100 years of BC books

“Two literary mavericks appreciated on May 22: publisher & author Howard White (left) and bookseller Don Stewart. Details here.” FULL STORY

 

100 years of BC books

April 03rd, 2024

Howard White (at right) has been Western Canada’s most enduring and influential book publisher during the past fifty years. He and his wife Mary have published more than one thousand books from Pender Harbour since 1973.

First, the Whites operated a local newspaper, Peninsula Voice (1970-76). Then, kickstarted by a 1972 LIP grant, White bought an old printing press, taught himself how to run it and printed the inaugural issue of Raincoast Chronicles. His first “trade titles” from his Harbour Publishing imprint were The Dulcimer Tuning Book and Build Your Own Floor Loom.

Eventually, with editor Daniel Francis, Howard White produced the Encyclopedia of British Columbia in 1999. Having saved and acquired Douglas & McIntyre in 2013, the ever affable “Howie” has somehow managed to write and edit more than fifteen books of his own while winning the Leacock Medal for Humour. He was accorded the Order of Canada in 2007. He has also received the Order of BC, the Canadian Historical Association’s Career Award for Regional History, the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Victoria.

It is conceivable that White knows and understands the province of British Columbia as a psychological and social and political construct more deeply than anyone on the planet. Spotlight averse, he has agreed to venture to the Big Smoke (Vancouver) where he will be celebrated along with Don Stewart on May 22nd, at the same time and venue, in downtown Vancouver.

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Don Stewart in his bookstore.

Thanks to Don Stewart, MacLeod’s Books on West Pender is irreplaceable in the literary landscape of Vancouver. He bought it in 1973 from Van Andruss after it was founded ten years earlier by its namesake Don MacLeod. Fast forward to 2011 and Maclean’s magazine celebrated it as “The Last Great Bookshop.”

After it was moved to 100-block West Hastings in the early 1980s, disaster struck in 1983 when the adjacent socialist bookstore was firebombed. Don lost most of his stock but re-opened at the current location on Pender at Richards.

MacLeod’s Books is renowned nationally and internationally for its seeming chaos with books stacked everywhere. Don estimates that there are 100,000 books. A well-known panorama photo by Stan Douglas MacLeod’s (2006), often on display at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler and at major international art galleries, does a good job of capturing the feel of the store. As any customer quickly finds out, Don knows where every book is.

Amazingly, the store functions equally well for dealers looking for first and rare editions and manuscripts and budget-conscious customers looking for paperback reading copies. “It’s very important to offer books at all levels to people,” Don said in a Vancouver Sun profile by John Mackie.

Gentrification and the inexorable movement of the DTES street scene have resulted in reduced foot traffic; lease uncertainties have been near-fatal. But MacLeod’s Books remains. A bizarre anomaly for downtown developers, it miraculously endures as a Mecca for serious bibliophiles of BC.

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B.C. book lovers are invited to celebrate Howie and Don on May 22, from 5 pm to 9 pm, a block away from MacLeod’s Books, at SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings, Vancouver.

Tickets available via Evenbrite. (Only 150 tickets will be sold.)

TICKETS: https://tinyurl.com/2d5prdjp

 

One Response to “100 years of BC books”

  1. Ann Cowan says:

    This is a great initiative at just the right time. I can’t imagine a gathering closer to the heart of BC’s special place in literate culture.
    An opportunity to recharge one’s faith in books and the community who make and sell them.

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