These jack-of-all-trades who produced the Quebec book

The writings remain, it is said, as well as the books. A certain number of them will at least mark their time, pass the test of time. But the people who make them, the books, who put them in the hands of readers, those publishers, typesetters, translators, illustrators, printers, binders, distributors, booksellers or librarians, often fade into oblivion like ink over time. Naa Historical dictionary of people who book in QuebecJosée Vincent, Marie-Pier Luneau and their team restore many of them from memory.

“When we look at the typical trajectory, we see that people who book in Quebec are doing many things at once,” says Marie-Pier Luneau, director of the Group for Research and Studies on Books in Quebec . And the composite image of the one-man band that also produces books can be seen at the beginning of New France and in 2019, the year when it Dictionarywhich does not list the living, has stopped collecting it.

“These people of the book, they are jacks of all trades, and they deal with many different worlds”, added MI Moon. To the point that, with his colleague Josée Vincent, also a researcher and professor at the University of Sherbrooke, they talk about a “book system” in Quebec, instead of the eternal book chain. “It’s like a web, with arrows going out in all directions, connecting different people, they all ensure the life of the book. »

And this Historical dictionary, to mention two accomplices, was also done in the same extensive way, with the valuable help of a team of assistants, students, researchers and collaborators. A group needed to create this work-sum.

The book family

The image of the book chain that we use today “is very useful for describing the production of a book, when we start from the author, through the publisher and bookseller, to the reader. , says M.I Vincent. But this picture does not speak about the whole life of the book. The life of the book takes place in a more circular movement. It’s like it took an entire village to build a book, in a way, an entire community.

In a “method of vertical concentration,” we read, the intertwining of book trades mainly results from the need to survive in a restricted market, where skills remain little differentiated. In the early morning of the 19the century,” for example, “a John Neilson or an Augustin Côté used all the means available to them: acting as publishers, printers and booksellers, these book pioneers used their newspapers to promote their works and use their workshop space to sell them. »

The boom of the 1960s

In Quebec, the book was moving from a colonial economy to a market dominated by imports, then protected by the implementation of regulations that would promote the growth of local publishing. An ongoing evolution, in a way, of which the 1960s and the birth of book policies served as detonators. “From there, the book system changed” and the number of contributors exploded. So the researchers chose to keep a certain distance in the current environment, which is denser, as well as objectivity.

They are collective actors, very important in the world of books. And it is also there, in these communities, that we find women.

What are the figures here? Dictionary, which did Marie-Pier Luneau and Josée Vincent prefer, out of the 391 notices they collected? The question was harsh, they underlined it. MI Vincent, who also signed The tribulations of the Quebec book in France (1959-1985), wanted to recall the role of religious communities in publishing and printing. “They are collective actors, very important in the world of books. And it is also there, in these communities, that we find women. »

Thus, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, dedicated to education, created in 1932 the music school that would become Vincent-d’Indy. They publish several textbooks, 50% of which are in music education. Among the sisters, we find “some female composers who create pieces”, often under pseudonyms (Pierre Chanval, Lû Nik, Claude Bernek), “which reduces the cost of buying foreign scores”, we can read. This musical production makes it possible to reduce dependence on French publishers and develop local musical expertise.

Marie-Pierre Luneau has a weakness for Heinz-Egon Heinemann (1912-1979), a German Jewish bookseller, who was forced by the rise of Nazism to close his shop in Berlin, where he sold of books secretly. . He fled to Shanghai, where he founded the Western Art Gallery. In 1949, selling books became subversive for the Chinese authorities. Heinemann is preparing to move to Canada. On the day of his departure, he was arrested; he will be jailed for 405 days.

Finally in Montreal, he revived bookstores, opening the Mansfield Book Mart, an important hub for English literature in Montreal. “Heinemann’s career was completely unusual,” said Ms.I Luneau deserves a Tintin adventure, but it shows the passion that brings the people of the book to life and all the intelligence they put into their work. »

Books in the 21st century

What can we learn from all these stories for the book industry in Quebec today? Josée Vincent immediately named the issue of online book discoverability. How can French-language books from here, designed for a micro-market, appear on the Web? This is the question that seems urgent to him.

“We have to find a way to preserve what we have established as protection for the printed book, and move it online, into the digital world. And one day, governments will understand that it is not necessary to support only the production of books, but also their promotion and their discoverability. Because we can always learn from history, he concluded.

Historical dictionary of people who book in Quebec

Under the direction of Josée Vincent and Marie-Pier Luneau,

To see in the video

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