G. Raymond Chang Award

Chang Award - Clive and PresidentThe inaugural G. Raymond Chang Outstanding Volunteer Awards Night was held on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at Ryerson University. The award celebrates the exemplary generosity and contribution of alumni and friends to Ryerson University. The awards are named in honour of the late G. Raymond Chang, former chancellor of Ryerson University, for his deep belief in the importance of volunteering.

Since retiring from McGraw-Hill Ryerson in 2011, Clive Powell has been immersed in the Ryerson Press collection, which was acquired by the publisher when it purchased the Ryerson Press in 1970. For more than six years he has been documenting the collection of almost 3,000 book titles and more than 2,000 related archival materials, conducting extensive research, producing a video and writing a blog about various aspects of the collection. His search for an appropriate home for the collection in order to preserve its rich Canadian cultural legacy led to its donation to the Special Collections unit of Ryerson University Library and Archives.

The award was presented by Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-Chancellor, Ryerson University.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Canadian Wild Flowers

Can Wild Flowers Cover

Canadian Wild Flowers, Catherine Parr Traill, published by William Briggs, 1895

Canadian Wild Flowers, written by Catherine Parr Traill and illustrated by Agnes FitzGibbon, was a publication of William Briggs in 1895. Canadian Wild Flowers can be considered Canada’s first 4-colour, illustrated coffeetable book.

The four editions of Canadian Wild Flowers date back to 1868, 1869, 1870 and 1895. A note attached to the front of the fourth, 1895 edition from the desk of C.H. Dickinson, General Manager of The Ryerson Press, reads as follows: “Original Book — Bound in the Methodist Book and Publishing House in the year 1895 in light blue C M Pattern Extra Cloth. Cover – bevelled edges, stamped in gold leaf and blinded as this book – tripple* rules on outside edges with special circular stamp in centre in gold on page one of cover, the same stamping on the back cover – gilt edges, blue and gold lines with flowers, end papers.”

Canadian Wild Flower 4th Ed letter

*Notes from C.H. Dickinson on the 1895 edition. Note the word “tripple” spelled with two “p’s”

Catherine Parr Traill was born in England in 1802. She, and her sister Susanna Moodie, were two of four Strickland sisters who pursued literary interests. Catherine Parr Strickland had married Thomas Traill in 1832 and emigrated to Canada that same year to join her sister. She settled near the Otonabee River, near what is now Lakefield, Ontario.

In her preface to the 1868 edition, Ms. Traill presents a few words of introduction to her many “subscribers” to the work. She claims that any “shortcomings that may be noticed by our friends must be excused on the score of the work being wholly Canadian in its execution…Our Canadian publishers can hardly be expected to compete with the booksellers and printers of the Old Country, or of the United States, labouring as they must necessarily do in a new country under many mechanical disadvantages.”


The title page of the 1895 edition shows the original copyright page, 1869

In her introduction to the fourth edition, Ms. Agnes Chamberlin, formerly Mrs. Agnes FitzGibbon, daughter of Susanna Moodie and niece of Catherine Parr Traill, provides a fascinating history of the publication of the book.

She records that: “In 1863, my aunt, Mrs. Traill, whose work on the Canadian flora (Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1885)) is well known, brought the manuscript of that work to Toronto, in the hope of finding a publisher willing to undertake it. She was unsuccessful, principally because of there being no illustrations. A kind friend, the Rev. Mr. Clementi, who had sketched some of our native flowers, offered her the use of his drawings if she could find someone to copy them.

 “I had never painted a flower, but the attempt to copy these drawings led to the discovery that I could sketch more accurately from Nature; and although Mrs. Traill’s book was not then published, I continued to make drawings of all the wild flowers I gathered, with the assistance of friends, on the Humber plains and in the woods about my house on the Dundas Road.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Widowed with six children in 1865, Agnes FitzGibbon turned first to teaching to provide for her children. Later, she decided to try her hand at illustrating and publishing her aunt’s book. FitzGibbon managed to secure five hundred subscribers in an attempt to defray the initial costs of publication. Having guaranteed her patrons that the book would be entirely published in Canada, she set about finding the means of producing the book entirely by Canadian suppliers. A limited edition of 500 copies was printed by Messrs. Chewett & Co. Once printed, Ms. FitzGibbon along with “the help of one or two young friends, coloured the whole edition by hand.

