In the mid-1950s, much Canadian literature was out of print, making it relatively inaccessible to readers, including those studying the subject in schools and universities. When English professor Malcolm Ross approached Toronto publisher Jack McClelland in 1952 to propose a Canadian literary reprint series, it was still the accepted wisdom among publishers that Canadian literature was of insufficient interest to the educational market to merit any great publishing risks. Eventually convinced by Ross that a latent market for Canadian literary reprints did indeed exist, McClelland & Stewart launched the New Canadian Library (NCL) series in 1958, with Ross as its general editor. In 2008, the NCL will celebrate a half-century of publication.
In New Canadian Library, Janet B. Friskney takes the reader through the early history of the NCL series, focusing on the period up to 1978 when Malcolm Ross retired as general editor. A wealth of archival resources, published reviews, and the NCL volumes themselves are used to survey the working relationship between Ross and McClelland, as well as the collaborative participation of those who, through the middle decades of the twentieth century, were committed to studying and nurturing Canada's literary heritage. To place the New Canadian Library in its proper historical context, Friskney examines the simultaneous development of Canadian literary studies as a legitimate area of research and teaching in academe and acknowledges the NCL as a milestone in Canadian publishing history.