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Original title:  Photograph John Lovell, Montreal, QC, 1865 William Notman (1826-1891) 1865, 19th century Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process 8 x 5 cm Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. I-19133.1 © McCord Museum Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)

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LOVELL, JOHN, printer and publisher; b. 4 Aug. 1810 in Bandon (Republic of Ireland), son of Robert Lovell, farmer, and Jane Beasly; m. 20 Sept. 1849 in Montreal Sarah Kurczyn, daughter of a wealthy merchant, and they had six sons and six daughters, two of whom died in childhood; d. 1 July 1893 in Montreal.

John Lovell’s family farmed near Bandon until 1820 when they immigrated to Lower Canada and took up a farm near Montreal. One of the eldest of ten children, John hated farming, and in 1823 he was apprenticed to the printer Edward Vernon Sparhawk, owner and editor of the Canadian Times and Weekly Literary and Political Recorder of Montreal. Lovell found employment at the Montreal Gazette from 1824 and then worked at Quebec; when cholera broke out in 1832 he returned to Montreal where he became foreman in the printing office of LAmi du peuple, de lordre et des lois. By 1836 he was in partnership with Donald McDonald, and that year they established a tory newspaper, the Montreal Daily Transcript, the first penny paper in Lower Canada. The firm of Lovell and McDonald did job, newspaper, and book printing; among the newspapers it printed was Léon Gosselin*’s Le Populaire, which, in the highly charged political atmosphere of the 1830s, was boycotted by the nationalist Patriote party. After rebellion broke out in late 1837 Lovell closed his office and joined the Royal Montreal Cavalry. Prior to the battle of Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu he and Sydney Robert Bellingham volunteered to trek through enemy territory under cover of darkness to bring British reinforcements from Fort Chambly, and they successfully carried out the mission.

In April 1838 Lovell and McDonald dissolved their partnership, McDonald retaining the Montreal Daily Transcript while Lovell continued as a job printer. In 1844 he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law John Gibson. The business, located on Rue Saint-Nicolas, expanded. In 1843 Lovell had acquired a locally manufactured press. Four years later he imported the first steam-press into Lower Canada, and he had to have it guarded against angry pressmen. The same year he issued a catalogue of types and ornaments, one of the earliest to appear in the colony.

Many of the books and magazines that British North Americans read, however, were imported from Britain or, to a lesser extent, from France, and to a very great extent from the United: States in cheap, pirated editions. Local authors occasionally had books published, but Lovell and Gibson had realized that magazines would have to be the medium for nurturing a Canadian literature, and in 1838 they launched the Literary Garland. The first successful literary magazine in British North America, it was also the first to pay its contributors. Gibson, who assumed the editorial duties, serialized the War of 1812 . . . by John Richardson* and the first sketches of Roughing it in the bush . . . by Susanna Moodie [Strickland*]. Much of the magazine’s poetry, fiction, and essays was by local writers such as Charles Sangster, Adam Hood Burwell*, Rosanna Eleanora Leprohon [Mullins*], Eliza Lanesford Gushing [Foster*], and her sister Harriet Vaughan Cheney. Charles Sauvageau*, among others, contributed musical compositions, and even the illustrations were by local artists. Book reviews dealt with the works of popular British and American writers of the day: Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Kingsley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Makepeace Thackeray. In 1850 an ailing Gibson passed the editorship to Harriet Cheney and Eliza Gushing. His death in October dealt a serious blow to literary activity in English in the province. The Literary Garland folded shortly after, unable to sustain the competition of the highly popular American Harpers New Monthly Magazine. Meanwhile, in 1847 Lovell and Gibson had launched another innovation, Snow Drop; or, Juvenile Magazine (Montreal and Toronto), the first children’s magazine in the colony. Edited by Eliza Gushing, it included local and foreign contributions until its demise in 1853.

In addition to publishing literary periodicals Lovell and Gibson printed or published an increasing number of titles on a broadening range of subjects. Illustrative of this compass are Standish O’Grady*’s The emigrant, a poem, in four cantos (1841), Nicolas-Benjamin Doucet*’s Fundamental principles of the laws of Canada . . . (1841–43), the last three volumes of Robert Christie*’s A history of the late province of Lower Canada . . . (1848–55), and Jean-Baptiste Labelle’s Répertoire de lorganiste . . . (1851). Lovell and Gibson had begun including music in the pages of the Literary Garland. Concentrating on Canadian composers, Lovell would publish music books and sheet music, as well as a few “simple airs” in periodicals. In the 1850s and 1860s he attempted to expand the market for Canadian trade books. In 1858 he commissioned Ebenezer Clemo* to write Canadian homes; or the mystery solved, a Christmas tale (1858), which was issued in 30,000 English copies and 20,000 French copies, but the advertising campaign did not pay off. Most Canadian books were cheaply printed and bound and were no match for popular British and American novels. In 1864 Lovell made a signal contribution to the advancement of Canadian poetry by offering its first anthology, Selections from Canadian poets . . . , edited by Edward Hartley Dewart*, which included established writers such as Alexander McLachlan, Susanna Moodie, and Charles Sangster as well as newer poets such as Pamelia Sarah Vining. Original Canadian religious works became increasingly numerous in the 1850s and 1860s as several denominations experienced revival; among those published by Lovell were writings by the Jewish hazan Abraham de Sola* and the Roman Catholic missionaries Joseph Marcoux* and Jean-André Cuoq.

