Translate

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

William Briggs, Book Steward

Regarding bibliophiles, I have come across the word "steward" in conjunction with collections of fine books. Those privileged enough to own fine, rare books are not only collectors, but stewards of these treasures. They preserve and maintain individual books and viable collections until it is time to transfer both the books and the stewardship to another collector or entity. However, until I came across the Canadian publisher's letterhead below, I had never seen the title of Book Steward formally conferred upon an individual. Meet Rev. William Briggs of Toronto.


I have a batch of business correspondence here between William Briggs of Methodist Book & Publishing House of Toronto and a Mr. John A. Glasby of Canfield, Ontario. Three billheads and the letter comprise about two months of bookselling for Briggs with Mr. Glasby--December 1902 to February 1903. I found Briggs' title with the publishing house on the letterhead along with an interesting book sale for a religious publishing concern.


In the letter, dated February 26th, 1903, Briggs refers to two titles Mr. Glasby is interested in purchasing. Both are secular works, which would appear to run contrary to a publisher of church and religious material. The billheads indicate purchases in keeping with a Methodist publisher. Curious about Briggs selling titles such as Progress of Canada During the 19th Century and the Modern Encyclopedia (in eight volumes), I found an explanation on the site, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online: 
In February 1879, as part of a reorganization of the church's publishing wing in Toronto, the Methodist Book and Publishing House, Briggs was elected book steward, or business manager. The house was then a small bookstore and plant that sold bibles, hymn books, catechisms, commentaries, biographies, and Sunday school books, printed such publications as the Christian Guardian, and did a small amount - two or three titles a year - of original publishing. Under Briggs's leadership, it was to become one of the most important Canadian publishing houses by the end of the century.
Given the ephemeral nature of content on various sites across the Web, and just in case this blog survives the unforeseen demise of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, the complete entry for the book steward William Briggs is copied below for anyone interested in reading further.

