The Ryerson Press Collection at RUL


The Ryerson Press Collection in the Library at McGraw-Hill Education, Whitby, Ontario, March, 2017

The donation of the 3000-title Ryerson Press Collection dating from 1862 to 1970 to Ryerson University Library Archives and Special Collections was officially recognized on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 in Toronto.

A reception was held in the 4th Floor Student Learning Centre and was attended by members of the Ryerson Library Staff, Ryerson Faculty as well as invited guests. These included retired McGraw-Hill Ryerson executives Theresa Courneyea, Rachel Mansfield and Clive Powell along with current McGraw-Hill Education executives Gary Henn, Alex Dimech, Yolanda Pigden and Rhondda McNabb.

LP TC RM at Ryerson

Lynda Powell, Theresa Courneyea, Rachel Mansfield

The group was welcomed by Dr. Paul Stenton, Deputy Provost and Vice Provost University Planning. Chief Librarian Madeleine Lefebvre expressed her appreciation on behalf of Ryerson University Library for the incredible gift of 3000 Ryerson Press books along with 7 boxes of author contracts and documents pertaining to the Collection. Rhondda McNabb spoke on behalf of McGraw-Hill Education wishing Ryerson University students and scholars many years of discovery with the rich resource of the Ryerson Press Collection.


Many of the titles in the Collection date back to the 19th century and have been under the care and stewardship of McGraw-Hill Ryerson and McGraw-Hill Education

The Ryerson Press Collection was obtained by McGraw-Hill following the sale of the Ryerson Press to McGraw-Hill in 1970. The sale of The Ryerson Press, at the time, was viewed by some as the death of Canadian culture. The controversy surrounding the sale spawned the Ontario Royal Commission of Book Publishing in 1972 and government scrutiny of foreign ownership of Canadian companies ensued. The fact that no other Canadian publisher at the time had stepped forward to purchase the company was somehow overlooked. In reality, The McGraw-Hill Book Company had been operating in Canada since 1948 and was fully managed by Canadians publishing books for the Canadian market. McGraw-Hill took over The Ryerson Press outstanding debt, continued to honour outstanding author contracts, employed many Ryerson Press staff and even changed the name of the company to reflect the rich heritage it was inheriting. McGraw-Hill Ryerson also revived several Ryerson Press titles in subsequent years and continued to publish Ryerson Press authors well into the 1990s.

CP with Betty Ann and Hugh Anson Cartwright

Clive Powell with Betty Anne and Hugh Anson-Cartwright

When the 3000 Ryerson Press titles arrived at McGraw-Hill offices following the sale in 1970, they were immediately housed in elegant glassed-in bookcases and put on display in the corporate offices of the newly formed McGraw-Hill Ryerson. The stewardship of this valuable collection remained with McGraw-Hill Ryerson for close to five decades – a testament to the care and concern expressed by the management team of McGraw-Hill Ryerson for the rich heritage that is, and continues to be, The Ryerson Press Collection.

CP address at Ryerson

Clive Powell addresses the Ryerson University Library Archives and Special Collections, April 18, 2017

Among the many invited guests at the reception was Earle Toppings, former editor at The Ryerson Press, David Mason of David Mason Books, and Hugh Anson-Cartwright, Antiquarian Bookseller. Their thoughts and reminiscences along with the hopes and aspirations of Ryerson University Library and Faculty for The Ryerson Press Collection are captured in a video by Graeme Powell. You can watch it here.

It has been my distinct and absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with The Ryerson Press Collection. I hope to be able to continue to be surprised and amazed at the rich history that this collection represents.

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Ryerson Press Collection donated to Ryerson University Library Special Collections


 Gift of remarkable resource from Canada’s oldest English-language publisher

TORONTO, April 17, 2017 – Ryerson University is pleased to announce that publisher McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, part of McGraw-Hill Education, has made the largest single donation of books ever received by the university library’s Archives and Special Collections.

The McGraw-Hill Ryerson Press Collection is valued at nearly $1 million, and contains works by such seminal Canadian authors as Alice Munro, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Norval Morrisseau, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Archibald Lampman, Milton Acorn and Al Purdy.


In all, the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Press Collection includes almost 3,000 book titles—many of which are first editions and date back as far as 1862—and more than 2,000 archival materials, including catalogues, author contracts and related documentation. It is a rich collection which many in the industry had thought lost.


