10 Reasons The Ryerson Collection Matters

1. The Ryerson Collection comprises some 3000 titles. These publications range from biographies and autobiographies of early Methodist preachers in Canada to novels, poetry collections as well as art books, historical and satirical works.
2. Some of Canada’s most prominent authors are represented. Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Earle Birney, Hugh Garner, Alice Munro, as well as Canadian editions by international authors Robert Service, A.J. Cronin and Dafne Du Maurier
3. The collection represents one of Canada’s foremost publishers of the 19th and 20th century.The Ryerson Press began as the publishing arm of the Methodist Church in Canada. In 1925 when the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches combined to form the United Church the Ryerson Press continued to publish and became known as Canada’s Publishing House.
4. The publications are interesting from an historical perspective. Decade by decade, the publications chronicle a nation from before Confederation through two World Wars, the Cold War and the tumultuous fifties and sixties.
5. The collection has been maintained for over 45 years by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. In 1969, the United Church no longer wanted to be a publisher and The Ryerson Press was subsequently put up for sale. No other Canadian publisher wanted The Ryerson Press. McGraw-Hill Canada took over the press, renamed the company McGraw-Hill Ryerson and continued the publishing tradition which included overseeing the Ryerson Collection.
6. Many of the editions are first edition copies. This makes the collection unique and worth studying further.
7. The collection has been maintained by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. MHR ceased to exist in 2014 after the McGraw-Hill Companies sold the publishing arm of their enterprise.
8. The Ryerson Press is named after Egerton Ryerson, a man whose accomplishments include the creation of a model for public education in Canada, still in use today.
9. The collection needs to be kept intact. As a collection, there is value in keeping the Ryerson Collection together as a unit. From an historical perspective it makes sense when viewed from start to finish — it is truly a snapshot of Canadian history from 1862-1970.
10. A suitable home must be found where the collection may made available for scholarly research and review and for the general public to pursue at their leisure.

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The History of Methodism in Canada

There are some 3000 books in the Ryerson Press Collection. The first, by George Playter (1811-1866), is The History of Methodism in Canada. Published in 1862 by Anson Green at the Wesleyan Printing Establishment located on King Street East in Toronto, the book is an account of the “rise and progress of the work of God in Canada and among the Canadian Indian tribes, and occasional notices of the civil affairs of the province.”

Playter documents the rise of Methodism in Canada from the late 1700s to 1828. He notes that in 1777, an influx of those loyal to Britain following the American revolution began to move north and settled along the Bay of Quinte, the Niagara River and on the banks of the Detroit River.

But the first Methodist preacher in Canada was a Commissary of the 44th British Regiment named Tuffey who was posted to Quebec, Lower Canada, in 1780. And he was followed by Mr. Neal at Niagara in Upper Canada in 1788.

During this period, soldiers were granted land parcels and many remained to take up farming. The population in Lower Canada at this time was approximately 120 000; Upper Canada’s population numbered about 10 000. Loyalists moved north and while some belonged to the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Luther or Baptist Church, a few were Methodist. These religious sects were scattered over Upper Canada.

Many emigrants had been stripped of property during the American revolution. The Government of the day assisted many with provisions, farming utensils and clothing for up to two years: “families lived for days on the drink of boiled beech leaves, slippery elm bark or on wild leeks…”

During the early 1800s circuit preachers began visiting many communities as well as many native tribes to spread the Methodist gospel. 

  • 1780 Commissar Tuffey preaches at Quebec
  • 1784 Settlement of Upper Canada begins
  • 1788 George Neal preaches at Niagara
  • 1792 Col. John Simcoe becomes first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada
  • 1812 United States declares war against Great Britain
  • 1815 General Isaac Brock dies
  • 1817 First Methodist Conference in Canada
  • 1826 Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church established
  • 1827 Dr. Strachan publishes a Chart of the Religion of Upper Canada
  • 1828 10 Indian missions in Upper Canada established, 1200 baptized
  • 1828 Canadian Methodist body becomes independent of United States
  • 1829 Egerton Ryerson begins his circuit preaching

The History of Methodism in Canada, 1862


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The Ryerson Press Collection

For the past 18 months I have been involved in a challenging and rewarding project — cataloguing a collection of publications from The Ryerson Press.

