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Parker, George L.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1985. 346pp, cloth, $39.95, ISBN 0-8020-2547-1. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Adele Ashby

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

"Many of the characteristics and the problems of the twentieth-century book trade had their origins in Canada's unique nineteenth-century situation," says Parker in his preface. Indeed, it is depressing to read The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Canada, and to realize how long so many of the issues that appear regularly in the pages of Quill & Quire and other organs of the book trade have been with us. It covers only the nineteenth-century (there are plans for a second volume to cover the twentieth), but it makes clear that problems with copyright, distribution, authors who are only recognized in their own country after receiving recognition elsewhere, adequate compensation for authors, the agency system, branch-plant publishing, and many more are ones that go back to the very beginnings of the trade. Parker's is the first extensive such history in Canada, and in it he chronicles the development of bookselling, publishing, libraries, schools, writing, literary tastes, and their interrelationships, set against the social, political, cultural, and economic context of the period. He has made an enormous contribution, for, if until recently, Canadian writers were neglected by scholars, so much more so were publishers, printers, and booksellers. The chapters of the book follow a rough chronological order. At the beginning, there are several pages of illustrations of printing presses, publishing advertisements, cartoons, and portraits of prime movers in the trade. The conclusion is followed by several appendices with statistical data on the growth of printing, imports and exports, and a list of copyright acts. The notes and index are lengthy and testify to the depth of research behind the text. It began as a dissertation, and unfortunately, its academic presentation may limit its readership. While the material it covers is of interest to booksellers, publishers, authors, librarians, educators, indeed anyone interested in the development of the trade and its support systems, there is so much of it that the passion and commitment of individuals is only hinted at. The facts are there; the emotion is not. Moreover, the text is set in such small type that sustained reading is difficult.

Adele Ashby, Toronto, Ont.
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