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SENÉCAL, EUSÈBE, printer, publisher, and newspaper owner; b. 7 Oct. 1833 in Boucherville, Lower Canada, son of Jean-Baptiste Senécal, an innkeeper, and Marie Huet; m. 17 May 1853 Marguerite Labelle in Montreal, and they had several children; d. there 30 Jan. 1902.

Eusèbe Senécal studied with the Brothers of the Christian Schools and, in 1848–49, at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal. He learned the art of typography in the printing-shop of La Minerve under the direction of Ludger Duvernay*. His brothers Chrysologue and Joseph-André were printers. Chrysologue was a partner of François Daniel in Senécal et Daniel, which printed La Patrie (1855–57) and various short-lived publications including Le Bulletin commercial and L’Union. In 1857 the firm won the contract for printing the Journal de l’Instruction publique and its English equivalent, the Journal of Education for Lower Canada. Its printing-shop was sold at auction the following year, “in payment for a lawsuit brought by a worker.” The elder brother of Chrysologue and Eusèbe, Jean-Baptiste, who was a saddler by trade, bought back the equipment. Senécal et Daniel remained in business until 1859, but the brothers went into partnership to form Senécal et Frères, about which nothing is known except that it reportedly published a periodical entitled L’Omnibus in 1860.

Eusèbe was a printer and publisher by the time he married in 1853. In 1860 he began publishing in his own name. Over the years his shop on Rue Saint-Vincent became one of the largest such houses in Montreal. His company brought out the Journal of Education for Lower Canada and the Journal de l’Instruction publique, succeeding Senécal et Daniel, and from 1861 to 1873 L’Écho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial. As the Sulpicians’ official medium for the promotion of good reading-material, the latter periodical contained the lectures of the Cabinet de Lecture Paroissial and the essays of the Cercle Littéraire. Denis-Henri Senécal, a young lawyer and a cousin of Eusèbe, was an active member of the circle. Along with several of L’Écho’s contributors, he was in charge of the Revue canadienne, which Eusèbe created in 1864 and owned until 1874.

Senécal’s customers in the government and the Sulpician order would remain loyal to him for more than 30 years. He lost to Léger Brousseau* the contract for the Journal de l’Instruction publique in 1871 and that for the Journal of Education for Lower Canada the following year, but he won the contract for Le Journal d’agriculture illustré in 1879 and retained it until 1897. While L’Écho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial ceased publication in 1873, Senécal was commissioned to bring out a number of works by the Sulpicians as well as the lectures of the Cercle Ville-Marie from 1885 to 1900.

Beginning in 1865, Senécal published literary works; some of these had appeared in the Revue canadienne, for example Jacques et Marie: souvenir d’un peuple dispersé (1866), by Napoléon Bourassa*, and Une de perdue, deux de trouvées (1874), by Georges de Boucherville*. He had started bidding to acquire manuscripts in the hope of stimulating Canadian literature. In the foreword to Boucherville’s novel he said: “Yielding to urgent entreaties from the many friends of our literature, I have decided to publish a two-volume duodecimo edition of this interesting novel. . . . I must have . . . been motivated by a desire to pursue the goal I set for myself, to bring out a series of volumes of Canadian literature, if I can get the same encouragement for this undertaking as I flatter myself on having received until now.” A great many intellectuals seem to have enjoyed his support, especially during the period when he handled the Revue canadienne.

There were many changes in the early 1880s. Senécal launched La Thémis (1879–84), a monthly review of legislation and jurisprudence devoted to theoretical study of law, and he published works on Canadian law. In 1881 the company changed its name. Making partners of his sons who had come of age, Senécal founded the printing and publishing company of Eusèbe Senécal et Fils. It would continue to publish dozens of the books and bound booklets on agriculture, religion, education, and law that had accounted for his success.

In 1871 Senécal had launched in Montreal the first volume of the Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes . . . , by Abbé Cyprien Tanguay. Six more volumes appeared from 1886 to 1890. This monumental work presented unusual typographical difficulties and required a large investment that seems to have been ruinous.

In addition to these large contracts, Senécal’s shops did all the jobbing for the city, producing leaflets, labels, forms, registers, and calling cards. A bindery was added. Senécal also did printing for a number of other publishers and booksellers. Jean-Baptiste Rolland*, Joseph-Alfred Langlais, and Cadieux et Derome’s Librairie Saint-Joseph were among his customers. For example, he was to print Cadieux et Derome’s famous “Bibliothèque religieuse et nationale” (1884–91), a collection of books to be awarded as prizes.

In 1892 Senécal became the owner and publisher of La Minerve. He had come full circle, since he had started out in the printing-shops of this newspaper. But it was also the beginning of the end. Now 60, he had just lost his wife and was suffering set-backs. Financial difficulties related to changes in the newspaper world and perhaps also to the publication of the Dictionnaire généalogique forced him to stop publishing La Minerve in 1897. The 1890s saw many political changes. The Liberals had come to power in both Quebec and Ottawa. The advent of these new regimes would not be helpful to a publisher whose Conservative sympathies were well known, and it may have been the chief reason he lost the contract for publishing Le Journal de l’agriculture. In any case in 1897 Eusèbe Senécal et Fils was replaced by Eusèbe Senécal et Compagnie.

During its final years, the company built up its market among doctors by publishing L’Union médicale du Canada from 1897 to 1900, and a number of studies by Montreal medical specialists and psychiatrists. One of the last works to come off its presses was Les soirées du château de Ramezay (1900), which inaugurated the poetic revival of the turn of the century by making known the poems of Émile Nelligan*, Arthur de Bussières, Albert Lozeau*, and others. A family enterprise, it would not outlast its founder. After Eusèbe Senécal died in 1902, not a trace remained of a company that had, been one of the largest and most prolific in Montreal during the second half of the 19th century.

Jacques Michon

ANQ-M, CE1-22, 7 oct. 1833; CE1-51, 17 mai 1853. NA, MG 24, B14. La Presse, 31 janv. 1902: 1, 24. L.-A. Bélisle, Références biographiques, CanadaQuébec (5v., Montréal, 1978), 5: 75. Les catéchismes au Québec, 1702–1963, sous la direction de Raymond Brodeur (Sainte-Foy, Qué., et Paris, 1990). Dictionnaire national des Canadiens français (1608–1760) (3v., Montréal, 1965). Encyclopedia of music in Canada (Kallmann et al.). Hamel et al., DALFAN. J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise. D. M. Hayne et Marcel Tirol, Bibliographie critique du roman canadien-français, 1837–1900 ([Québec et Toronto], 1968). Marcel Lajeunesse, Les sulpiciens et la vie culturelle à Montréal au XIXe siècle (Montréal, 1982). François Landry, “La ‘Bibliothèque religieuse et nationale,’ 1882–1912 (Cadieux & Derome),” Documentation et bibliothèques (Montréal), 36 (1990): 99–104. [Télesphore Saint-Pierre], Histoire du commerce canadien-français de Montréal, 1535–1893 (Montréal, 1894), 120.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Jacques Michon, “SENÉCAL, EUSÈBE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/senecal_eusebe_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/senecal_eusebe_13E.html
Author of Article: Jacques Michon
Title of Article: SENÉCAL, EUSÈBE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 2013
Access Date: August 23, 2014