The History of Newfoundland Publishing


A Brief History of Newfoundland

Literature Review

Early Publications

First Newfoundland Publishers

Reading in Newfoundland

Cultural Revival


Early Newfoundland publications

Compared with the development of newspaper publishing in other parts of North America the situation in Newfoundland was unique. While eastern Canada saw its first newspaper presses develop in the eighteenth century (Quebec in 1778, and New Brunswick in 1783) Newfoundland and Labrador’s first newspapers did not develop until the early nineteenth century (Fetherling 1990, 7 and 10). According to E. J. Devereux, the leading fish merchants of St. John’s petitioned the Governor of the colony, Sir Erasmus Gower to establish a printer on the island. Consent was quickly given, as Gower could see the benefit of having a King's Printer based on the island (Devereux 1960, 57). All sources record John D. Ryan as the first publisher to print in Newfoundland and Labrador. Ryan arrived in Newfoundland in 1807 from New Brunswick, toting with him the tools of type and press. A few weeks after granting permission to the merchants, Gower gave permission to Ryan to establish his printing shop on the Lower Path (now known as Water Street). Ryan was given instructions not to print anything that would be seen as against the British or “the policy of any nation to appear in his newspaper”. On August 27, 1807 the first edition of The Royal Gazette was printed (Devereux 1960, 58).

Within a decade, several newspaper presses were established in St. John’s and in other communities on the Avalon Peninsula. Alexander Haire and Robert Lee were the second publishers on the island. They had spent a great deal of time unsuccessfully petitioning Governor Keats to begin publishing a second newspaper on the island (Devereux, 61-62). However, despite the Governor’s refusal the pair began publishing their paper The Newfoundland Mercantile Journal in 1814. In 1879, the first Quadrant cylinder press was used on the island when William Herder started the new penny daily The Evening Telegram (Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland 1993, 454). This new form of printing allowed a press to print 1000 sheets per hour (Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland 1993, 454). By 1900, Walter March set up the Western Star, which was the first press on the west coast of Newfoundland (Historical Directory of Newfoundland Papers).

Magazines and Scholarly publishing

By the turn of the century, further advancements in printing had been made and by 1901, John J. Evans had created Newfoundland and Labrador’s first magazine, the Newfoundland Quarterly. The Quarterly, Canada’s second oldest magazine, existed as its own publishing entity until it was acquired by Memorial University in 1982 under the Newfoundland Quarterly Foundation (The Newfoundland Quarterly). The purpose of the magazine was (and still is) to reach a general reading population and to broadly present Newfoundland culture and history through reviews, columns and interviews (The Newfoundland Quarterly). Today the Quarterly is sponsored by the Provincial Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and through the Federal Department of Heritage’s Canada Magazine Fund (The Newfoundland Quarterly).

Newfoundland’s Memorial College gained university status following confederation with Canada in 1949. In 1961, the university established the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) with the purpose to undertake studies in the “social and economic questions arising from the particular historic, geographic, and economic circumstances of Newfoundland and Labrador” (ISER). The Institute published its first three tittles in 1966 . The press has been publishing for over five decades and maintains that their mandate to “sponsor and publish research within such disciplines and in such parts of the world as are deemed of relevance to Newfoundland and Labrador” (ISER, Mandate). At present, the press offers funding opportunities for conferences, post-doctoral fellowships and publishing and has granted over $670, 000 to over sixty projects over its history (ISER).

In 1985, Memorial University began publishing a scholarly journal called Newfoundland Studies . The journal, which is published on a bi-annual basis, produces original works in English and French on the history, culture and society of Newfoundland and Labrador (Newfoundland and Labrador Studies). While the journal focuses on publishing original research, it occasionally publishes relevant edited original documents and conference proceedings (Newfoundland and Labrador Studies).

The newspapers of Newfoundland were one of the first true outlets for the Newfoundland author to voice their stories, history and culture; as Barker and Hannaford note, the newspapers were “testing grounds for fledgling writers” (Barker and Hannaford, paragraph 34). The papers often published portions of text of even the most famous writers, thus giving the colony a source for current literature and reading from both within and outside the island (Barker and Hannaford, paragraph 34).

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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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