Madeleine Lefebvre, chief librarian, Ryerson Library and Archives, says, “we are proud to welcome the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Press Collection to its new home in the Ryerson Library’s Special Collections unit. The press made an enormous contribution to Canadian literature before it was known as such, and now offers a rich resource of academic research potential.”


“We are immensely pleased that this collection will now be part of Ryerson University,” said Aaron Yaverski, Managing Director of the Americas for McGraw-Hill Education. “These materials belong in the hands of scholars and we are delighted they have found such a wonderful home.”


The Ryerson Press began operation in Toronto in 1829 when Egerton Ryerson (for whom the Ryerson Institute of Technology, now Ryerson University, was named in 1948) obtained the licence for a printing press. The sale of the press to the American company McGraw-Hill in 1970 was controversial at the time, many considering it an issue of Canadian cultural identity. It prompted a Royal Commission on Canadian Publishing, legislation on foreign ownership, and sparked activism among Canada’s literary community that would eventually take shape in the founding of the Writers Union of Canada in 1973. The generous gift from McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited repatriates a wealth of the nation’s cultural and publishing history.


Among many other treasures, the collection includes Alice Munro’s first book, Dance of the Happy Shades, published by Ryerson Press in 1968, as well as her author’s contract for that volume. Munro went on in her career to win many literary awards, including the Man Booker International Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.


About Ryerson University

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education. Urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 44,500 students, including 2,400 Master’s and PhD students, 3,200 faculty and staff, and nearly 170,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit 


Media Contact:

Dasha Pasiy
Public Affairs
University Relations
416.979.5000 x 2126


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On Books & Reading

On Books & Reading

On Books & Reading was published by The Ryerson Press, December, 1954

The booklet On Books & Reading: The address by His Excellency The Right Honourable Vincent Massey, Governor-General of Canada at the 125th Anniversary Dinner of The United Church Publishing House and the Ryerson Press, October 19, 1954, was published by The Ryerson Press in December, 1954. Only 1600 copies of this booklet were printed and distributed to “Their Friends at Christmastide, 1954”.

Vincent Massey was a career diplomat and served as Governor-General of Canada from 1952-1959. His 1951 report, The Massey Report, was the basis for the formation the National Library of Canada and the Canadian Council of the Arts. He also founded Massey College at the University of Toronto and The Massey Lectures.

In his address on the occasion of Ryerson Press’s 125th anniversary, Massey paid tribute to Book Steward C.H. Dickinson for his leadership and to Book Editor Lorne Pierce for his creative editorial work over the past several decades.

Massey admitted to knowing very little about the business of publishers and publishing, save to point out that once having accepted the invitation to address the group he turned his hand to familiarizing himself with terms such as “cast-offs, cross-heads, captions and cases”.

Massey offered sympathy and to understanding the dilemma of publishers and the publishing community. He quoted a German writer as follow:

“To write books is easy. It requires only pen and ink and the ever patient paper. To print books is a little more difficult, because genius so often rejoices in illegible handwriting. To read books is more difficult still, because of the tendency to go to sleep. But the most difficult task of all that a mortal man can embark upon is to sell a book.

Massey contemplated, in 1954, the fact that “there are many today who are ready to proclaim that books will find little or no place in this age of mass media. It has even been claimed…that, “Radio and TV have books on the ropes.”’

He pointed out that civilization endured for thousands of years before the appearance of the printed book. “We must also remember that printed books have been circulating only for some five centuries, and our society has known general literacy for little more than a hundred years. One might conclude that a widespread and constant use of books may only be a slight interlude, a transition, shall we say, between natural and scientific forms of communication. Books, it may be argued, will remain with us, but once again will be confined to libraries for the use of the cloistered scholar. The world will pass them by, securing its information through more attractive, more convenient, more striking, and broader channels.”

Massey went on to say that he believed books were obviously still the obvious means for recording and communication of facts in ample, precise and coherent form. He said, “In our age, marked by a progressive revelation of new and significant knowledge, there is a constant demand for information which cannot be met by a series of ‘radio talks,’ however good. On the contrary, as we all know, the usual response to a satisfying series on addresses on the air, is the demand that they be printed. As a means of serious communication there may be supplements to, but there is no substitute for the clear, adequate, permanent and portable book.”

Of publishers, Massey had this quote to offer: “The feeling that one may be building with permanent materials, the knowledge that one’s name is associated with books that enshrine profound thought and the triumphs of the creative imagination add a fascination to the best publishing. To offer the public what it wants, to pander to the worst prejudices of the moment, may be the speediest way to profits, here as elsewhere; but it is a dull road to follow. Publishing has far more thrilling adventures to offer the man who is ready to accompany pioneers along fresh paths; eager to help overcome apathy, ignorance, and prejudice; anxious that, above all, the lamp of truth should be kept burning. It may not yield the same monetary reward, but it will afford a satisfaction no money can buy. If you are a student and lover of human nature in all its amazing variety, where will you have such an opportunity of gratifying your desire as in publishing? Among authors, you will meet the very perfect gentleman and his exact reverse; you will encounter the colossal egotist who acclaims his manuscript as opening a new era, and the learned man of humble spirit, and all shades and patterns between.”

While Massey was not far off in predicting the onslaught of newer forms of communication such as the TV, the tablet or other portable listening and viewing devices, it is interesting to note, 60 years on from this celebratory address, that books remain a stable communication device.

The Right Honourable Vincent Massey died December 30, 1967.

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Breastplate and Buckskin

Breastplate and Buckskin

Breastplate and Buckskin, The Ryerson Press, 1953

Breastplate and Buckskin, by George E. Tait, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1953. The book went through 31 printings and was also published in the US by Chas. A. Bennett Co., Peoria, Illinois. Breastplate and Buckskin is the story of the conquistadores, the explorers, the fur traders and the earliest settlers of the Americas. The 1953 Fall Catalogue of Ryerson Books states, “Told in the easy style of a man who knows what children expect of a story, each chapter is full of drama and adventure. A time chart and suggestions for activities are included. There are over fifty illustrations and ten maps printed in two-colours – all of which have been prepared by a specialist in the field of children’s art – Vernon Mould, Art Master, Upper Canada College.”

The book is a model of how to present educational material. Breastplate and Buckskin was used by three generations of students in many Canadian Provinces and American States. A note at the beginning of the book states, “To the Boys and Girls who Read this Book: From time to time you will find words which may be new to you underlined like this. So that you may learn what they mean, you will find these words listed under “Things to Know” on pages 225 to 234 with a full explanation.”

George E. Tait was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1910. He was educated in Ontario Schools at St.Catharines and Watford, and later graduated from the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto. He began teaching soon after graduation. In 1941, during the Second World War,  Tait and his wife Reginae, also a teacher, were asked by Canadian External Affairs to open the Anglo-American School in Bogota, Columbia. They stayed for three years. Upon their return in 1944, Tait was appointed Inspector of Public Schools in Huntsville and Welland, Ontario. In 1950 George Tait became Associate Professor of Elementary Education, University of Toronto, and remained at the U of T until his retirement as Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education.

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George Tait produced over 20 books including The Saddle of Carlos Perez, The Silent Gulls, Wake of the West Wind, The Eagle and the Snake, The World was Wide, One Dominion and Fair Domain.  The Silent Gulls was dramatized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tait travelled widely and on one trip to the Arctic, his team came across a stash of food left by the men of the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845.

In 1978, George Tait received the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Special Book Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian education. He was presented to the Queen on two occasions, once at Buckingham Palace and once at St. James’ Palace. George Tait was also an accomplished amateur painter.

George Tait died in 2000 and is buried in his home town of Watford, Ontario.

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My Mother the Judge

my mother the judge

My Mother the Judge, published by The Ryerson Press, 1955

My Mother the Judge, by Elsie Gregory MacGill, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1955. It is the remarkable story of a woman, Judge Helen Gregory MacGill, who successfully “asserted the freedom of women to apply their talents in a day when this was a solely male prerogative.”

Helen MacGill was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1864. She was the first woman undergraduate of Trinity College, University of Toronto, receiving both a BA and an MA. She was also the first female in the British Empire to receive a Music Degree.

Helen MacGill was no stranger to politics or advocacy. Her maternal grandfather, also a judge, successfully represented participants in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Upon graduation, MacGill turned to journalism and wrote for Cosmopolitan, the Toronto Globe, San Francisco Morning Call and the St. Paul Globe. This led her to social advocacy and she spent much of the rest of her life pursuing better laws for women and children, notably in British Columbia. In 1917, she was appointed British Columbia’s first woman jurist and helped to establish standards in Juvenile Court. By 1947, MacGill had seen most of her personally-urged reforms become law.

