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ARCHIVED - Posters and Broadsides in Canada

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Broadsides

Informational Broadsides

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19th Century

In the first half of the 19th century, all levels of government continued to use simple letterpress broadsides to notify citizens of laws and regulations, and to warn them of health and safety risks.

Broadside with black text on light brown paper, signed Peter Smith

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Figure 8
Broadside printed in black on beige paper, signed J. Reid. Double sided in English and French

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Figure 9
Broadside with black text on beige paper and crest at top, signed Isaac Brock

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Figure 10
Broadside with black text on light brown paper, signed Francis Longworth

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Figure 11
Broadside listing regulations, printed in black on light-brown paper, signed J.S. Reid and George Pyke. Printer's ornamental border along the edges. Title at top

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Figure 12
Broadside printed in black text on beige paper. English on the left, French on the right, signed D. Daly. Crest at top

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Figure 13
Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with brown staining, listing six rules, signed J. Guthrie Scott

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Figure 14

Figure 8: Rules and regulations for vessel commanders within the harbor of Saint Andrews, New Brunswick

Figure 9: Notice concerning Montréal police regulations during market days

Figure 10: Proclamation urging obedience to the lawful authorities on the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain. York, Upper Canada, 1812

Figure 11: Sherriff's notice warning against posting unauthorized handbills, Charlottetown, 1817

Figure 12: Regulations to be observed in the Montréal city jail, 1836

Figure 13: Proclamation in English and French, forbidding citizens to gather for the purpose of resisting the "lawful authority of the King", Quebec, 1837

Figure 14: Precautions to be taken by the public to prevent the spread of cholera, issued by the Board of Health, Montréal, ca. 1854


Through letterpress broadsides, Canadians learned about postal rates, train schedules, new businesses, elections, escaped thieves, auctions, concerts and community events.

Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with brown staining, signed Alexr. Boucher

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Figure 15
Broadside with black text on beige paper, signed Matthew Bell

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Figure 16
Broadside with black text on beige paper, signed George Munro

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Figure 17
Broadside with black text in different sizes and fonts on beige paper and decorative border

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Figure 18
Broadside with black text on grey paper and crest at top, signed J. Howe, P.M.G.

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Figure 19
Broadside printed in black on gold-coloured yellow paper, signed L.G. Duval. Double sided in English and French

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Figure 20
Timetable printed in black on cream-coloured paper with brown staining. Three columns indicating time schedules, signed W. Shanly. Title and image of a bridge at top

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Figure 21
Broadside with back text in different sizes and fonts on light-brown paper

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Figure 22

Figure 15: Meeting notice to the inhabitants of St. John's, Newfoundland regarding the use of money raised by government leasing of waterfront property, 1811

Figure 16: Notice regarding the use of leased wood for firewood by the St. Maurice mill, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, 1819

Figure 17: Reward offering £100 for information leading to the conviction of a Toronto thief, 1841

Figure 18: Notice for the summer and winter sessions of the Picton Academies for Ladies and Gentlemen, Picton, Ontario, 1850

Figure 19: Announcement of postal rate changes issued by the General Post Office, St. John, New Brunswick, 1854

Figure 20: Notice of a public meeting for the voters of the fief of St. Étienne regarding the municipal councillor election, Trois-Rivières, 1855

Figure 21: Timetable for the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada passenger trains, Montréal, June 15, 1861

Figure 22: Concert bill for a performance held at the Quebec City Music Hall, 1861


Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with title at top

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Figure 23

Competition for the viewer's eye was fierce. In the early decades of the 19th century, decorative type was available, but these letter forms were not much larger than regular text type and were only modestly ornamental.


Figure 23: Rules and regulations to be observed by innkeepers in the eastern district of Upper Canada, 181-


Broadside printed in black and red on brown paper with crest at top. Printer's ornament at the bottom edge

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Figure 24

To punch up the message, printers began to set each line as a discrete “bite” of information, to use a variety of type sizes, and to display the most important “bites” in the largest letters. By these new standards, the circus broadside of 1810 is light years ahead of the 1792 marionette show broadside, the latter's text set as if it were a simple paragraph in a book.


