Sunday School Collection

Sunday School Books: Publishers

Front Cover to Henry Morgan
An example of the typical type of cloth binding used for a Sunday school book. See this example for a typical paper binding.
An example of 19th-century Montreal bookseller's ticket.

As with other Anglican Sunday school libraries, Christ Church's library books embody the social, political and philosophical thoughts of the 19th-century. These books had a great impact on religious and educational mores in Canadian society. All of the books in this collection were cheaply made: they are small, generally 32mo, roughly 14-17 x 9-12 cm in size, with cloth or paper bindings; publishers often bound two to four titles together in one volume. Most of the the books are illustrated, especially those written for a younger audience. The illustrations tend to be be "stock" illustrations, rather than being specially commissioned for the title in question.

As Sunday schools gained in popularity during the 19th-century, publishers responded by producing affordable books en masse. Notably, of course, were the Society for the Propogation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK), and the Religious Tract Society (RTS). Both of these religious societies regularly donated, or provided books at cost to the schools. For example, between 1835 and 1836 the SPCK, within the Montreal District, gave away thirteen Bibles, twenty-two Prayer Books, and 445 books.

Many commercial British publishers also responded to the call for affordable books. Some of the publishers represented in this collection include James Nisbet and Co., T. Nelson and Sons, and William Oliphant and Co.

What makes the Christ Church collection especially interesting is the mix of British and American-published books. American publishers present in this collection include the General Protestant Episcopal Sunday School Union and Church Book Society, The American Tract Society, and the American Sunday School Union.

The cost and time involved to import books from England would have been prohibitive, had many of the books not been donated, or sold at cost by the SPCK and the RTS. In addition, the Canadian Copyright Act of 1814 imposed an ad valorem duty on imported books whose copyrights were issued in the United Kingdom. Thus, Canadian Sunday schools acquired books from both American and English publishers and religious societies. The English editions were meant to ensure that students continue to learn about British institutions and social mores.