The book was first published by John Lovell of Montreal in 1868 and a second edition in 1869. A third edition came out a year later. In 1870, Agnes FitzGibbon married Colonel Chamberlin and some years later began to revive the publication of a fourth edition through her Toronto publisher, William Briggs. Of the fourth edition, she says: “The work has many faults, of which no one is more conscious than myself, but both in drawing and colouring, the flowers are accurate representations of those gathered by myself and friends, and the book should be interesting as the first attempt in Canada to produce a work of this kind, and by an amateur who had never seen a lithographic stone till she commenced the work.”

Many of Agnes Chamberlin’s original drawings are contained in The Agnes Chamberlin Digital Collection in the Fisher Library at the University of Toronto.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News


Neighbourly News

Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News, The Ryerson Press, 1949

Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News was published in 1949 by the Ryerson Press. The flap copy reads, “Few Canadian books have been so widely heralded or so eagerly awaited by so many as Neighbourly News….Andy Clarke had a genius for friendship, and in the end this group of old friends in his own craft joined hands to raise this living memorial to one they greatly loved.”

This 160-page book is a compilation of Clarke’s articles and broadcasts. Selected by his wife, Violet Clarke, edited by Lorne Pierce, and illustrated by Thoreau MacDonald, this volume represents the best of Andy Clarke’s weekly Sunday morning broadcasts over the CBC during the 1940s.

Andrew D. Clarke was first a newspaperman and then a radio broadcaster. He was born July 13, 1882 in Grimsby, Ontario. Clarke got his start in journalism at the age of 22 following a conversation with Lou Marsh, legendary sports reporter for the Toronto Star (The Lou Marsh award for outstanding Canadian athlete was named in his honour after his untimely death in 1936). Marsh helped land Clarke an interview with one of the seven Toronto dailies of the day, The World. Marsh had told him that, “if he could write as entertainingly as he talked, Andy would have no trouble getting a job as a reporter.”* After nine years at The World, Andy took a job at the London Advertiser. Four years later, Clarke got a call from the Toronto Globe where he remained for 16 years until The Globe was amalgamated with The Mail and Empire to become the Globe and Mail.

Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke

While at The Globe, Clarke initiated “The Southeast Corner”, a short two-column feature that appeared in the same spot on The Globe’s front page. This column contained humourous stories from small towns across Ontario and Quebec. Stories about “Barrel-bellied pumpkins, two-headed calves, a dog that could play the piano, raspberries in November, a boy who could sing bass, a pike that had swallowed an alarm clock, a school teacher who crocheted, a parsnip that looked like a person.” There was an endless supply of content for The Southeast Corner which provided a measure of relief during the dark days of the Depression.

When radio arrived in Canada in the early 1920s, Andy Clarke began broadcasting the news every night from the newsroom of The Globe. He had a down-home approach and a friendly neighbourly voice that appealed to a wide audience. Clarke’s love of picking out stories from the local newspaper feeds also filled his nightly broadcasts with stories and anecdotes along with the news of the day.

Thoreau MacDonald illustration in Neighbourly News

The book contains illustrations by Thoreau MacDonald

When The Globe was bought by The Mail and Empire in November 1936, Clarke soon found himself out of a job. But not for long. The CBC had been “thinking about a weekly news broadcast of a different sort, that would deal with the homely happenings of everyday life in Ontario, the things that were never touched on in news bulletins that dealt with the daily grist of disaster, crime and international worries.”* Andy Clarke’s name came to the fore and on Sunday, January 7, 1940, the first broadcast of Andy Clarke and his Neighbourly News hit the airwaves. Clarke also travelled to small towns and would broadcast to live audiences. Andy Clarke was given the title Mayor of Little Places by Enid Donahue of Kahshe Lake, Muskoka in one of her columns in the Gravenhurst Banner. The title stuck throughout Clarke’s broadcast career.

In his tribute to Andy Clarke, well-known humourist Greg Clark says, “But in all the cities of Eastern Canada where his Sunday morning feature was released, there were thousands upon thousands of people, wistful of the country air in which they had been born and raised before coming to the cities, who waited upon that quaint, surprising voice every Sunday morning with something of a religious attitude of mind and heart, to be transported. Transported is exactly the word. Andy Clarke loved what he did; and people on every level of the community, urban, rural and backwoods, were picked up and carried by him into a homely, fanciful, happy mood. He was an artist.”*

Andy Clarke died May 19, 1948.

*Greg Clark, Andy Clarke an Introduction by Greg Clark

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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 http://www.ryerson.ca 


Media Contact:

Dasha Pasiy
Public Affairs
University Relations
416.979.5000 x 2126


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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 of 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 in 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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment