Hitting the Mother Lode

Hitting the Mother Lode

Hitting the Mother Lode

With every book I add to my NCL collection there becomes one less book out there in the world that I can find. Or, to be more precise, that I have use for.

As time passes, I must realize that each time I go out in search of books, and my collections increases, there will be times when finding a single book will feel like a boon.

Although I have not reached that point yet, there have been times where my searches have been fruitless. In fact, finding two or more books each time I go on a search is becoming rare.

That is why it was quite surprising when I decided to brave the -20 degree weather this week in search of new additions and found not two, not five, not ten, but thirty-eight books.

Everywhere I went, every thrift shop and used book store, I found books. Not just a few either, I found dozens. My only explanation is that a few people unloaded their book collections and those collections included many NCL books.

Of the thirty-eight books, twenty-six were from the NCL. The others are from the NCL’s main competitors. All will be added to their respective locations on the site over the coming weeks.

A Mystery Cover in Series One

I recently moved. That meant putting hundreds of books into boxes including all of my NCL collection. After the move was over and the new apartment’s furniture had found its place, it was time to re-shelve all the books I had packed the previous weeks. During this re-emergence, I came across an anomaly in the Series One books I had amassed.

Morley Callaghan’s Such Is My Beloved (#2 in the series) has two different author portraits on the front cover. I was quite surprised as I have had these books for years and never noticed it before. In my collection I have six copies of the book and all have the same portrait except one. Here is an image of the more common front cover:

Such Is My Beloved Earlier Author Portrait

Five of the six copies I own have the above author portrait. I should mention that Frank Newfeld is the artist. He created all the portrait images for the Series One covers. Now the sixth book does not, it has the portrait of Morley Callaghan you see on the covers of the two other books Callaghan has in Series One. That is, More Joy In Heaven (#17) and They Shall Inherit the Earth (#33). Here is the portrait I am speaking of:

Such Is My Beloved Later Author Portrait

Such Is My Beloved Later Author Portrait

After seeing both portraits, a question comes to mind, especially if you are not familiar with what Mr. Callaghan looked like in person (he died in 1990). We can assume the portrait of the man at an older age with the pipe is Callaghan, otherwise the people at M&S made one grand mistake having that portrait on three books in Series One. A quick look at Callaghan’s photo on his author’s page here on the website shows M&S got it right:

A Morley Callaghan Comparison

At least to me the two images are quite similar but I will let the reader decide for him or herself.

But the question I was mentioning that comes to mind is, Who is the person that is represented in the more common portrait drawing? The first thing that popped into my mind was that it was M&S making another one of their blunders putting the wrong author portrait on the front cover. I checked all the other portraits on the Series One books and this portrait did not show up on any of the 67 books. So who is this person? Then I reasoned that perhaps Newfeld created two images of Morley Callaghan, one of him in his youth and the other in middle-age. I went looking for a photo of Mr. Callaghan in his younger years and found one. I compared it to the Newfeld portrait and yes, it seems the two images look similar. But again, I will let the reader decide. Here is the comparison:

A Younger Morley Comparison

Now that the mystery of the portraits is solved, it leads to the question as to why the Series One book changed covers. What was the motivation? Looking at the reprint data on the copyright pages of the books, the Morley Callaghan portrait in middle-age was the later cover showing up at the end of the Series One publishing time period in 1969. Perhaps Newfeld withdrew the rights to the younger Callaghan image (if Newfeld had copyright over it anyway). Perhaps M&S lost the hard copy or negative of the image so switched it for the middle-aged portrait. I guess we will never know, but it does seems strange as to why they would change it. Perhaps, and this is my guess, they just made a mistake thinking the middle-aged image was the proper one to use when they began printing the books in 1969. That image was the one used for the other two Callaghan books in the series. It seems the most reasonable and simplest explanation. And the simplest answer is usually the right answer.

400 and Counting…

400 Books and Counting...

400 Books and Counting…

I decided to do a bit of counting to see where I am in this journey to collect at least one copy of every NCL book in existence. That is, every title in each series issued by M&S over the history of the library. According to my calculations, there are a total of 196 titles in the main series, 13 in the “O” Series and 17 in the “W” series. That is 226 titles all together.

The 226 titles is not the total number of books I will collect as I am also collecting these books in every series (or, to put it another way, every different book cover). If I was to total that number, according to my best estimate from many hours of research, it would come to approximately 680 different book covers.

We must understand that it is impossible to know exactly how many covers there are, but here is what my research and collecting has resulted in:

In Series One there are 68 titles in the main series, 5 in the “O” series and 7 in the “W” series for a total of 80 books. I have found one variation that I believe is part of the “O” series of Series One, but it could be an early version of the “O” series of Series Two.

That makes 81 covers in total for Series One. There could be other variations, but I have not seen or heard of any.

In Series Two, the main series numbering increases up to 152. So we know that there are at least 84 titles (#69 to #152). Add to that 62 titles I have found between the numbers #1 to #68, and that makes 146 titles we know exist. The titles that I haven’t found between #1 and #68 are as follows:

#30 – Each Man’s Son
#32 – White Narcissus
#36 – Grain
#47 – Remember Me
#55 – Tiger Dunlop’s Upper Canada
#63 – The Harbor Master

I have also found 5 variations of titles in the main series which brings the total to 151. There is also 3 penguin-style black covered variations that came out during the time Series Two was issued and a play tie-in for Sarah Binks that was issued as well. That increases the total to 155.

There are 12 titles in the “O” series and 10 in the “W” series that we know exist. I have found copies of 6 of the 7 “W” series titles that were published in Series One (W1 to W7) in Series Two covers (only W4 – Frederick Philip Grove I haven’t found), which brings the total to 183. I have found 2 variations in the “O” series of Series Two bringing the final total of books in Series Two to 185.

That makes in total for Series One and Two 266 book covers.

In Series Three the numbering increased to #196. So we know that #153 to #196 exist or 43 titles. Of the numbers #1 to #152, I have found 84 titles that I know exist. Missing titles are as follows:

#007 – The Last Barrier and Other Stories
#011 – Habitant Poems
#013 – Earth and High Heaven
#016 – The Stepsure Letters
#021 – The Second Scroll
#024 – The Rich Man
#026 – The Town Below
#028 – My Discovery of England
#030 – Each Man’s Son
#032 – White Narcissus
#034 – Turvey
#035 – Nonsense Novels
#039 – Judith Hearne
#040 – The Cashier
#044 – Sarah Binks
#047 – Remember Me
#051 – The Backwoods of Canada
#052 – Music at the Close
#057 – Short Circuits
#060 – Further Foolishness
#061 – Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack
#062 – The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories
#063 – The Harbor Master
#064 – The Canadian Settler’s Guide
#067 – Behind the Beyond
#081 – John Sutherland: Essays, Controversies and Poems
#082 – Peace Shall Destroy Many
#083 – A Voice From The Attic
#085 – Roger Sudden
#086 – Mist on the River
#088 – The Deserter
#090 – Allegro
#094 – In Search of Myself
#095 – Feast of Stephen
#097 – The Wooden Sword
#098 – Pride’s Fancy
#100 – Above Ground
#101 – New Priest in Conception Bay
#102 – The Flying Years
#103 – Wind Without Rain
#104 – Tête Blanche
#106 – Canadians of Old
#107 – Headwaters of Canadian Literature
#110 – The Heart of the Ancient Wood
#113 – Dust Over the City
#114 – Our Daily Bread
#115 – The Canadian Novel in the Twentieth Century
#116 – The Viking Heart
#117 – Down the Long Table
#121 – The Disinherited
#125 – A Candle to Light The Sun
#128 – I Am Mary Dunne
#131 – The Manawaka World of Margaret Laurence
#132 – Consider Her Ways
#133 – His Majesty’s Yankees
#134 – Jean Rivard
#135 – Bogle Corbet
#136 – A Choice of Enemies
#137 – Responses and Evaluations: Essays on Canada
#139 – The Cruelest Month
#140 – The Atonement of Ashley Morden
#141 – Wild Animals I Have Known
#142 – Scann
#143 – On Poetry and Poets
#147 – High Bright Buggy Wheels
#148 – Big Lonely
#150 – God’s Sparrows
#152 – The Great Comic Book Heroes and Other Essays

If we total, that is 127 covers from the main series in Series Three. I have found two covers for The Double Hook (the regular one and a Canadian Classics version). That makes 128 found covers. I must assume that some of the titles missing from above exist, but until I find them we can’t be sure. As for the “O” series, I have found 5 covers. The missing ones are as follows:

O2 – Masks of Fiction
O3 – Masks of Poetry
O6 – The Poems of Earle Birney
O8 – Nineteenth-Century Narrative Poems
O10 – Poems of Al Purdy
O11 – The Damnation of Vancouver
O12 – The Selected Poems of Irving Layton

Adding the 5 “O” series covers makes 133 total in Series Three. The “W” series was discontinued in Series Two.

So the total known covers for Series One, Two and Three is 399.

In Series Four the numbering was discontinued. In my searches I have found 105 covers (which includes an “O” series addition called Canadian Poetry: From the Beginnings Through the First World War). It replaces all the other “O” series books as none were printed in Series Four.

So the total covers for Series One to Four is 504.

For Series Five I have found 64 titles, Series Six I have found 19 covers in paperback form and 80 in trade paperback form. I have also found 13 in Print On Demand form (called NCL Essentials).

The final total of covers for all series counts to 680. Although I’m not confident this is a complete number, I am quite sure that it is very close.

So far, I have put up 400 books I have in my possession. Those are 391 in the main listings and the nine I own put in the Errors and Variations page (that were not needed to be entered in the main listings).

I have found five more books recently that will be added shortly. That makes 405 of the 680 that I know exist which are in my collection. That is just under 60% completed in seventeen months.

If anyone owns books I have listed as missing in this blog post, or has any variations other than the ones listed on the Variations and Errors page, or has books in Series Four, Five and Six not shown in the Book Covers Project section, let me know in a comment below. I will contact you in order to get images of these books.

Until next time,

The Ignorant Intellectual.

***Update Feb. 15th, 2015***

Four books can be added bringing the total to 684 known covers in the NCL

The four books are:

1) Series Four’s Where Nests the Water Hen (I found this book a couple days ago)
2) Series One’s Such Is My Beloved (I found an alternate cover for the book while looking through my collection, see A Mystery Cover in Series One for more details)
3) Series Three’s The Canadian Settler’s Guide (#64)
4) Series Three’s Wild Animals I have Known (#141)

I would like to thank Aaron Brown from over at The Canadian Book Review for sending me the covers for the latter two books which I added to The Book Covers Project, Series Three Page.

The Winter Slowdown

I’m not sure about you, but for me winter is a time for hibernation. There are people who look to winter as a time for recreation. They skate or ski, toboggan of snowshoe, but I’m not one of them. The less outdoors I am the better. One can’t avoid soldiering outside be it for work or errands, but to intentionally brave the -30 degree weather in order to have some fun has lost its appeal once I passed 40.

My want of staying indoors also affects my hobbies and past-times. I turn from venturing out to find new books to catching up on the new year’s films and television shows and at more relaxing and contemplative times, to reading a book. I still manage to pick up a few books over the winter months but mostly I am taking a time-out from book collecting until the spring when walks outdoors become pleasant again.

Be that as it may, I am continuing my project to have a clean image of every cover of every book in the NCL. I have been for months now working on the Series Two images, but I have also added Series One and Series Three to my endeavors. Here is a good example of the before and after images I have been working on:

The Tin Flute Pre-Improvement

The Tin Flute Pre-Improvement

The Tin Flute Post-Improvement

The Tin Flute Post-Improvement

As you can see the image to the right looks much better. There are literally hundreds of images to work on so I am in no rush. As each image is completed I add it to all the appropriate pages. I have also increased each clean image’s size when you select it from the Book Cover’s Project section of the website. I have also made the front cover image located on the book page for the image clickable. As more and more images are cleaned up, more of the appropriate sections and pages will look better.

Until the next blog post,

The Ignorant Intellectual.

Post-Moving Organization

NCL Collection Organized

NCL Collection Organized

Unless you own your own house, moving is a part of life. For me, it seems I move every couple of years. Personal relationships change and you need a smaller place, kids arrive and that former comfortable space becomes too cramped. Roommates, wives, children, family, friends enter and exit your domicile, financial circumstances change, and a multitude of other reasons can prompt you to pack up and find a new address.

For myself, this time, it was a need for a larger area. As a result, I now have a den, a man cave, to put all my man things. Baseball cards, games, and especially books. My NCL collection has moved uptown. No longer is it related to being stacked on the floor of a hallway. It has its own real estate on shelves in bookcases where it more properly belongs.

Book life is now a bit easier. There are less tumbling books, better organization, and easier access to my NCL collection.

