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University of Toronto Press

· University Presses,Fine Book Collecting,Atlas,Geography,Halifax

One thing I have found over my years in the book world is that university presses produce very high-quality books.

Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the oldest university press in the world. It is also the Queen's Printer. Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and its printing history dates back to the 1480s. Having been officially granted the legal right to print books by decree in 1586, it is the second oldest university press.

In the United States, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of California, and many, many more have their presses. Similar in Canada. Somewhat unique is a joint university press.

The McGill–Queen's University Press (MQUP) is a joint venture between McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and Queen's University at Kingston in Kingston, Ontario.

This musing is focused on the University of Toronto Press. Authors, artists, photographers often sell, donate, bequeath their work to universities which is why you will see that the works of an individual are often printed by the same university press. And this is certainly the case for the works of Yousuf Karsh. This is where we will start.

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Portraits of Greatness, Yousuf Karsh, University of Toronto Press, 1959.

Yousuf Karsh, (1908 – 2002) was an Armenian-Canadian photographer known for his portraits of notable individuals. He has been described as one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century. His 1941 photo of Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, brought him prominence. The photo was taken on December 30, 1941 in the chamber of the Speaker of the House of Commons in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa after Churchill delivered a speech on World War II to the Canadian members of the parliament. The photo, which according to “The Economist” is the "most reproduced portrait in the history of photography" and has been described as one of the "most iconic portraits ever shot". This photo is included in the book as well as one taken in 1956. Churchill is the only person to have two portraits included in this book. The Hemingway photo is another world-famous photo. This book contains 96 portraits selected, with commentary, by Karsh.

A couple of notes about the signed copy we had.

Loosely inserted is a folded 2 page document that provides the intricate details of the special paper, inks, binding and printing process used in producing this magnificent book. It was printed by Enschede in Haatlem, Holland, a 250 year old printing house. The portraits have a soft, lush look – they are amazing. The book was designed so that a particular portrait could be removed without damaging the book. (I shudder at the thought!)

This book was sold for US$350 and was the first book we shipped to France – just in time for Christmas. I am sure the gift recipient was quite delighted.

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The University of Toronto Press does have an area of speciality – cartography. And the rest of the featured books fall into that category.

Ontario’s History in Maps; R. Louis Gentilcore & C. Grant Head; with a cartobibliographical essay by Joan Winearls; published for the Ontario Historical Studies Series; University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo London; 1984.

From the blurb – “The authors have selected nearly three hundred maps, which, combined with an ample explanatory text and informative captions, present a unique graphic history of Ontario from its discovery by European explorers to the present. Military road maps, maps of canals and railroads, highway maps, and maps illustrating the planning and development of urban areas show vividly how the people of Ontario have imposed intricate patterns of control and use on a vast land. Approximately half the maps are in full colour.”

A note about the copy we had.

This book is one of the special “University of Toronto Alumni Edition” volumes – “In collaboration with the University of Toronto Alumni Association the publishers of “Ontario’s History in Maps” have issued this specially bound edition which includes the illuminated map of the University of Toronto. (laid-in). The edition is limited to five hundred number copies, of which this is number 33. Signed by J. Johnston, President, University of Toronto Alumni Association.

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North of 50° - An Atlas of Far Northern Ontario; Royal Commission on the Northern Environment, J. E. J. Fahlgren, Commissioner; Cartography by The Department of Geography, University of Toronto, under the direction of Geoffrey Matthews, Chief Cartographer; published for the Royal Commission on the Northern Environment on behalf of the Government of Ontario by University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo London, 1985.

From the blurb – “The vast area of Ontario, north of the most northerly transcontinental railway holds only 30,000 people but extends over 500,000 square kilometres, about half the area of the province. It lies within the world’s southernmost projection of the Boreal forest and Subarctic zones. This atlas shows features of the area that must be taken into account by those making decisions about future development. It contains 54 full-colour plates and more than 200 maps. The Commission was formed in response to the activities of a multinational pulp-and-paper company in this environmentally and culturally vulnerable area. The company’s mill at Dryden had already contaminated the Wabigoon-English-Winnipeg river system with mercury, contributing greatly to the economic and social collapse of two Indian settlements downstream. The Commission’s recommendations are intended to ensure that whatever development occurs in the area does not take place at the expense of its environment or without the involvement of all groups affected.”
This book was developed for a specific non-retail purpose and hence copies are very scarce.

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Historical Atlas of Canada: Volume 1 – From the Beginning to 1800; Volume 2 – The Land Transformed 1800 – 1891; Volume 3 – Addressing the Twentieth Century; Geoffrey J. Matthews, Cartographer/Designer; various editors; University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo London, 1987, 1993, 1990.

From the blurb – “In three magnificent volumes, the Historical Atlas of Canada traces the development of Canada and its peoples from prehistoric millennia to the middle of the twentieth century. The largest cartographic project ever undertaken in Canada, it represents the work of highly accomplished cartographers and a wide range of scholars from across the country. From their collective expertise emerges an exciting new vision of Canada’s past – a fascinating story told in unforgettable images.”

Note that volume two was the last book published. Here are snippets of praise for volumes 1 and 3 as printed on the back of the dust jacket: “The reader is likely to return again and again with wonder and gratitude to these gorgeous pages – Toronto Globe and Mail; What sets the work in a class of its own is the astonishingly diverse areas that it addresses – Maclean’s Magazine; A beautifully designed book, this atlas is an essential contribution to North American history – College & Research Libraries News.”