BRIGGS, WILLIAM, Methodist minister and publisher; b. 9 Sept. 1836 in Banbridge (Northern Ireland), son of Thomas Briggs and Mary ---; m. 27 Aug. 1868 Rosalie Marian Clarke (d. 1919) in Montreal, and they had a son; d. 5 Nov. 1922 in Port Credit, Ont.
William Briggs was born into a Scottish-Irish family. His mother died when he was six. Around this time the family moved to Liverpool, England, where Briggs was educated at Mount Street Grammar School and Liverpool Collegiate Institute. He subsequently acquired some commercial training, but soon rejected the idea of a business career. According to the Reverend John Saltkill Carroll*, Briggs experienced "an undeniable conversion" in boyhood, and he was soon preaching in and around Liverpool. He immigrated to the Canadas in his early twenties and was introduced into the Canada Conference of the Methodist Church. Received on trial as a lay preacher at Durham (Ormstown), Lower Canada, in 1859, he was ordained into the ministry in 1863. During the next 15 years he served at churches in Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, London, Cobourg, and Belleville.
By the late 1870s Briggs was at the height of a successful ministerial career. In 1876 he had become pastor at the centre of Canadian Methodism: Metropolitan Church in Toronto. Though little is known of his religious or social views, he was a popular preacher, by all accounts one who combined theology with humour and pragmatism. "While others have been best at first, and have gradually degenerated into mere dawdling, goody-goody talkers," one newspaper reported, "Mr. Briggs has gone steadily forward in pulpit power, in broad mental culture, and in general excellence and influence." His administrative abilities had been recognized with appointments as financial secretary (1874) and secretary (1876-77) of the Toronto Conference and chairman of the district (1875).
In February 1879, as part of a reorganization of the church's publishing wing in Toronto, the Methodist Book and Publishing House, Briggs was elected book steward, or business manager. The house was then a small bookstore and plant that sold bibles, hymn books, catechisms, commentaries, biographies, and Sunday school books, printed such publications as the Christian Guardian, and did a small amount - two or three titles a year - of original publishing. Under Briggs's leadership, it was to become one of the most important Canadian publishing houses by the end of the century.
As book steward, Briggs continued to concentrate on church-related material; the output of Sunday school publications, in particular, expanded greatly. However, with the house firmly established as a profitable business and ensconced in new quarters in 1889, his energies turned to the development of a secular list. The number of British and American works that it reprinted rose dramatically; non-religious works appeared under the imprint "William Briggs." The firm also entered the school-textbook market and was active in commercial job printing.
Perhaps most important, Briggs oversaw a significant increase in the number of Canadian publications. By the 1890s his house was publishing about 20 original works each year. Some were about religion or were written by Methodist scholars, among them George John Blewett*, but new subject areas were also developed, especially history, fiction, and poetry. Most of the titles in these areas dealt with Canadian subjects. Indeed, the Methodist Book and Publishing House consciously presented itself as a publisher of Canadian works, frequently emphasizing the patriotic and nation-building aspects of its activities. Briggs was aware that a market was developing for books by Canadian authors and dealing with Canadian themes, and his success lay in his ability to respond to this cultural nationalism. Possessed of sharp critical and commercial faculties and capable of gauging public tastes, Briggs provided opportunities for Canadian authors, offering them encouraging editors such as Edward Samuel Caswell*, and he trained a new generation of publishers. Among the bestsellers to emanate from his house were Songs of a sourdough (1907) by Robert William Service* and Sowing seeds in Danny (1908) by Helen Letitia McClung [Mooney*].
Briggs's involvement with books did not curtail his participation in other areas of the church. He continued to preach and was a delegate to every General Conference between 1874 and 1918. As well, he was a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States (Washington, 1882) and to ecumenical conferences in Washington (1891) and London (1901). Awarded an honorary dd in 1886 by Victoria University in Cobourg, he was a member of its board of regents in 1906-7. He also held positions outside the church: he became a member of Toronto's Board of Trade in 1898 and served terms as president of the Master Printers' and Bookbinders' Association of Toronto.
Accounts of Briggs often mentioned his blend of personal sincerity, geniality, and commercial aggressiveness. In 1880 John Carroll described him physically: medium in height and weight, "oval yet full-faced, with a noticeably well-developed head, beyond the average size." "As a man," Carroll continued, "he is modest without bashfulness; as a Christian, religious without cant; as a preacher, fervent and eloquent without rant; as a platform speaker, ready, pointed, and pertinent; and as a Connexional business man, capable and successful without being fussy and pretentious."
In the last decade of Briggs's stewardship, original publishing declined. He seemed more concerned with the erection of a substantial new building in 1913-15 and the sale of foreign books (agency publishing), a valuable part of the business. The General Conference named him book steward emeritus in 1918, when he was succeeded by the Reverend Samuel Wesley Fallis, and he stepped down altogether in 1919. On 1 July of that year the Methodist Book and Publishing House was renamed Ryerson Press after its founder, Egerton Ryerson*, and in 1920 it began a fresh phase under its new editor, Lorne Albert Pierce*. At a time when religious impulses were expressing themselves more and more in secular form, Briggs had steered the house away from its earlier focus on creed and narrow denominationalism and had been instrumental in its major expansion. As the Bookseller and Stationer (Toronto) commented, during his career as steward the name of William Briggs "became a household word wherever books were read in Canada."
Briggs died in 1922 at his son's home in Port Credit and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. He left an estate worth more than $80,524, a personal testament to the sound business sense of a popular Methodist preacher.
© 2000 University of Toronto/Université Laval

2 comments:

  1. hi i found a paper book mark in mint condition from 1907 (Sunday school) lesson list (William Briggs Wesley bldg Toronto Ont i was wondering if it is worth something in side there is a lessons and golden text for 1907
    i will sent a picture if interested via e-mail when you send your e-mail first thank -you

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Book Steward" has also been the distinctively Methodist title for their bookshop manager in London