From the flap copy of My Mother the Judge: “The story credits women with being the instigators of modern social legislation, and details this development in British Columbia. It treats the movement for women suffrage as part of the general social revolution, and the logical sequence to the struggle for manhood suffrage.” She served as a judge of the Juvenile Court of British Columbia for 23 years. Helen Gregory MacGill died on February 27, 1947.

Elsie Gregory MacGill, 1905-1980, grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was the first woman to graduate in engineering at the University of Toronto (1929) and the first to take an MA in aeronautics at the University of Michigan. She became the chief aeronautical engineer of The Canadian Car and Foundry company of Montreal where she carried through the design, testing and certification of a primary training aircraft in 1939. She was also in charge of all engineering work of the Hawker Hurricane fighter (Battle of Britain) where she gained the title Queen of the Hurricanes. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Elsie MacGill was also an active feminist and was a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1967-1970. Elsie Gregory MacGill died November 4, 1980.

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Pauline Johnson and Walter McRaye


Pauline Johnson and Her Friends by Walter McRaye, published by The Ryerson Press, 1947.

Emily Pauline Johnson was a Canadian poet and entertainer. She was born March 10, 1861, the daughter of a Mohawk chief. Her Mohawk name, Tekahionwake, means “double-life.” Pauline Johnson and Her Friends by Walter McRaye, was published in 1947 by The Ryerson Press. The 1945 catalogue reads as follows: “This is the story of Pauline Johnson, that everyone has eagerly awaited. The writing of this book is the fulfillment of a promise made her as she lay dying. “Tell them something of the real me, of my father’s people, my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations.” Friend and fellow-artist for many years, Walter McRaye here sets down in simple and sincere form the story of the Mohawk poet, her rise to fame, and the tours they shared together, across Canada, and into almost every hamlet and city, from the Cariboo Trail to Halifax, and from Ottawa to London, England.”

The catalogue copy for 1945 reads in part, “This biography is much more than a formal life of the almost legendary Mohawk princess. It is a living likeness of the poet, and it is placed over against her time, the time they both knew best, people, growing towns, a pioneer country growing up, with side glances at the romantic world of London, its great houses, celebrated writers, Steinway Hall, the Watts-Duntons, Swinburne, and a world far removed from the Grand River Reserve – and now all but dissolved away and become history, legend, a lovely vanished dream.”

Pauline Johnson lived before Canadian authors had come into their own, as they have today. There were no book drives or “Canadian Book Weeks” or “Book Fairs” given by associations, no authors speaking before Canadian or other clubs in an effort to arouse Canadian enthusiasm for Canadian literature.


Pauline Johnson and Walter McRaye at Banff, 1901

As Pauline Johnson travelled across the country, reciting and entertaining the Canadian  public, she was inspired by its vastly changing landscapes as depicted in this stanza of her poem The Sleeping Giant:

You have locked your past, and you keep the key

In your heart ‘neath the westing sun,

Where the mighty sea

And its shores will be

Storm-swept till the world is done

Pauline Johnson died in Vancouver, March 7, 1913.



Walter McRaye

Walter McRaye was born in Merrickville, Onatrio, 1876. While on a tour in Winnipeg in 1897, he met Pauline Johnson, at the height of her career. By 1901 they were touring together, McRaye acting as her business manager, and sharing the billing with her. They toured together for nine years and gave their final performance together in Kamloops, B.C. in 1909. They shared fame together.

Following service in the First World War, McRaye resumed his entertainment touring and billed his tours as “entertainment with a punch.” McRaye, a staunch Canadian, deplored the fact that most of Canada’s pulp went to the Hearst empire and other American papers, but he was even more concerned by the fact that “the children of today have but a superficial knowledge of any of the great epochs in Canadian history that should never die.”

His book, Town Hall Tonight, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1929. The 1929 Fall Announcements states that “This Odyssey of the well-known entertainer, Walter McRaye, sets forth in sprightly fashion the colourful incidents of some thirty years’ wandering across Canada, with an occaisional excursion elsewhere – the United States, Great Britain and France. Thirty years ago “Town Hall Tonight” was the usual heading for all concert and lecture programmes and Mr. McRaye has chosen this as an appropriate for his book of reminiscences.”

