Carole Gerson

Carole Gerson co-edited the third and final volume of The History of the Book in Canada, which examines book history and print culture as it was affected by major changes in the 20th century.

Landmark book history project wraps up

March 8, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

It has taken six long years, but one of this country's great scholarly projects is now complete, with the recent publication of The History of the Book in Canada/Histoire du livre de l'imprime au Canada, Volume III.

Co-edited by SFU English professor Carole Gerson with the University of Sherbrooke's Jacques Michon, Volume III (U of T Press/les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2006) covers writings from 1918 to 1980. Its completion involved research and analysis by students and post-doctoral fellows working in both official languages across the country.

"We were dealing with more than 100 authors, 30 per cent of the works originally written in French, lots of translation, lots of editing, coordination, consolidation and checking, checking, checking," says Gerson.

The entire project, published in both official languages, was made possible with a $2.3-million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The three volumes span topics from Aboriginal communication systems established prior to European contact to the arrival of multinational publishing companies.

Each volume observes developments in the realms of writing, publishing, dissemination and reading, illustrating the process of a fledgling nation coming into its own.

The third and final volume sees book history and print culture as it was affected by major changes in the 20th century, including the country's growing demographic complexity and the rise of multiculturalism.

It pays due attention to multifarious developments in print culture, including book prizes, sports writing, pulp magazines, the alternative press, Coles Notes, the international success of romance publisher Harlequin, and the unprecedented influence of Les Insolences du Frère Untel, the famous cry for education reform in 1960s Quebec.

Gerson credits associate editor Janet Friskney, the University of Toronto's Patricia Fleming, McGill's Yvan Lamonde and "our fabulous project manager Judy Donnelly in Toronto" for keeping the project on track.

But she saves her final kudos for her graduate research assistants Nancy Earle, Alison McDonald and Jef Clarke. "They were all such eager beavers, I was very fortunate."

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