NCL Collection Organized

NCL Collection Organized

Where Have You Gone Ignorant Intellectual?

It has been a few weeks since I have written a post so I thought I would inform readers of the reasons for my absence. To be more precise, it hasn’t been so much of an absence as more of a “working behind the scenes” scenario. Back in mid-November I attended two book fairs (unfortunately I forgot to take pictures), which resulted in a large number of book-finds. If I include all the books I found in the NCL’s competitors as well as the NCL itself, the books numbered over forty. For the last twenty days I scanned all of these books, then prepared them all for upload onto the site. The preparations mostly included cleaning the images so that they would be presentable in The Book Covers Project section of the website. These improvements are quite time-consuming; in the period of a few hours per image.

After I cleaned up the images, I added most of the new titles to the site. You may have noticed if you visited and looked on the right-side widget where I list all the new additions I have added. After posting the new books, I then checked to see if they were already represented in The Book Covers Project pages and if not, I added them there. I also checked the author’s pages to see if any of the books had biographies which were needed on those pages.

Son of a Smaller Hero Variation

Son of a Smaller Hero Variation

A few of the books I found were of the variation type, and I found one book with an error. These I added to the Variations & Errors page.

Lord Nelson Tavern Numbering Error

Lord Nelson Tavern Numbering Error

Because I now had multiple variation books in Series Two to compare, I also updated the Series Two page to include a run-down of the changes that the series went through over its decade of printing. I will be doing the same for Series Three in the near future. The Series Two and Series Three books were not uniform through their printing histories, there were subtle and not so subtle changes as time went forward. These changes have been noted for Series Two, Series Three will be taken care of in the near future once I gather together all of the information.

I mentioned in my last post that I added the Clarke Irwin Paperback series to The Competition section of the site. It is the last dedicated series of books that I know of which competed with the NCL that had not been included on this site. But saying that, there were other paperbacks which, although not a dedicated series, also competed for sales with the NCL. Two in particular are Paperjacks and Penguin.

Paperjacks - Surfacing

Paperjacks – Surfacing

The Paperjacks and Penguin books had their place in publishing Canadian books which meant they could be considered as competitors to the NCL. M&S, the publishers of the NCL, also competed with itself with its Seal/Bantam books. But it all depends on whether you think mass market paperbacks aimed at general readers, rather than the academics which the NCL’s main purpose was, can be considered in competition with one another. Unfortunately because these books had no dedicated series attached to them, it is quite difficult or near impossible to know how many different titles are in existence. Because of this I am a bit hesitant to include them on the site.

Canadian Fiction Sudies #2

Canadian Fiction Sudies #2

I also found a series of books that could be seen as a competitor to the NCL’s “W” series although its main purpose was to be a Canadian version of Coles Notes not a dedicated book on a particular Canadian writer. The series was called the Canadian Fiction Studies Series. Its purpose was to be a companion book to a great Canadian novel explaining the novel’s significance in a literary and historical perspective. But the books also paid attention to the novel’s author, which is where it could be seen as a competitor to the NCL’s “W” series. For this reason I will probably add them in the near future.

If anyone knows of any other series of books that competed with the NCL that has gone unnoticed by myself and this website, let me know with a comment below.

Welcoming Clarke Irwin Canadian Paperback Series

Clarke Irwin Canadian Paperback Series Collage

Clarke Irwin Canadian Paperback Series Collage

#1 Leaven of Malice

#1 Leaven of Malice

The Clarke Irwin Paperback Series commenced publication in 1963 and had its demise in 1970. There is an argument on whether this series was a direct competitor to the NCL as most of the 38* books in the series were not books of fiction. The series did not restrict its titles to novels and short stories as the bulk of the NCL did. It published art books, autobiographies, histories, and the occasional novel and play.

But saying that it did somewhat compete with the NCL since the company did publish these books with an idea on the educational market in which the NCL concentrated back in the decades after WWII. Robertson Davies had his first publication with Clarke Irwin. Other titles such as A Gentlewoman of Upper Canada by Anne Langton brought to mind Susanna Moodie, Catherine Parr Traill and Anna Brownell Jameson.

Clarke Irwin Paperbacks #3 A Gentlewoman of Upper Canada

#3 A Gentlewoman of Upper Canada

Clarke Irwin’s biggest sales came in textbooks, but these paperbacks also made their imprint on Canadians and therefore deserve a place in The Competition section of the website.

