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McClelland & Stewart originated in Toronto, Ontario, the heart of Canadian publishing, in the spring of 1906. In that year John McClelland and Frederick Goodchild left the Methodist Book Room (later to be known as Ryerson Press) to establish the company of McClelland and Goodchild. Although the firm was initially founded as a library supply house, it was not long before the imprint of McClelland and Goodchild began to appear. Curiously, the first title to bear the new imprint was not Canadian. It was John D. Rockefeller's Random Reminiscences of Men and Friends, published by arrangement with Doubleday Page in 1909. Seven years later, however, The Watchman and Other Poems by the Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery appeared among the books issued by McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart. Eighty-five years on, Lucy Maud's beloved Anne of Green Gables, like her other books, is still a favourite on the M&S backlist (and enjoys remarkable popularity in Japan!)

The firm was incorporated in 1911, and after three years, George Stewart (long known as the best Bible salesman in Canada) joined the company, which then became McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart. In 1918 Goodchild left to form his own company, and the house became McClelland & Stewart Limited, as nature intended.

From the early days, the partners recognized the importance of establishing a Canadian list, while realizing that in order to survive they must continue to act as distributing agents for British and American firms. In addition, they occasionally made direct arrangements with foreign publishers for the publication of books by Canadian and American authors. As the representative of many English and American firms - among them George Doran and Company, J.M. Dent, Cassell, Little, Brown and Company, The Bobbs Merrill Company - McClelland & Stewart undertook the management of the Canadian subsidiaries when some of these firms later incorporated in Canada.

The great demand for books in Canada during the First World War meant that by 1919 some 160 books, over half of which were also published abroad, had been published under the McClelland & Stewart imprint. Despite the decline in the number of Canadian publications between the two World Wars, many Canadians appeared on the M&S list, including Stephen Leacock, Frederick Philip Grove, Thomas H. Raddall, and the indefatigable L.M. Montgomery. Between 1917 and 1937 the most successful Canadian author was Ralph Connor (author of The Man From Glengarry), whose popularity was such that M&S used to order the latest title by the railway carload.

Over the years direct publishing arrangements have been made with authors of international reputation ranging in time from A.A. Milne to James A. Michener. One of the most prestigious of these began in 1939 when John McClelland was on a visit to England. There he learned that Winston Churchill, at that time in the political wilderness, was working on a two-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples. McClelland soon convinced Churchill to sign a contract, and the American firm of Dodd, Mead and Company made arrangements to secure the U.S. rights. After 1939 Churchill had more pressing demands on his time, but the History, expanded to four volumes, finally came out in 1956, under the McClelland & Stewart imprint. In recent years, M&S had acquired the rights to publish authors as varied as Alain de Botton, Anne Enright, Sir Martin Gilbert, Christopher Hitchens, Paul Theroux, Colm Tíobín and Alison Weir.

After the Second World War, a swift expansion of original Canadian publishing took place; by 1954, 40 per cent of the company's revenue derived from these works, whose Canadian authors were sought out and encouraged by the whirlwind company head, Jack McClelland, son of the founder, who continued to lead the firm until 1986.

In January 1958 the firm joined the paperback revolution by issuing the first four titles in The New Canadian Library Series, the first quality softcovers to appear in Canada. In 1988, under the editorship of David Staines, a new version of the classic series was introduced, with such success that the great majority of Canada's literary classics are now included in the Series.

In January 1986 Avie Bennett acquired M&S, whereupon the name was changed to McClelland & Stewart Inc., and began to conduct its day-to-day operations from his position as Chairman. To augment and enrich the company's already stellar list of Canadian authors, he promptly hired Douglas Gibson, the Publisher of Macmillan of Canada, to establish his own imprint at M&S. In 1988, Gibson became Publisher at M&S. Many Macmillan authors chose to follow him, including Robertson Davies, Ken Dryden, W. O. Mitchell, Mavis Gallant, Jack Hodgins and Alice Munro. On July 1, 2000 Douglas Gibson became President and Publisher. In late May 2004 Gibson returned to editing and publishing titles for his imprint Douglas Gibson Books, and Douglas Pepper took on the role of President and Publisher.

Ellen Seligman, SVP, Publisher (Fiction), publishes many bestselling authors who have consistently won the country's top awards including Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Hay, Alistair MacLeod, Anne Michaels, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Jane Urquhart, and Guy Vanderhaeghe. The select poetry list includes Margaret Atwood, Roo Borson, Dionne Brand, Leonard Cohen, Lorna Crozier and Don McKay. And in non-fiction the house represents Michael Coren, Ken Dryden, Christopher Hitchens, Mel Hurtig, Ezra Levant, Brian Mulroney, Bob Rae, Jeffrey Simpson and a host of other notables.

In 1991 M&S acquired Hurtig Publishers Ltd. of Edmonton. The widely acclaimed Canadian Encyclopedia and The Junior Encyclopedia of Canada are among the works which M&S inherited in that transaction. One of the by-products of the Hurtig takeover was the publication in late 1991 of The Canadian Encyclopedia on CD-ROM, M&S's first computer-based title, followed in 1993 by a multimedia version, and in 1995 the spectacular new version, The Canadian Encyclopedia Plus which became the most successful reference CD-ROM ever produced in Canada, followed by updated and expanded editions, including the fully bilingual version of The 2000 Canadian Encyclopedia World Edition. In summary, these CD-ROM editions represent an invaluable treasure chest of Canadian information, bequeathed since 2000 to Historica, which continues to update them and make them available electronically to all Canadians.

Fall '99 saw the publication of the first single-volume complete edition of The Canadian Encyclopedia, at 2640 pages arguably the largest trade book ever published in Canada. Obviously, it marked an important moment in Canadian reference work publishing.

In the last days of 1995 M&S bought Tundra, the respected children's book publisher. Tundra's founder, May Cutler, had made the Montreal-based house a force in children's publishing around the world, winning many awards. She sold her company to M&S because she knew the tradition of quality - and the Tundra name - would be continued there.

A similar alliance was formed in January 2000 when Macfarlane Walter & Ross, the much-admired non-fiction publishing house, became part of the McClelland & Stewart team. Jan Walter, assisted by her partners John Macfarlane and Gary Ross, continued to create and edit fine books independently under the MW&R editorial imprint, until spring 2003 when adverse market conditions forced the imprint to close down, with McClelland & Stewart honouring all outstanding contracts.

In June 2000, Avie Bennett startled the world of Canadian publishing by making a gift of the company to the University of Toronto, to take effect on July 1, 2000. As the owner of 75% of the company, the University appoints five of the directors on the seven-person board, the remaining two seats going to Random House, which owns 25% of the shares, and whose services McClelland & Stewart has retained to market, sell, and ship McClelland & Stewart and Tundra books. On July 1, 2000 the company made a minor change in its name to McClelland & Stewart Ltd., and divested itself of the arm devoted to selling agency titles from abroad.

As "the Canadian Publishers" it is natural that the M&S name should be associated with the fine fiction of authors like Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Jane Urquhart, with essays and letters by authors like Robertson Davies and with important works of non-fiction by authors such as Christopher Hitchens and Brian Mulroney. In addition to redesigning the classic New Canadian Library series, McClelland & Stewart launched Emblem Editions as the trade paperback line, and includes fiction and non-fiction in reprint editions, as well as select titles that originate in paperback. M&S takes pride in being the only major trade house in Canada to continue to publish poetry, and is proud of its leading role in dealing with environmental and Native issues, problems in the justice system, Canadian history and other matters of national concern, with books and authors representing every part of Canada.