Lovell also supported the flowering of French Canadian literature in the 1840s and early 1850s by printing such works as Michel Bibaud*’s Lencyclopédie canadienne (1842–43), James Huston*’s Le répertoire national . . . (1848–50), and the second edition of François-Xavier Garneau*’s Histoire du Canada . . . (1852). In 1859 he published a seriously flawed translation of the Histoire made by Andrew Bell* and then republished it with only minor corrections in 1862. All these literary ventures by Lovell were by no means isolated; after 1840 writers of both languages strove to develop a national literature. Some, such as Richardson, Moodie, Garneau, Catharine Parr Traill [Strickland], and Thomas Chandler Haliburton*, achieved an international reputation. This development was made possible by a growing emphasis in society on education, in conjunction with the appearance of literary and scientific societies and mechanics’ institutes. The standard of literacy and political awareness rose, providing the basis for a healthy bookselling and publishing trade.

Literary publication was a risky business, however, and Lovell protected himself in a number of ways. The financial risk was usually assumed by others, and his firm counted on the printing business to offset any losses on the publication side. It printed newspapers, magazines, directories, and government publications in both languages. In 1849 a printing contract with the Legislative Assembly earned the company £6,226. In 1850, when the Province of Canada reorganized its printing arrangements, Lovell won a ten-year contract. The government’s practice of moving its seat between Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec obliged Lovell to establish offices in those places. Thus by 1851 Lovell and Gibson, as the firm was still called despite Gibson’s death, had an establishment in Toronto, where Lovell had temporarily taken up residence to supervise the government contract. That year, 41 employees worked there, in addition to apprentices, and 30 maintained operations in Montreal. By 1853 he was operating a Quebec office, Lovell and Lamoureux, in partnership with Pierre Lamoureux.

Lovell also tried to protect himself by supporting tariff measures. In 1858 the provincial government established the first set of protective tariffs, aimed at raising revenues and nurturing local manufactures. Lovell backed this move in a letter to the Montreal Gazette which later formed part of the pamphlet Canadian manufactures (Montreal, n.d.). “All we say is, Put us on an equality with the United States,” he wrote. “They will not alter their policy. We must remodel ours; otherwise it will be impossible for Canada ever to boast of extensive publishing-houses, or to bring out the talent that is latent in the country.” However, the outcry that resulted from the establishment of tariffs in the province, as well as in Britain and the United States, forced the government in 1859 to rescind or reduce many of the duties on books.

Lovell also shrewdly tried to protect himself from losses by specializing in directories and gazetteers, a field in which he faced no foreign competition. During the 1840s and 1850s he printed the Montreal directory for Robert Walter Stuart Mackay* and then for Mackay’s widow, Christina. In 1863–64 he took over compilation of the work, and in 1868–69 ownership and publication. Meanwhile, in 1851 he had printed and published Mackay’s Canada directory. Six years later he published his own Canada directory, a work of 1,152 pages, and in 1871 he issued a major production, the 2,562-page Lovells Canadian dominion directory which, according to Bellingham, had been his “devouring ambition.” The costs of compiling these works were substantial, however, and Lovell lost $12,000 on the former and a large sum – estimated by Bellingham at $80,000 – on the latter. To produce the 1871 directory he received assistance of various kinds, including credit of $15,000 for paper from Alexander Buntin, $8,000 for type and printing materials from Charles Theodore Palsgrave, and free passes from the railways for the 50 agents who collected information. In addition government departments offered services, newspapers gave free advertising space, and the Canadian Express Company delivered the massive work free to newspapers and on easy terms to subscribers. Despite this assistance Lovell was obliged to borrow heavily from Hugh Allan*, who profited from the situation by obtaining nine per cent interest and free printing services for his companies.