*at present, I know of 38 titles in the series, if this increases I will make the appropriate changes.

A Deeper Study of Series Two

Series One #1 Over Prairie Trails

Series One #1 Over Prairie Trails

With Series One it is easy to know the complete list of titles. Once we know where the list ends we know the number of titles and can search for them until the library is complete. Just to remind everyone there are sixty-eight titles in the main series, five in the “O” series and four in the “W” series.

Now when we put Series One behind us and concentrate on Series Two, things become much more complicated. Series Two expands the library up to number 152 in the main series, up to twelve in the “O” series and seventeen in the “W” series.

But the expansion isn’t the complication. If we just take the main series as our concentration to make an explanation easier, the complication is that when M&S started publishing Series Two they did not leave the titles from Series One behind. They put out many of those books as well with Series Two covers.

Series Two #69 Last Leaves

Series Two #69 Last Leaves

We know with as much certainty as possible that numbers 69 to 152 exist as they are the ones first published in Series Two. But since we find titles from the first 68 books in the library in Series Two covers we must assume that there might be a Series Two cover for every book in Series One.

Since M&S is a business it is not to difficult to guess that perhaps some of the worse-selling titles from Series One were not reproduced for Series Two. Or perhaps their warehouse were still filled with certain titles in Series One waiting to be sent to retail outlets when Series Three started to be published and therefore Series Two covers were skipped. Whatever the reasons, we can’t be one-hundred per cent sure that there exists a Series Two book for the numbers 1-68.

After looking for all the books in Series Two in book stores, thrift shops and online sellers for the past two years, I have found a cover for every title from the numbers 1-68 except for the following:

NCL 30 – Each Man’s Son by Hugh MacLennan
NCL 32 – White Narcissus by Raymond Knister
NCL 36 – Grain by Robert J. C. Stead
NCL 47 – Remember Me by Edward Meade
NCL 55 – Tiger Dunlop’s Upper Canada by William Dunlop
NCL 63 – The Harbor Master by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

Laurentian Library #11 Each Man's Son

Laurentian Library #11 Each Man’s Son

As you can see all the missing titles except for Each Man’s Son are books of a more obscure nature in the library and it is not to difficult to think that perhaps M&S dropped these titles when issuing the Series Two books.

As for Each Man’s Son, the explanation could be that M&S lost the rights to publish the book from Hugh MacLennan (he holds the copyright). This makes sense when we look at the book’s publishing history in paperback. It was published first in the NCL in the mid-sixties, but in the early 70s, we see it appear on Macmillan’s roster of paperbacks (Laurentian Library #11), and then in the late 80s under their Macmillan Paperbacks series (#33).

Macmillan Paperbacks #33 Each Man's Son

Macmillan Paperbacks #33 Each Man’s Son

We see it return to the NCL when Series Five is published. This most likely means that MacLennan, after the Series One books were issued returned the publishing rights to Macmillan, the publisher who published the original edition in hard cover, for distribution in the 70s and 80s. When the Macmillan Paperbacks series ran their course, M&S got the rights back and returned the book to the NCL catalogue.

The other five titles have less history. If we take them individually they play out as follows:

NCL 32 – White Narcissus by Raymond Knister

After Series One, White Narcissus disappears from all my searches until Series Four.

NCL 36 – Grain by Robert J. C. Stead

After Series One, Grain disappears from all my searches until Series Three.

NCL 47 – Remember Me by Edward Meade

After Series One, Remember Me disappears from all my searches and does not appear in the NCL again.

NCL 55 – Tiger Dunlop’s Upper Canada by William Dunlop

After Series One, Tiger Dunlop’s Upper Canada disappears from all my searches until Series Three.

NCL 63 – The Harbor Master by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

After Series One, The Harbour Master disappears from all my searches and doesn’t appear in the NCL again.

McClelland & Stewart logo

McClelland & Stewart logo

Now using a bit of logic we must assume that when M&S publishes a title they would continue to publish it until they don’t. And once they don’t they stop forever. In other words, a publisher doesn’t publish a book, stop publishing it, and then publish it again. With rare exceptions this is usually the case. The reason for this is that as long as the book sells they will continue to publish it, once it stops selling they stop issuing it. No publisher who wants to stay in business will continue to publish a book that doesn’t sell, or stop then start to publish it again when they know it won’t sell.