    ReplyDelete

Labels

A.S. Burbank (1) Abel Tompkins (1) abraham lincoln (2) ad booklets (1) ad card (2) ad cover (1) ad covers (11) advertising (1) Africa (1) African American (1) Alabama (1) alexandria virginia (1) Alfred Lorentz (2) Alfred Sutro (1) Allentown PA (1) Amalfi (1) american antiquarian society (2) American Book Company (1) American Bookbinders Museum (1) American literature (1) Americana (1) Andrew Hoyem (1) Andy Rooney (1) announcement card (1) announcement cards (1) announcements (1) Anthony Newnham (1) antiquarian book (1) Aoki (1) Arion Press (1) Arthur H. Chase (1) astronaut (1) auction catalogs (1) Australia (1) author (1) author promo (1) authors (1) autographs (1) automobiles (1) Baghdad (1) Baltimore (1) bank drafts (1) Barcelona (1) baseball writer (1) Beatles (1) Berlin (1) Bertha Mahoney (1) Bertha Mahony (1) bibliately (1) bibliomania (1) bibliophilately (1) bibliophiles (4) billhead (6) billheads (4) Billie Burke (1) Birchall's Bookstore (1) Birmingham (1) black culture (1) blotters (1) Bob Dylan (1) Boernicke and Tafel (1) book (2) book caravan (1) Book Club of California (1) book collecting (1) book collector (1) book collectors (3) book design (1) book fairs (2) Book of Kells (1) book shop label (1) book shop labels (1) book shops (15) book signing (1) book store (2) book stores (1) bookbinder (2) bookbinder tickets (2) bookcards (1) booklets (1) bookmark (3) bookmarks (2) bookmobiles (5) Bookplate (4) bookplate design (1) bookplates (15) books (6) bookseller (18) bookseller circus books Maine (1) bookseller labels (5) bookseller labels tickets (1) bookseller reviews (1) booksellers (43) Booksellers' League of New York (1) bookshop (1) Bookshop for Boys and Girls (1) bookstore (6) bookstores (7) boston (11) bottle (1) bouquinistes (1) brattle (1) broadside (2) brochure (1) Brooklyn (1) Bruce Rogers (1) business cards (1) button chaser (1) Buzz Aldrin (2) calendars (1) California (1) Canada (2) cancer medical bookplate (1) catalog (1) catalogs (3) catalogues (2) Catholic books (1) Charles C. Soule (1) Charles Hoy Fort (1) charleston (1) Cherokee (1) children's literature (1) Christmas (1) chromolithograph plate (1) cigarettes (1) Civil War (3) Classic Motorbooks (1) Clayburgh (1) Clements Library (1) collectors (1) collectors' institute (1) Confederate (1) Confederate Home for Veterans (1) Connecticut (1) Cooperstown (1) Cornhill (1) Cosmic Aeroplane (1) covers (1) Croatia (1) Cuba (1) D. Lothrop (1) D. Lothrop and Co. (1) Dartmouth (1) Decatur Illinois (1) Declaration of Independence (1) Dedham Massacusetts (1) Denver (1) Detroit (1) DF Wallace (1) Dial (1) diary (1) Dickensiana (1) die-cut (1) digital ephemera (2) Doane (1) dolls (1) Donohue & Henneberry (1) drug store (1) Dublin (1) Dubrovnik (1) Durrie and; Peck (1) dust jacket (1) Dutch (1) Dutch Booksellers Association (1) dutton (1) Ed Sullivan (1) Emil Prass (1) encino press (3) engraving (1) ephemera (3) Ernest Dawson (1) Eugene O'Neill (1) Eurkea Bazaar (1) European history (1) Evelyn Waugh (1) ex libris (2) exhibits (2) expositions (1) Felix Cunha (1) feria del libro (1) fine printing (1) Firenza (1) Firenze (1) Florence (1) flyaways (1) flyers (1) Fortean Society (1) Foyles (2) France (2) Francis Scott Key (1) Friedrich Furchheim (1) G. Wyman (1) George Doll (1) German (1) Germany (1) GF Warfield (1) ghosts (1) Goodspeed's (2) Goodspeed's Book Shop (1) Grabhorn Press (1) graphic design (1) Greenaway House (1) Greenwich Village (1) greeting cards (1) Haines and Essick (1) Haiti (1) hand fans (1) Hans P. Kraus (1) Hartford (1) Hartford Connecticut (1) Harvard Library (1) haunted (1) headshop (1) Herbert Fahey (1) Herbert Faulkner West (1) Holmes Book Company (1) holt and rinehart (1) homeopathy (1) Horace Mann (1) Horn Book Magazine (1) Houghton Mifflin (1) Houston (4) Hudson's (1) Iceland (1) illuminated manuscripts (1) illustrations (1) illustrators (1) IMBS (1) indiana (1) instructions (1) International Exhibit 1862 (1) International Miniature Book Society (1) invoice (1) Iraq (1) isaiah thomas (2) Italy (2) J.F. Collins (1) J.J. Lankes (1) Jack Kerouac (1) Jacqueline Kennedy (1) James Hustler (1) James Walker (1) Japanese paper (1) Jean Frey (1) jerome holtzman (1) JJ Lankes (1) JK Gill Company (1) John Ford Esq. (1) John