Another Favorite Publisher: Firefly Books

Firefly Books Logo

Not long ago I commented on the remarkable Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre.   Another nifty Canadian publisher worth taking note of is Firefly Books, which emphasizes non-fiction.  Aside from McClelland & Stewart, a major Canadian publisher that is a division of Random House, it seems that when it comes to high quality books from Canada one of these two outfits is sure to have had a hand in such works.  While Richmond Hill, Ontario-based Firefly produces a high number of science, nature and “how to” type books, the titles that stand out for me are those focused on art and photography.  Their volumes in those two areas are among the best on their subject matters.

Pictured above is a random selection from the Firefly catalog.  Coincidentally, I have four of these and each is very well done for its subject matter.   Of these, David Silcox’s The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, is the subject of an earlier post here, and I plan to comment on Pat & Baiba Morrow’s The Yukon and George Walker’s Graphic Witness — each mesmerizing in its own way — in the next few weeks.

Although it’s generally not fair to judge a book by its cover, the graphic elements of book design can play a role in pulling in a prospective reader.  So it’s a minor complaint that the website for Firefly Books, unfortunately, does not do its catalog justice in this respect.  When searching for a book a listing of titles is initially displayed and one must click on the title to get more information and only then get a visual on a given title.  Of course, this is a non issue once you’ve located the book for which you were searching or already have it in your hands

Douglas & McIntyre: An Exceptional Indy Publisher

Although several volumes produced by the Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre have sat upon my shelves for quite awhile,   I had not focused on this independent publishing powerhouse until I recently posted some thoughts about art in the Pacific Northwest and pondered the coincidence that two art books (Shore, Forest and Beyond and Mythic Beings) mentioned then were from D&M.  I also count Inuksuit (noted in O’Canada Blog on January 31, 2011) and Arctic Eden  among my books from D&M that contain beautiful images of special aspects of the Canadian physical and cultural landscape.

Exploring their catalog of titles, what strikes me are the diverse range and high quality — there are many award wimmers here — of Douglas & McIntyre’s art-themed volumes and its literary fiction and non-fiction.   Its affiliated imprint, Greystone Books, is also quite good.  I’ve added several to my wish list.   Some of the titles that stood out from my browsing include those below.

Yukon Art in Asheville


“Lake Tarfu, Yukon”

Several weeks ago my wife and I took a weekend trip to Asheville, NC, a small mountain city full of delightful shops, galleries and eateries.  Whenever I travel somewhere I am usually alert for a handful of things that are almost always on my personal radar, among them things with a connection to Canada.  So, as I was out on an early morning jog (great time for thinking, by the way) through the compact downtown area, I wondered what bits of Canadiana might surface on this trip.  Lo and behold, within the next few minutes a large painting of an exotic mountain scene caught my eye in the large display window of the Blue Spiral 1 Gallery.   I paused for a minute to consider further the bright image and at that point realized the painting was part of gallery’s then featured exhibition, called “The Golden Circle”, of works by North Carolina artist Robert Johnson documenting his travels through Southeast Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

Johnson compiled notes and sketches in his travel journals — pages from which were on display in the gallery — of the local fauna and flora in much the manner that a 19th-century amateur naturalist would have done.  From these he then prepared vivid acrylic and oil paintings of many of the notable sites he encountered on his journey through this remote territory in Canada’s far northwest.  His style immediately brought to mind the somewhat whimsical and primitive style of French Post-Impressionist artist Henri Rousseau.

“Bear Island, Lake Atlin, Yukon”

“North of Chilkat Pass, Yukon”

Link to Robert Johnson’s artwork at Blue Spiral 1:

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