NCL Series Three Logo

NCL Series Three Logo

If we take this piece of logic, and use it properly we can have a good idea when each of the titles in the NCL stops being issued. It will also tell us that when we find a book in a later series but not in a previous one, we can guess that the book exists and we just haven’t found it yet.

With that in mind, Remember Me and The Harbour Master seem most likely to be dropped after Series One.

The other four should be available in Series Two as they exist is either Series Three or Series Four that I have found.

I ask all the readers of this blog whether they have copies of any of these books in Series Two. It will help me complete The Book Covers Project for Series Two. If you do leave a comment below and I will contact you.

I also am missing the following covers that I know exist:

NCL 72 – The Curé of St. Philippe by Francis William Grey
NCL 79 – The Incomparable Atuk by Mordecai Richler
NCL 89 – Antoinette de Mirecourt by Rosanna Leprohon
NCL 120 – Windflower by Gabrielle Roy
NCL 135 – Bogle Corbet by John Galt
NCL 140 – The Atonement of Ashley Morden by Fred Bodsworth
NCL 142 – Scann by Robert Harlow
NCL 147 – High Bright Buggy Wheels by Luella Creighton
NCL 151 – The Outlander by Germaine Guèvremont

Any help would be appreciated.

The Ignorant Intellectual.

Ten and Counting…

Purchases, Nov. 8th, 2014

Purchases, Nov. 8th, 2014

It is sometimes both strange and serindipitous how book collecting works. It has been longer than two years in which I have been collecting the NCL and never have I come across The Stone Angel in Series One. It was quite frustrating since the title is one of the more common books in the library in the other five series.

My frustration motivated me to write a post on it titled The Stone Angel and Street of Riches, Series One No-Shows, in order to see if readers have experienced the same aggravation.

The responses that followed indicated that I was mostly alone in my mild misery. Once I learned that others had a book that I could not find it led me to feelings of envy and jealousy. Didn’t the book collecting gods know that I had an important website, a website that was more important than amazon, you tube, and ebay, that is at least for the six Canadians that collect the NCL?

It was raining outside yet I decided that an outing to my local thrift shops was past due since they had not had the pleasure of my company for over a week.

The shelves at these cheap outlets had been lacking in NCL books the past few weeks. I was not confident that this trip would be fruitful. In order to continue adding books to the website I was forced to visit a few used book stores in the recent past and pay a premium for the books I found.

I pushed open the door to the first thrift store I visited. I went over to the shelves and began browsing. It was not looking good. After scanning over half the bookcases, ignoring the three Series Two copies of The Stone Angel, a Series Two and Series Four copy of As For Me and My House, and a Series Three copy of The Tin Flute, I had found absolutely nothing that wasn’t in my collection already.

Then, like some flashing light out of the darkness, I saw it. It was faded, it could not be deemed in pristine shape, it was lying next to a group of inconsequential forgotten copies of pop culture books from the 1970s and 1980s, but it was there, it existed. Resting uncomfortably alongside a copy of The Six Million Dollar Man and How to Solve the Rubik’s Cube, as if her companions were mere commoners and she the Queen of England, was a Series One copy of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel.

The Stone Angel, Series One Book Cover

The Stone Angel, Series One Book Cover

I widened my elbows, took and aggressive stance, occupied a larger amount of space, no one was going to rush past me to grab the treasure I had been searching for for the last twenty-five months. I reached out and captured it. It was mine. I went to the counter and paid my twenty-five cents, and left the store with a childish grin on my face.

The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories, Series One Book Cover

The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories, Series One Book Cover

With The Stone Angel and The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories (which I found at a used book store the day before), I now had two more titles missing from my collection of Series One books. It had been a few months since I had found a Series One book and in two days I brought the count of missing Series One books from twelve down to ten. It also seemed to open a floodgate. After visiting other thrift shops and then a book fair on the weekend, I found twenty-one more missing titles from every series except six.

The image of what I found is shown at the top of this post.




Titles Sorely Missing From the NCL

Titles Sorely Missing Mock Books Collage

Titles Sorely Missing Mock Books Collage

When M&S first began publishing the NCL back in 1957-58 its raison-d’etre was to make quality paperback reprints of important books written about Canada or by Canadian authors. It was meant to give students and professors the means to learn about Canadian literature, to teach and participate in CanLit courses in post-secondary and secondary courses and to start a critical analysis of Canadian literature. But when Malcolm Ross left his editorship of the library in 1978, its course slowly changed direction. Numbering titles in the library was eventually dropped, books that sold little disappeared, and the main purpose of the library slid more toward book sales rather than historical merit.