This collection has been maintained for the past 45 years under the careful supervision of the editorial managers of McGraw-Hill Ryerson following the sale of The Ryerson Press to McGraw-Hill in 1970.

The purpose of my involvement in this project was to create a formal record of these books. In addition, I was to find a suitable home for the 3000 titles, many of which are first editions dating back as far as 1862.

The Ryerson Press began operation in Toronto in 1829 when Egerton Ryerson, a Methodist Preacher, obtained a license to obtain a printing press. He set about publishing sermons along with his political views in a publication that later became known as the Christian Guardian, the forerunner of the United Church Observer.

Egerton Ryerson became known in political circles and was well respected for his views on public education. By the 1840s Ryerson had established Victoria College (now part of University of Toronto) and was soon to become Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada in 1844. His views of public education became the standard for the rest of Canada.

He established the Toronto Normal School at St. James Square in Toronto where teacher training could take place. This establishment also became known as a cultural centre with the creation of the Museum of Natural History and Fine Art (know today as the ROM) and the Toronto School of Art (now OCAD). The Toronto Normal School also promoted experiments in botany and horticulture which led to the formation of the Ontario Agriculture School and University of Guelph.

In 1948, the need for a technical institution was met with the founding of Ryerson Institute of Technology.

Egerton Ryerson died in 1882 but his legacy lives on. The Ryerson Press took on his name in 1920. It is hoped that a suitable location will soon be found for the 3000 publications of  McGraw-Hill Education’s Ryerson Collection. 




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The Mentors

Early on in my publishing career, I encountered two individuals who were very savvy in the ways of educational publishing. Growing up quickly under their wings taught me a great deal about how to best deal with people, both internally and externally, and how to face situations that were not always pleasant. They taught me how to deliver the bad news as well as the good.

My mentors, Rachel Mansfield and Wendy Thomas, not only taught me about the publishing industry; they showed me how you can make a contribution every day.

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My First Book

The first Trade book I worked on as a copy editor was North Pole or Bust by Canadian author and film-maker Frank Rasky. I had been with the company for all of one day. The book was a series of vignettes of Arctic explorers (subsequently made into an NFB film by Rasky.) That was in 1977.

It’s interesting because as I recall it, I was given a first set of “galleys” to proofread. On my second day the Managing Editor took me in to meet the VP Editorial at the time. She was perceived as the dragon-lady who sat in a darkened corner office, smoking her lungs out. She asked me what I was working on and I told her I was proofreading the Rasky galleys and that I had almost finished them. She then asked if I was finding many typos and I said no, they looked pretty clean.

She then said, “Oh, the typesetter must have hired a new compositor.”

That’s all she needed to say. I immediately went back to my desk and started proofreading the galleys from scratch!

That one comment was enough to send you slinking back to your cubicle knowing that your work was being scrutinized, even though no-one was actually looking over your shoulder.

It was my introduction to the world of copyediting.

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The Editorial Director

One of the most amazing people I ever encountered was the VP and Editorial Director. In 1977, when I first joined the company, you could not hope to escape the purview of the V.P. and Editorial Director who had an uncanny act of finding errors in printed copy. No matter how meticulous the copyediting, or how conscientious the proofreading, he would inevitably find an error in the final product. And he did it with such nonchalance. Totally without any preconceived notion as to where typos, misplaced photos or captions might exist, he would simply receive his comp copy from the Warehouse and open it up randomly to any page. There it was. Staring him, and anyone else remotely involved in the project, right in the face.

Many a red-faced editor was called to his and/or the Editorial Manager’s office on the day stock was delivered to face the music. Sometimes, you simply dreaded signing off on the van dykes authorizing Production to push the “print” button.

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