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Canadian Small Press Collection

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About the Dalhousie Canadian Small Press Collection

Since 1970 Special Collections has actively collected the literary output of English language small presses from all across Canada. The collection has grown to approximately 25,000 books, 300 poetry broadsides, 160 literary journals, of which twenty-five are current subscriptions, sixty audio recordings, seventy-five vertical files, and 160 publicity posters. The quality work of approximately 700 small presses is present. While the strength of the collection lies in the post-1970 period, retrospective buying has been undertaken to fill in gaps so the works of the early presses that laid such a strong foundation – Graphic, Abenaki, Contact – are well represented.

Collection Highlights

There are so many interesting and beautiful items in the collection that it is difficult to highlight only a few, yet there are some key presses that stand out for various reason. The quality poetry books of Coach House Press gave credibility to small press publishing. The beautifully designed books of Aliquando Press introduced elegance. The finely drawn woodcuts of Gerry Brender à Brandis graced his Brandstead Press volumes and enabled readers to appreciate just how well visual images and words can support each other. The works of Lancelot Press instilled a soul in small press publishing. Theytus Books have given native peoples the opportunity to tell their story. Owl’s Head Press has earned respect for regionally based nature writing. Goose Lane Press has carried on the strong literary tradition of Fiddlehead Books. The creative content and high quality production standards of Gaspereau Press continue to earn respect and awards. The comprehensive holdings of their works in the Canadian Small Press Collection reflect every aspect of the evolution of these quality small presses.

Significance

The comprehensiveness of the small press collection provides researchers with the opportunity to study everything from the development of specific presses to the representation of specific themes in each region. Although the scope and depth of the collection invites survey studies, the work of the individual writer is still the keystone of the collection. Many important works are available, especially in the areas of poetry, drama, short story and illustrated book, as small presses have been more willing to support these small market genres.

Bibliographies

Two publications based on the small press collection have been compiled. Check-list of Canadian Small Presses- English Language was compiled by Grace Tratt and published in 1974.  In 1988, Holly Melanson compiled Literary presses in Canada, 1975-1985 :a checklist and bibliography.

Promotion of the collection has been assisted by the establishment of the Canadian Literary Collection Project (CLCP) in 1990. The ongoing CLCP Public Reading Series has drawn together local small press publishers, writers and readers to present their work and share ideas.

More from Vessels of Light: A Guide to Special Collections in the Killam Libraryby Karen E. M. Smith.