Poetry chapbooks from the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Press Collection.
Ryerson University receives historic McGraw-Hill Ryerson Press Collection
Alumni from the ‘70s may remember the day when Canadian novelist and English instructor Graeme Gibson scaled the Gould Street statue of Egerton Ryerson, wrapped it in an American flag, and led a raucous crowd gathered below in an acerbic version of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” His action was in protest of the sale of The Ryerson Press to McGraw-Hill, an American publishing company.
The oldest publisher in Canada with a deep history and collection stretching back over a century – and founded by Egerton Ryerson himself – many considered the sale of The Ryerson Press 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.
Today, that collection has come home. Publisher McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited has made the largest single donation of books ever received by the Ryerson 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, Norval Morrisseau, Gwendolyn MacEwen, and Al Purdy.
“The breadth and depth of the collection is what makes it so outstanding,” said Val Lem, Ryerson librarian. “It covers such a wide period of Canadian history, and many areas of our cultural heritage. There are books on politics and history; there’s literature, including fiction and poetry; there’s material for children, including textbooks and readers.”
“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.”
In all, the collection includes almost 3,000 book titles, with more than 2,000 archival materials including catalogues, author contracts and related documentation. Counted among its many treasures is 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 has since gone on to win many literary awards, including the Man Booker International Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“It is a collection that’s really going to put Ryerson’s Archives and Special Collections on the map,” said Ruth Panofsky, professor of English. “It is significant in terms of Canadian publishing history. It’s significant for what it contains, in terms of Canadian literary and cultural history. It’s significant for the fact that it bears Egerton Ryerson’s name. And it’s going to be very useful for charting the publication and dissemination of significant Canadian writers.”
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