriginal peoples who maintained their stories and history both orally and in writing. When Europeans arrived, the printing press was not yet a century old, but once printing began in the fortified port of Halifax in 1752, it spread rapidly. Printers set up shops through the eastern provinces, in Quebec and Ontario, and by 1840 as far west as a mission near Lake Winnipeg. Their productions were largely utilitarian: newspapers, handbills, almanacs, textbooks, and works of religion and governance. Canada's early presses printed in French and English from 1752, native languages from 1766, German starting in 1788, and Gaelic in 1835.

The world of the book was made up of printers and apprentices, bookbinders, engravers, lithographers, papermakers, booksellers, peddlers, evangelists, librarians, and collectors. Importers trading with the United States and Europe supplied [End Page 347] many of the books and periodicals favored by readers in all provinces. Tariffs, laws, and regulations linking books to the importation of luxury goods resulted in high prices and limited sales, thus stimulating local printing. Until 1840 there were few printers in British North America who did not publish a newspaper. The first issue of the Halifax Gazette (March 23, 1752) is the earliest known example of Canadian printing. Of all the texts produced for mass reading, as elsewhere in the world, almanacs were the most popular, sold at cheap prices in annual editions. At the very early stages, authors were readers of imported print before they were writers. Often publishing under pseudonyms and producing a literature of European imagination, they gradually adopted literary standards and developed Canada's early written culture.

As the printing output grew in bookstores and libraries, the management of the editorial production required the presence of librarians specialized in the organization, classification, and cataloging of the printed material. At first librarians were book custodians, but then they started providing...


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