Browse Case Studies (alphabetical by title)


After publishing her first seven books with a U.S. publisher, L.M. Montgomery placed her career in the hands of McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, whom she appointed her Canadian publishers and her literary agents. This case study looks at the ways in which Montgomery may have used the success of her best-known character, Anne of Green Gables, in an attempt to get her poetry published in book form.


What do you need to start a private press? It is rare for one person to have all the necessary skills (not to mention money and determination). Locks' Press shows what can be done by a team of two.


Longtime Ryerson Press Editor Lorne Pierce (1890-1961) was driven by cultural nationalism as a publisher. His battle with anti-Communist crusader Watson Kirkconnell over the alleged Communist sympathies of Vera Lysenko’s Men in Sheepskin Coats: A Study in Assimilation (1947), a history of Ukrainian Canadians published by Ryerson, shows Pierce strongly resisting a publishing industry instance of “Red scare” witch-hunting during the Cold War climate which followed the defection of Russian cypher clerk Igor Gouzenko in Ottawa in 1945.


William Wilfred Campbell, lover of Empire and instigator of the “War Among the Poets,” earned his living not by his pen but as a civil servant in Ottawa. While studying divinity in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he launched his literary career with the help of Oliver Wendell Holmes.


“Your job is not to show that there are victims victims everywhere (though there are goddammit); but, at times at least, to show that where positive achievement is possible in Canadian writing, it is most likely to be that of survival ...That seems to fade from the picture a bit...which makes things somewhat bleaker than they need to be.”
[Note from Dennis Lee to “Peg” (Margaret Atwood), undated, re Survival.]


Maria Campbell’s first book, Halfbreed (1973), was a landmark in modern Canadian Aboriginal literature. To this day, Halfbreed is widely taught in Canadian schools and universities. The archival record reveals much about what is not told in the book, including at least one incident Jack McClelland considered too libellous to publish, despite Campbell’s desire that her story be told in its entirety.


Marian Engel (1933-85), never doubted that she would become a writer; informed by her mother at the age of 10 that the profession was “very hard,” she had responded, “I don’t care.” Her dedication to her craft was tested during a career that spanned 32 years, from her first published short story in a teen magazine in 1953 to her untimely death in 1985. In her substantial archives at McMaster University, there are very few letters that do not touch in some way on her writing life: as well as correspondence with her family, Hugh MacLennan (her mentor), and with other writers who became close friends, such as Margaret Laurence, Timothy Findley, Alice Munro, and Austin Clarke, Engel’s feisty exchanges with publishers provide ample testimony of just how hard the profession was, especially in Canada during the 1960s and 70s.


Marius Barbeau (1883-1969) was nothing if not productive. At the time of his death, his bibliography stretched to over 1,000 items, although we may never know the precise number of texts that appeared under his name. Barbeau’s publishing interests were varied, ranging from reprinted oral traditions collected from First Nations and French-Canadian informants that appeared in newspapers, to scholarly monographs, to tourist-oriented picture books, and to a novel. Barbeau’s long career, his varied publications, and his voluminous correspondence provide a window in the history of publishing in the social sciences in Canada in the first half of the twentieth century.


By the time she won the Atlantic-Little, Brown Award for Jalna in 1927, de la Roche had been a published writer for more than twenty years, having forged personal as well as professional relationships with such publishing figures as Ellery Sedgwick, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and Hugh Eayrs, president of Macmillan of Canada. Nevertheless, the award catalyzed de la Roche’s transformation from a minor player in English-Canadian letters to a best-selling author of international repute, changing the nature of her relationships with her editors and publishers in the process.


Ryerson Press published E. J. Pratt’s first Canadian book of poetry because its editor, Lorne Pierce, saw promise in Pratt’s work. Although the press dropped Pratt because his second offering of poetry was deemed inappropriate, the life-long correspondence between the two men reveals Pratt’s importance to the Canadian literary legacy that Pierce nurtured and helped produce.