Figure 24: Circus advertisement, Montréal, 1810


Broadside with black text on light-brown paper and title at top

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Figure 25

Large types like those used in the Montréal circus broadside command attention, but only the size of these letters distinguishes them from their smaller text-type cousins. By the 1820s, broadsides printed in Canada began to exhibit the earliest decorative type specifically designed for ephemera and “job printing” rather than for printing books. Developed in Europe a decade earlier, this assertive letterform was called “fat face” because of its marked contrast between thick and thin portions of each letter.


Figure 25: Handbill offering to complete the Rideau Canal, by John Carey, editor of the Observer newspaper, York, Upper Canada, 1827


By the 1830s and 1840s, a huge variety of exuberant, attention-grabbing decorative types came into use. Such types are never seen in books and were specifically designed for broadsides and similar ephemera.

Broadside with black text in different sizes and fonts on beige paper and crest at top, issued by the Lieutenant Governor

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Figure 26
Broadside printed in black in different sizes and fonts on brown paper

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Figure 27
Broadside printed in black in different sizes and fonts on cream-coloured paper with brown staining, signed W.W. Pringle

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Figure 28
Broadside printed in black in different sizes and fonts on cream-coloured paper with brown staining, signed James Somerville

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Figure 29

Figure 26: Proclamation du Lieutenant-gouverneur concernant l'offre d'une récompense de 500 £ pour la capture de Charles Duncombe, 1837

Figure 27: Bankruptcy notice regarding the estate sale of Ephraim Knight, Montréal, 1842

Figure 28: Public auction notice for goods from the estate of W.H. Allen via an assignee, 1857

Figure 29: Public auction notice of houses and town lots in Dundas, 1866


Woodcut illustrations also drew in the eye and conveyed a message without words. Sometimes these woodcuts were simply part of the printer's standard equipment and were not specifically engraved for an individual broadside, but often the woodcut illustrated a particular product, individual or event, and was designed for a specific broadside.

Broadside printed in black in different sizes and fonts on beige paper with image of two men riding a mowing and reaping machine pulled by two horses, with text underneath, signed John Smith

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Figure 30
Broadside, black text in different sizes and fonts on light-brown paper, with two images: a church between two buildings in one, and an empty lot where the church once stood in the other

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Figure 31
Broadside printed in black on light-brown paper, with text and images of various uses of electrical items and a map of eastern Canada. Title at top

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Figure 32
Broadside with black text in different sizes and fonts on light-brown paper, with five images of organs

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Figure 33
Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with brown staining. Illustration of two flags at top with title underneath, followed by illustrations of Rodolphe Lemieux and Sir Wilfrid Laurier

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Figure 34

Figure 30: Advertisement for the sale of mowing and reaping machines, Montréal, 1857

Figure 31: Meeting notice to be held in Montréal to discuss the tearing down of a Methodist Church in Oka which occurred on December 8, 1875

Figure 32: Advertisement for a carnival and "electric exhibition" held in St. John, New Brunswick, 1889

Figure 33: Advertisement for D.W. Karn & Co.; organ manufacture, wholesale and retail, Woodstock, Ontario, ca. 1890

Figure 34: Broadside with woodcut portraits depicting party candidates, Québec, 1904


Engravings offer finer detail than woodcuts; etchings offer greater freedom of line. But images created with such intaglio processes cannot be printed at the same time as letterpress text, which uses a relief printing method, and so the two are seldom seen together in broadsides. Only the somewhat cruder woodengraving or woodcut produced by a relief method can be printed at the same time as letterpress text. By the mid-19th century, the restrictions imposed by letterpress and woodcut were gone. The planographic methods of lithography and chromolithography came into common use in Canada, allowing infinitely variable letterforms, a seamless combination of illustration and text, and a wide array of colours. Artists and designers now played an important role in the production of a broadside.

See also Visual Literacy

Late 19th and 20th centuries

And yet, despite the growing use of sophisticated lithographic and photographic printing methods, governments, businesses, associations and political parties continued to issue traditional broadsides right into the 20th century. Inexpensive and quick to produce, they need no designers to convey their straightforward message, nor colour images to seduce the eye. In contrast to the many slick, multicoloured posters, a broadside, with its stark, bold text, has an air of honesty and authority.

Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with brown staining

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Figure 35
Broadside with black text in letter format on light-brown paper and crest at top, signed J.S. Dennis

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Figure 36
Broadside with black text on grey paper, with rose ornament in each corner

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Figure 37
Broadside with black text in different sizes and fonts on light-brown paper

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Figure 38
Broadside with black text on grey paper and crest at top, signed J. S. Dennis

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Figure 39
Broadside with text in German on light-brown paper, signed A.M. Burgess

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Figure 40
Broadside printed in black in different sizes and fonts on orange-brown paper

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Figure 41
Broadside with black text on beige paper and title at top

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Figure 42
Broadside printed in blackon white paper with text in different sizes and fonts in Finnish. Title at top

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Figure 43
Broadside printed in black on white paper with text in different sizes and fonts in Italian. Title at top

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Figure 44
Broadside printed in black in Cree syllabics on light-brown paper, with crest at top, signed R.H. Campbell

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Figure 45
Broadside printed in black on white paper with title at top, signed Adelard Turgeon. Double sided in French and English

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Figure 46
Broadside printed in black in Inuktitut syllabics on pink paper, signed O.S. Finnie

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Figure 47
Broadside printed in black in Inuktitut syllabics on pink paper, signed O.S. Finnie

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Figure 48
Broadside with black text on brown paper, signed  Minnie Bell Adney

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Figure 49
Broadside with black text on brown paper, signed  Minnie Bell Adney

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Figure 50
Broadside with black text on beige paper and a drawing of a prison guard. Title and arrow (denoting a major point) in red

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Figure 51

Figure 35: Rules and regulations for the keeping of animals at the Mission du Lac des Deux-Montagnes, Quebec, ca. 1862

Figure 36: Notice issued by J.S. Dennis, Lieutenant and Conservator of the Peace for the North West Territories concerning the Red River Rebellion, 1869

Figure 37: Notice regarding the reopening of a school for young ladies for Oakfield, St. Andrews, Manitoba, ca. 1870

Figure 38: Lecture notice regarding immigration to British Columbia, 1874

Figure 39: Land claim notice informing Métis of their right to hold land in Manitoba, 1877

Figure 40: Land grant notice directed at Mennonites in Manitoba, 1885

Figure 41: Advertisement for "Limelight entertainment" and lecture on gold mining in the Yukon, ca. 1898

Figure 42: Advertisement issued in Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick for harvest work in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, ca. 1900

Figure 43: Mining regulations in Finnish, ca. 1910

Figure 44: Mining regulations in Italian, ca. 1910

Figure 45: Canadian government hunting regulations in Cree syllabics, ca. 1910

Figure 46: Law and regulations concerning forest fires, 1913

Figure 47: Military recruitment advertisement for cyclists during the First World War, between 1914 and 1918

Figure 48: Canadian government hunting regulations in Inuktitut syllabics, ca. 1920

Figure 49: Election notice for Minnie Bell stating her intention to run for the constiuency of Victoria-Carleton, Woodstock, New Brunswick, 1925

Figure 50: Election notice for Minnie Bell stating her intention to run for the constiuency of Victoria-Carleton, Woodstock, New Brunswick, 1925

Figure 51: Opposition to the "Lacroix Bill"  --  proposed labour legislation under consideration by the provincial House of Commons, Nova Scotia, 1948


20th Century

As mechanical and photographic printing processes began to dominate broadside production, hand-set type became the hallmark of craftsmanship and high quality. Today, small private presses print limited edition letterpress broadsides, often adorned with traditional wood engravings, woodcuts or linocuts. The letterpress broadside has become a work of art.

Broadside printed in black and on beige paper, signed Dorothy Livesay. Drawing in brown of a man on the left

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Figure 52
Broadside printed in black on cream-coloured paper with dark yellow alphabet lettering at top and bottom and small illustation of a printing press and bear

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Figure 53
Broadside printed in black on grey paper with drawing of a bird on the right, signed Kuldip Gill

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Figure 54
Broadside printed in black on grey paper with Chinese pictograms in black at the top, stamped red signatures, signed Lu Xun

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Figure 55
Broadside printed in black on grey paper with title in red at top, signed Phyllis Webb

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Figure 56

Figure 52: Poetry broadside with a poem by Dorothy Livesay, 1991

Figure 53: Broadside with an excerpt from William Shakespeare's Henry VI, 1986

Figure 54: Poetry broadside with a poem by Kuldip Gill, 1998

Figure 55: Poetry broadside with a poem by Lu Xun (1881 - 1936). Printed in Victoria, British Columbia, 1989

Figure 56: Poetry broadside with a poem by Phyllis Webb and woodcut illustrations, 1986


Elaine Hoag
Rare Book Bibliographer
Library and Archives Canada

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