Loughborough University
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Book availability in Canada, 1752-1820, and the Scottish contribution

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posted on 2010-11-11, 14:10 authored by Fiona A. Black
The objectives of this study are threefold: to describe and analyse what reading material was available in Canada; to explain the business methods by which it was made available; and, to delineate by specific criteria the Scottish contribution to such availability. The study is the first to use newspaper advertisements, circulating library catalogues and business records to examine book availability, at the individual title level, in selected colonial Canadian towns. The primary research material is analysed by means of a customized database, BOOKSCAN, which includes bibliographic, business and geographic information in a single database. BOOKSCAN is a union catalogue with one record for each title, and multiple repeatable fields which detail where, when, how (for sale or loan, at what price, etc.) and by whom the title was made available. Narrative and graphical analyses include: intellectual content, occupation of book provider, geographic route of acquisition, business practice and, country of origin of shipment. Scottish contributions in terms of authorship, publishers, wholesalers and book trade personnel are examined in detail, and some preliminary comparisons are drawn between the trade in the Canadian colonies and that in provincial Scotland. The principal findings question previous assumptions about the role of Scots in the early Canadian book trade. Scottish general merchants were frequently retailers of books in Canada, but Scottish publishers were not proactive in seeking Canadian markets, and Scottish printers tended not to emigrate to Canadian towns in this early period, as they did to American towns. The key business factor which determined whether Scottish publishers and booksellers exported to Canada was having a known contact in a Canadian town. Case studies of several Scots include: Alexander Morrison, bookbinder and stationer in Halifax; Richard, William, James and Alexander Kidston, general merchants in Halifax; and, John Neilson, printer in Quebec. The greatest quantities of books shipped from Scotland were not those works of the Scottish Enlightenment, which tended to be shipped from London, but were school books, Bibles and chapbooks, categories supplied by stationers. The role of wholesaling stationers in book exports, uncovered in this study, suggests that previous surveys of book exports from Scotland may greatly underestimate the total, as stationers' shipments were entered in the Customs Accounts generically as "stationery" rather than as "books". Wholesaling stationers in Scotland and Scottish general merchants in Canada are the two principal groups of Scots who contributed to early Canadian book availability. This study contributes new information to the book histories of both Scotland and Canada, and provides a methodological model for future comparative research.



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© Fiona A. Black

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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