The History of Newfoundland Publishing


A Brief History of Newfoundland

Literature Review

Early Publications

First Newfoundland Publishers

Reading in Newfoundland

Cultural Revival


A Brief History of Newfoundland

To fully understand the history of publishing in Newfoundland it is important to recognize how the history of the province has led to the development of the industry as it exists today. Unlike other European colonies, settlement in Newfoundland was discouraged for a number of reasons including British desire to keep the island isolated and its uninhabitable climate and landscape (Woodford 1988, 1). It is unclear exactly how long Europeans had been visiting Newfoundland’s shores, but archaeological evidence indicates that Vikings traveled to the island around 1000 AD. Giovanni Caboto or John Cabot’s arrival in June of 1497 is the first recorded European “rediscovery” of Newfoundland since the Viking occupation some five hundred years before. Cabot was thought to have first landed at Cape Bonivista, although this fact has been highly contested and other locations have claimed Cabot’s first landfall (Major 2001, 36-37).

In 1502, the English vessel the “Gabriel” landed in Bristol with the first English recorded load of cod fish caught off the shores of Newfoundland; this event would spark the beginning of the Newfoundland cod fishery which would fill the plates of Europe and fuel the economy of the small island for the next four hundred years (Major 2001, 45). As exploration in the west continued, the powers of Europe became aware of the abundance of fish found in Newfoundland waters. The English were relatively late to take advantage of the cod fishery as other nations including the Basque (Spanish), French and Portuguese were fishing off the Newfoundland shores as early as 1504(Major 2001, 68).

It was England’s continual presence off the coast of the Avalon Peninsula that allowed it to maintain a stronghold on the island, and by the early seventeenth century they were beginning to realize they needed to act quickly to establish their occupancy before the French laid a competing claim (Major 2001, 68). The British Crown supported the establishment of several colonies at Ferryland and Cupids, both of which failed to maintain permanency. This changed by the 1670s, when the population of the Avalon had reached 1,700(Major 2001, 100). In 1699, the English Crown passed the King William’s Act, which allowed limited settlement of the island but would not provide for the administration of government or law (O’Flaherty 1979, 16). By 1790, the population would reach nearly thirty thousand (O’Flaherty 1979, 18).

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This website was created by Sara House and is based on a paper written for Publishing LIS 519 at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta.
Last updated July 31, 2010

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