Both Hands

A Life of Lorne Pierce of Ryerson Press

By (author) Sandra Campbell
Categories: Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Hardcover : 9780773541160, 672 pages, June 2013


Editor and publisher, workaholic and romantic, idealist and pioneer, Lorne Pierce once described his editorial desk as "an altar at which I serve - the entire cultural life of Canada. " Pierce laboured at his altar between 1920 and 1960 as the driving force behind Ryerson Press, the leading publisher of Canadian works during the mid-twentieth century. In Both Hands, Sandra Campbell captures the inimitable cultural role of a remarkable man whose work paved the way for the creation of a national identity. Both Hands delves into the encounters, trials, and triumphs that inspired Pierce's vision of cultural nationalism - from his rural upbringing in eastern Ontario, to the philosophical ideals he acquired at Queen's University, to his service as a teacher, a Methodist preacher, and a military man during the First World War. All these experiences coalesced in his work at Ryerson Press - then Canada's largest publishing house - even as he battled lupus and deafness to make his mark on the country's literary scene. Campbell situates this unflinching look into Pierce's personal and public life within the context of Canadian society, detailing his relationships with major figures such as the Group of Seven, Harold Innis, Donald Creighton, E. J. Pratt, the modernist Montreal poets, Northrop Frye, and many others. Set against the rich backdrop of Canada's early literary and artistic heritage, Both Hands vividly presents the life and work of an impresario of literary, historical, and art publishing of indisputable influence throughout the country's cultural milieus.


“In this ambitious and sometimes surprising biography, Sandra Campbell explores the astoundingly prolific career of one of the most significant figures in Canadian literature of the early twentieth century. After reading this book … it will be impossible

"This is the definitive book about a major figure in the history of Canadian publishing. In the 20th century three great houses bestrode the national scene - McClelland & Stewart under Jack McClelland, Macmillan of Canada under John Gray, and Ryerson Press under Lorne Pierce. As an editor-publisher, I was delighted to see that nothing changes. Special pleasure comes from seeing that Lorne Pierce published poets from Bliss Carman all the way to my friend Al Purdy, and that we both edited the great humorist Eric Nicol. What a remarkable life Pierce had, his deafness and ill health conquered by Methodist grit. " Douglas Gibson, former publisher and author of Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others

"When he died in 1961, Pierce was hailed as 'the most influential man of letters in Canada. ' With Both Hands, Campbell gives him renewed life, at a time in Canadian publishing when we are very much in need of his brand of vision and integrity. " Merilyn Simonds, Kingston Whig-Standard

“In her introduction, Campbell notes that “the biography of a pack-rat workaholic publisher with a finger in every Canadian cultural pie over four decades is a challenge to research and write. ” She deserves our thanks and congratulations for having met th

"A principled idealist and fervent nationalist, Lorne Pierce was perhaps the most influential book publisher of early twentieth-century Canada. Sandra Campbell combines empathy for her subject with a deep understanding of his life and times. Informed by prodigious research, enormous erudition, and welcome humour, Both Hands argues convincingly for a new appreciation of Pierce's importance as a maker of Canadian culture. It is a great pleasure to read. " Roy MacSkimming, author of The Perilous Trade: Publishing Canada's Writers