From the late 1850s Lovell also specialized in school textbooks. Between 1842 and 1853 all the colonies in British North America had revamped their education system to establish common schools, encourage teacher training, and develop uniform textbooks. By 1860 Lovell had transformed his several textbooks into the Lovell’s Series of School Books, the first set of textbooks written for Canadian schools. They were designed to replace not only the Irish National Series then in use, but in particular American books, which emphasized American culture at the expense of the institutions of British North America. Lovell’s first title was The geography and history of British America, and of other colonies of the empire . . . , which had been published in 1857 by Maclear and Company [see Thomas Maclear] and printed by Lovell and Gibson. Its author was John George Hodgins*, who, as a protégé of Egerton Ryerson* and deputy superintendent of education in Upper Canada, became one of Lovell’s textbook advisers. Other contributors to the series were John William Dawson, John Douglas Borthwick, and John Herbert Sangster. The topics varied greatly and included grammar, history, arithmetic, natural philosophy, agriculture, and maps. Lovell was widely praised and the texts were used up until World War I. In the beginning Lovell was aided by the fact that he was the only Canadian publisher listed in the depository catalogue of textbooks authorized for use in Upper Canadian schools. From 1859 schools that did not order from the catalogue did not receive grants. After confederation, however, Lovell’s dominance of the schoolbook market was broken by James Campbell, William James Gage*, and Copp, Clark and Company [see William Walter Copp], among others.

As another way of compensating for losses on Canadian publications, Lovell sought to issue Canadian-made editions of popular foreign books, and he first tried, in the 1850s, to obtain a licence to reprint Robert Sullivan’s textbook The spelling-book superseded. . . . Lovell offered £50 as royalty, but Sullivan refused; Lovell therefore imported the pirated American edition (which he could have printed for two-thirds the cost) and satisfied copyright by paying a duty of 12½ per cent to the British copyright owner. Lovell brooded on this anomaly for some years before he made his next move. The attempts to secure rights for legitimate Canadian reprint editions took much of his time and energy for the rest of his life. The Canadian printer-publishers argued that they should supply their market and, in time, even export to the American market, just as American publishers had been doing for decades in Canada. After 1867 Lovell and his colleagues added that Canadian autonomy reinforced this right. Lovell persuaded his friend Sir John Rose*, the quasi-official representative of Canada in London, to pressure the British government either to amend its Foreign Reprints Act of 1847 or to allow Canadian printers to obtain special permits for reprinting British copyrights. The Americans successfully countered these efforts and resisted all attempts by Canadian publishers to bring Canadian-made books into their market. Most British authors supported the Americans because they did not want special licences for printing or copyright protection to be dependent upon the place of a book’s manufacture. In addition, publishers such as Thomas Longman did not want colonials to reprint their books. Thus an uneasy alliance was formed between British publishers and authors and American publishers to keep Canadian publishing from becoming competitive at home or abroad. Efforts by Lovell and his colleagues to have copyright legislation in Canada and in Britain amended in their favour inevitably failed for one of two reasons. First, Canada’s status after 1867 was still semi-colonial so that Canadian laws considered incompatible with British copyright legislation were disallowed. Secondly, the British Board of Trade believed that “the Canadian question should be considered in connection with any negotiations conducted with the United States government,” and the Americans did not want changes.

By 1869, convinced that pirated American reprints of British copyrights were entering Canada in ever-increasing quantities, Lovell decided to dramatize the problem by proceeding the American way: he pirated Foul play by Dion Boucicault and Charles Reade. To reprint a British copyright within the empire without permission was illegal, however, and Lovell was duly threatened with a court case. In addition he acquired the reputation of being a pirate. The following year the English novelist William Wilkie Collins authorized serialization of his novel Man and wife in the Toronto Globe and its issue in a Canadian copyright edition by Hunter, Rose and Company [see George Maclean Rose]. In 1872 Lovell travelled to England to try to negotiate a similar arrangement with Longman. A protectionist copyright act having been passed in Canada that year, he and Graeme Mercer Adam* were also attempting to lobby the British government and British authors to change their view of Canadian publishers. In A letter to Sir John Rose, bart., K.C.M.G., on the Canadian copyright question they asserted that the British had handed over the Canadian market to the Americans. Perhaps because of his reputation as a pirate, perhaps because of his personality, Lovell failed on both counts, and he blamed British arrogance and inflexibility on Longman’s part. In 1873, the Canada Copyright Act was declared ultra vires by the British government. Before this decision, however, Lovell had decided to stereotype and print British works in the United States and import them into Canada as pirated American reprints upon payment of the 12 per cent duty, as stipulated under the Foreign Reprints Act, which would remain in force in Canada until 1894. In 1872–73, therefore, he had built a modern printing-plant just inside American territory at Rouses Point, N.Y., and moved his family. They lived there for two and a half years. Both the British and the Americans were upset by this “sharp practice” but, unexpectedly, Lovell’s plant soon had more legitimate orders within the United States than it could handle.