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Town Hall Tonight by Walter McRaye, published by The Ryerson Press, 1929

In the introduction to McRaye’s book, Town Hall Tonight, Lorne Pierce, Managing Editor of The Ryerson Press from 1920 to 1960, quotes McRaye as saying, “The main work has to be done in our schools, if we are to become a nation of thinkers and executors, rather than a conglomeration of dumb followers.” He goes on to say, “ Teach citizenship.” “Boost Canadian literature.” We should say “Not Canada for Canadians, but Canadians for Canada.” These were sentiments akin to Lorne Pierce’s own heart. Pierce played a huge role in support of Canadian literature and Canadian culture throughout his life.

Walter McRaye died in 1946, just after his manuscript Pauline Johnson and Her Friends was delivered to The Ryerson Press.

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I Brought The Ages Home


I Brought The Ages Home, C.T. Currelly, The Ryerson Press, 1956

I Brought The Ages Home was published by The Ryerson Press, in 1956. Northrop Frye, Professor of English at Victoria College, was the editor. Professor Frye commented, “When this manuscript came to me for editing, it was immediately clear that my editorial duties were to be of the most unobtrusive kind. They have been confined to minor re-arrangements and to some smoothing of the reader’s path.” He let the author tell the “most amazing tale ever to come out of Ontario” to be told in the “author’s accomplished raconteur’s skill.

Charles T. Currelly (1876-1957) was born in Exeter, Ontario, and educated at Harbord Collegiate and Victoria College, Toronto. Upon graduation, Currelly was posted to a Methodist missionary site in northern Manitoba where he served from 1898 until 1901. In 1902, Currelly travelled to England, working his way across on a cattle boat, the Manchester Commerce. A chance meeting with Flinders Petrie, renowned Egyptologist, occurred after Currelly paid a visit to the British Museum in London. This landed Currelly a position helping Petrie set up an exhibition of ancient artifacts: “The marvel of seeing and touching these wonders of the past was so great that I had a feeling that one ought to fast, or make some peculiar preparation before handling such precious objects. I am glad to say that I never lost this feeling, and the careless handling or breaking of an antiquity has always been a nightmare to me.”

While in England, Currelly also met Nathanael Burwash, then Chancellor of Victoria College who, upon hearing of Currelly’s interest in antiquities and his planned excursion to Egypt with Petrie, concurred with the young collector’s desire to establish a museum in Toronto. This chance meeting in 1902 was the beginning of what was to become The Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology which now stands on the grounds of the University of Toronto. Upon his return to Toronto, Burwash set about establishing funding for the new venture.


Charles T. Currelly

Currelly was also very well-connected himself and was soon advocating the establishment of a museum with the likes of Pelham Edgar, English Professor at Victoria College (and winner of the 1936 Lorne Pierce Medal for distinguished service to Canadian Literature), Sir Edmund Walker, President of The Bank of Commerce, Sir Edmund Osler, President of The Dominion Bank to name a few. Currelly was able to convince his potential benefactors that it was entirely possible to procure antiquities at reasonable prices through his own experiences and dealings in Egypt, Crete and Asia Minor. He felt sure that these items would be of great value to the public.

The jacket copy of I Brought The Ages Home reads as follows: “I Brought The Ages Home is the story of how the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology developed from a dream in one man’s mind into one of the world’s great collections. Dr. Charles T. Currelly describes his life, first in Canada, then as an excavator in Egypt before the First World War, and finally as director of the museum he had created. The book is a museum in itself: an inexhaustible treasure house of history, anecdote, and of curious bits of information gathered from all over the world, together with one of the most amazing life-stories ever to come out of Canada, told with great wit and charm.”


Enter a Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, circa 1956

A plaque outside the Royal Ontario Museum recognizes the contribution to Canada made by Charles T. Currelly. It reads in part: “His work in various parts of the Mediterranean world inspired him with the idea of establishing an archaeological museum in Ontario. With the aid of the University of Toronto, he worked toward this goal and when the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology was created in 1912, Currelly became its first director. He retained this post, as well as his professorship in archaeology at the University, until his retirement in 1946.” Dr. Currelly spent his retirement years near Port Hope, Ontario and died after a brief illness during a trip to Florida in 1957.


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