Now that the NCL is firmly on this path, it raises a pertinent question. Why has the library not published more of the books it chose not to back during the Ross years? Now that the library is not concentrating on books of an historical importance why has it not published every great book produced about Canada and books written by great Canadian writers? One of the criticisms of the NCL was its list of titles. These complaints were usually from Canadian readers who didn’t understand the NCL’s purpose back pre-1978 and thought the library was meant to create a canon of Canadian literature. Now that sales are more of a motivating factor of publication, the restrictions to historical significance no longer applies and the NCL could actually become the series that shows off the greatest and most respected books in Canadian literature.

It has been over thirty years since the directional change occurred so you would figure the NCL would have reached this goal by now. When looking over the books added since Series Four started (the series when the numbering was dropped and the library moved more towards a selling perspective) it has added many titles that could be considered the best of what Canada has to offer. Books like Anne of Green Gables, Who Has Seen the Wind, Two Solitudes, Man Descending, Running in the Family, and Surfacing show that the NCL knows what canonical Canadian literature is. But still there are too many titles missing that could lead most Canadians to think that if they purchased every title from the latest publishing list of the NCL they would have every great book from Canadian literature, or at least most of them.

With that in mind, here are some titles that would need to be added in order for the NCL to come closer to becoming the library that represents a complete, or close to complete, canon of CanLit:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When speaking of Atwood’s greatest novel, there is always and argument. But what is never argued is that The Handmaid’s Tale is an equal if not greater book than Surfacing or The Edible Woman, both of which have made the library.

Lost in the Barrens Mock Series Five Book

Lost in the Barrens Mock Series Five Book

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

How is it that one of the greatest adventure stories for youth ever written in Canada has not entered the NCL? With Anne of Green Gables and the Emily books finding a place, I don’t see why Mowat can’t also. It is one of the most obvious holes in the NCL. There are also many other books by this distinguished author that could easily be added. What about Curse of the Viking Grave, Never Cry Wolf, or People of the Deer?

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

I’m not sure why Munro’s greatest book has not been included yet. It has been published for forty-three years now and is one of the greatest short story cycles ever written. No Love Lost is there, why not Lives of Girls and Women?

The Deptford Trilogy Mock Series Five Book

The Deptford Trilogy Mock Series Five Book

The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies

If the trilogy would take up too many pages for one book then like the Emily books by L. M. Montgomery, the three novels could be put in the NCL as three individual books (that is, Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders). Now that Penguin owns M&S (Penguin has published these books in the past) there seems no reason that the books couldn’t enter the NCL in the near future.

Generation X by Douglas Copeland

I wonder if the unconventional size of this book is one reason it has not been included in the NCL. It would be strange to read it in paperback form. It also may be too recent for inclusion as it was published in 1991. But saying that, we can at least agree that no Douglas Copeland books in the NCL is a big hole.

Also should be included:

  • Kamouraska by Anne Hebert
  • The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
  • Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
  • The Studhorse Man by Robert Kroetsch
  • Obasan by Joy Kagawa
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Within the next twenty years these books should be added as well if they hold the esteem they have garnered since their publication:

  • Away by Jane Urquhart
  • De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage
  • Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  • Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci
  • The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
  • Whale Music by Paul Quarrington
  • What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • The Book of Secrets by M. G. Vassanji
  • The Cure for Death by Lightning Gail Anderson-Dargatz
In the Skin of a Lion Mock Series Five Book

In the Skin of a Lion Mock Series Five Book

It would be interesting to know what books other readers of the NCL think are good examples of obvious gaps that the library has. Perhaps The Collected Works of Billy the Kid or In the Skin of a Lion should be included, or more of the Anne books (Anne of Avonlea or Anne of the Island), or perhaps the other Mowat books mentioned previously.

Perhaps some readers wish the NCL would return more to its original purpose, or at least expand on the earlier writers in our history. Books that might come to mind could be The Sky Pilot (1899) by Ralph Connor, The Woman Who Did (1895) by Grant Allen, or The Measure of the Rule (1907) by Robert Barr.