By 1866 Lovell’s Canadian operations had been employing 150 people and running 12 steam-presses. After 1872, although the Montreal office continued to print Lovell’s own publications and those of other publishers, the printing of best-sellers was done increasingly by the Lake Champlain Press at Rouses Point. It served as the starting-point for Lovell’s eldest son, John Wurtele. In 1876, with his father and Adam, he established Lovell, Adam and Company in New York to reprint British copyrights in inexpensive editions. They were soon joined by Francis L. Wesson, Lovell’s son-in-law and a son of the Massachusetts gun manufacturer; the firm then became Lovell, Adam, Wesson and Company. It issued William Kirby*’s The golden dog in 1877 but because the novel was not registered in Canada, Kirby had no protection there and received no Canadian royalties. John Wurtele left the firm that year to establish his own house and to launch a career that would reach spectacular heights before ending in bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Lovell himself had formed the Lovell Printing and Publishing Company in 1874 with a capital of $300,000; he provided one-third of the amount through the firm’s buildings in Montreal and Rouses Point, the equipment, and the copyrights. Lovell was the provisional manager and the provisional directors included Bellingham, who later became president, John Wurtele, and another son, Robert Kurczyn.

The construction of the plant at Rouses Point notwithstanding, Lovell continued to agitate for a change in Canadian and British copyright legislation. He and other printers sought to persuade the government to pass protectionist laws that would make Canadian manufacture a condition of copyright and give protection to foreign authors on the same basis as their government gave protection to Canadian authors. The copyright act of 1872 had been abortive. An act of 1875, in the framing of which Lovell seems to have had little or no part, was a compromise; it required printing, publishing, and registration in Canada for protection but contained loopholes to protect the many American and British copyrights that did not fulfil those conditions. Chief among these loopholes was the imperial copyright act of 1842, which gave protection to books published elsewhere in the empire. For several years in the late 1870s publishers such as Belford Brothers [see Charles Belford*] and John Ross Robertson* took advantage of the uncertainty about the protection of British copyrights to pirate many books. Lovell remained a protectionist manufacturer, tying the growth of the book trade and a national literature to the principle of local manufacture of books. However, in 1885 the Berne Convention removed the place of manufacture as a condition for protection, and in 1891 an American copyright law effectively killed piracy and made the British Foreign Reprints Act of 1847 a dead letter.

Meanwhile, in 1884 the Lovell Printing and Publishing Company had become John Lovell and Son. The following year fire destroyed the original frame office of 1842, and it was replaced by a stone building. Between 1888 and 1890 the firm embarked on a Canadian fiction series that eventually embraced 60 titles published in monthly instalments. By 1893, however, it was concentrating on textbooks, gazetteers, directories, street maps, guidebooks, and blank books, which, with the partial exception of textbooks, did not face foreign competition.

Lovell and his wife, Sarah Kurczyn, enjoyed a long and happy marriage, during 34 years of which Sarah presided over a large, richly furnished home on Rue Sainte-Catherine. Bellingham, an intimate friend, described her as “a woman of commanding presence and great intellectual power as an educationalist.” In 1877 she opened a school for young ladies of 15 to 20 years of age, and among the lecturers there were Borthwick and William Osler*. The Lovells’ circle of friends included Thomas D’Arcy McGee*, Sir John A. Macdonald, and bishops George Jehoshaphat Mountain*, Francis Fulford*, William Bennett Bond*, Ignace Bourget*, and Édouard-Charles Fabre, as well as Susanna and John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie*, Charles Sangster, and Rosanna Eleanora Leprohon, who had been Sarah’s school friend. At their large dining-room table politics were discussed, the employees fêted every New Year’s Day, and classes taught by Sarah. The family enjoyed reading and music; Sarah and some of the children sang at St George’s Church and later at Christ Church Cathedral, which was just across the street. Lovell was a devout Anglican and had been a warden and member of Trinity Chapel during the incumbency of the Reverend Mark Willoughby*. Later a member of St George’s Church, Lovell contributed generously to the construction of Christ Church Cathedral, and he held a pew there for many years. He was prominent in the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society and took an interest in the work of the Grey Nuns, even giving them a small hand-press and a font of type so that they could do their own printing.