Langdon Sibley (1) John Love Bookseller England 1700s Goodspeed William Wadd (1) John Penington (1) John Rothensteiner (1) John W. Park (1) Jones' Bookstore (1) JR Osgood (1) Justin Brierly (1) Justin Brierly Denver Neal Cassady Jack Kerouac Beat Generation (1) Katherine Goddard (1) Ketterlinus (1) Kitemaug (1) Knoxville (1) label (1) law books (2) LBJ (1) Leipzig (2) Leona Rostenberg (1) letter (3) letterhead (2) letters (5) Levi K. Fuller (1) librarian (2) librarians (2) libraries (9) library (1) library accessions list (1) library catalogs (2) Little Brown (1) Lloyd Adams Noble (1) London (1) Longfellow (1) Los Angeles (2) Lowman and Hanford (1) lunar landing (1) Macedonia (1) Macmillan (1) Magazine ads (2) Maine (1) Malta (1) manuscript (1) Marian Cutter (1) Mark Twain (1) martyr (1) massachusetts (1) Mayfair Bookshop (1) McGirr's (1) medical (1) Menno Hertzberger (1) menus (1) Michigan (1) Michigan history (2) miniature books (2) Minneapolis (1) motorsports (1) Mrs. Paul's Kitchens (1) Mundelein (1) Museum of Printing History (1) Naples (1) Napoli (1) National Library Association (1) Neal Cassady (1) Nederlandse Boekverkopersbond (1) Nevada (1) New Hampshire (2) New Mexico (1) New York (7) New York Public Library (1) newsletters (2) Nice (1) Niles Michigan (1) nuns (1) Oakland (2) Oklahoma (1) Olympia Dukakis (1) Ontario (1) opera (1) Oregon (1) Ottawa (1) P. Garrett & Co. (1) pamphlets (1) Paris (1) Patriot (1) patriotic (1) Penguin Book Shop (1) Penn Letter Book (1) Pennsylvania (1) Philadelphia (5) Philip Greely Brown (1) photos (1) Pilgrim Bookshop (1) Pilgrims (1) playbill (1) Plymouth (1) poets (1) Poland (1) post card (2) post cards (1) postal covers (1) postal history (1) postcards (5) Postcards Leipzig Publishers Booksellers Buchhändlerbörse (1) President Kennedy (1) President Truman (1) press photos (1) press release (1) Princeton (1) print announcements (1) printer (4) printers (5) Printing (1) printing arts (2) program (1) promotional letters (1) promotional photo (1) prospectus (1) prospectuses (2) Providence (1) publisher (6) publisher insert (1) publishers (20) publishers booksellers encyclopedias dictionaries (1) publishers Japan (1) Publishing (1) Puerto Rico (1) Ransom Center (1) rare books (1) Rasmussen (1) Raymer's (2) Raymond Carver (1) reading (1) receipt (1) receipts (1) Reed Books (1) review copy (1) review slips (1) Rhode Island (1) Ricardo Veloso (1) Rice Institute (1) Richter (1) riverrun bookshop (1) Robert Frost (1) rodeo (1) roger beacham (1) Rose Wilder Lane (1) Roxburghe Club (2) Russia (1) sales receipts (1) sales rep (1) Salt Lake City (1) Samuel Hooper Hooper (1) San Diego (1) San Francisco (7) Santa Fe (1) Saunders (1) Sausalito (1) Schomburg (1) school (1) Schulte's Book Store (4) Schumann-Heink (1) Scofield Thayer (1) Seattle (2) ships (1) Sidney L. Smith (1) Sidney S. Rider (1) Sierra Leone (1) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1) small presses (1) Society of Lincoln's Inn (1) south carolina (1) south dakota (1) Southwest (1) Spain (2) spelling (1) Springfield Illinois (1) stamps (1) Star-Spangled Banner (1) statements (1) stationers (2) Stefan Lorant (1) Sun Iron Building (1) swap cards (1) Switzerland (1) teaching (1) Tennessee (1) Texas (4) Thanksgiving (1) Thatcher (1) The Netherlands (1) The Tides (1) The Virginian (1) Theodore Dreiser (1) Tibbals (1) tickets (2) Ticknor (2) Tiffany Thayer (1) trade card (2) trade cards (6) trading cards (1) trailers (1) Treves. Florence (1) Trinity College (1) typewriters (1) typography (1) Universalists (1) University of Delaware Library (1) University of Michigan (2) University of Texas (1) university of texas-pan american (1) university presses (1) Utah (1) valentines (1) Valletta (1) Vermont (1) W.E. Osborne (1) W.I. Whiting (1) W.M. Morrison (1) War of 1812 (1) Waring (1) Waterbury (1) Western Americana (1) Westerns (1) Wiener Library (1) william and barbara holman collection. book arts (2) William Briggs (1) William Goddard (1) william r. holman (5) wire photos (2) Wisconsin (1) Wister (1) Witkower's (1) wittliff (3) woodcuts (1) Wooster Ohio (1) worcester (1) World War II (1) writers (1) Zagreb (1) Zahm (1)
 
Creative Commons License
Bibliophemera by Chuck Whiting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.