John Lovell died on 1 July 1893. Many of his contemporaries referred to his strength of will and generosity. Educators and authors had paid tribute to his support for literature, and a number of businessmen in the book trade, such as John Creighton* and Charles-Odilon Beauchemin*, had got their start with him. Above all Lovell had fought – not always successfully – for the protection and growth of a Canadian publishing industry. Throughout his career, while promoting the interests of others, he had shrewdly protected and advanced his own so that he left a prosperous business for his son Robert Kurczyn to carry on. A contemporary, Frederick William Terrill, summing up Lovell, stated that he had “presented a happy combination of a clear head with a kind heart.”

George L. Parker

John Lovell is the author of the preface to the Canada directory, 1871; Statement of the tenders for the printing and stationery required by the corporation of the city of Montreal, for six years (Montreal, 1881); John Lovell and the Bank of Montreal ([Montreal, 1892]); and, in collaboration with G. M. Adam, A letter to Sir John Rose, bart., K.C.M.G., on the Canadian copyright question (London, n.d.). He also contributed an article to Jacob DeWitt et al., Canadian manufactures, to the people of Canada (Montreal, 1858).

ANQ-M, CE1-63, 4 juill. 1893; CR1-1/102, no.9: 438–50; Index des sépultures non-catholiques, 1836–75. AO, MS 542; MU 469–87. CRCCF, P 144, F.-X. Garneau à John Lovell, 13, 26 mai 1862. McGill Univ. Arch., MG 1022. MTRL, Canadian booksellers’ catalogues, nos.52–56, 84 (John Lovell, catalogues, Montreal, 1859–73). NA, MG 24, D16: 32276–78, 73491–94. Private arch., R. W. Lovell (Montreal), Lovell family papers. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1869, no.11. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1851, app.DD. “The copyright movement in Canada,” PublishersWeekly (New York), 16 Feb. 1889. “The copyright question,” Books and Notions (Toronto), 8 (October 1892): 6. “John Lovell’s printing office,” PublishersWeekly, 30 Jan. 1873. Sarah Lovely Reminiscences of seventy years (Montreal, 1908). “The printers’ dinner,” Books and Notions, 6 (July 1890). Susanna [Strickland] Moodie, Susanna Moodie: letters of a lifetime, ed. C. [P. A.] Ballstadt et al. (Toronto, 1985), 77–81. Canada Bookseller (Toronto), February 1872. Evening Telegram (Toronto), 23 Jan. 1889. Gazette (Montreal), 3 Sept. 1858, 23 Oct. 1863, 5 Jan. 1872, 3 July 1893. Globe, 14 May 1874, 4 Oct. 1884. Mackenzies Weekly Message (Toronto), 20 Nov. 1857. Montreal Daily Star, 3 July 1893. Montreal Transcript, 24 April 1838, 1 May 1865. Canadian encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Canadiana. J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, vols. 1–2. Montreal directory, 1842–43, 1862–63, 1866–67. Wallace, Macmillan dict. Atherton, Montreal, 3: 59. J. D. Borthwick, History of the diocese of Montreal, 1850–1910 (Montreal, 1910). Maria Calderisi Bryce, “John Lovell (1810–93): Montreal music printer and publisher,” Musical Canada: words and music honouring Helmut Kallmann, ed. John Beckwith and F. A. Hall (Toronto, 1988), 79–96. E. A. Collard, Montreal yesterdays (Toronto, 1962), 179–80. Davin, Irishman in Canada, 592–93. G. L. Parker, The beginnings of the book trade in Canada (Toronto, 1985). Andrew Spedon, Rambles among the Blue-Noses (Montreal, 1862), 541. M. B. Stern, Imprints on history: book publishers and American frontiers (Bloomington, Ind., 1956), 259–89; Publishers for mass entertainment in nineteenth century America (Boston, 1980), 201. Cyrus Thomas, History of the counties of Argenteuil, Que., and Prescott, Ont., from the earliest settlement to the present (Montreal, 1896; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1981), 599. E. A. Collard, “When Morgan’s came to St. Catherine Street,” Gazette, 7 May 1955: 6. M. J. Edwards, “The case of Canadian Homes,” Canadian Literature (Vancouver), no.81 (summer 1979): 147–54. “John Lovell & Son, Limited,” Industrial Canada (Toronto), 38 (May 1967): 187–88. “Mrs. John Lovell dead, was born in Montreal eighty-eight years ago,” Gazette, 25 June 1917: 4. “Prominent Montreal lady passes away,” Montreal Daily Star, 25 June 1917: 2.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

George L. Parker, “LOVELL, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 3, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lovell_john_12E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lovell_john_12E.html
Author of Article:   George L. Parker
Title of Article:   LOVELL, JOHN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   December 3, 2023