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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.
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.
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
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-
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Rare Book Bibliographer
Library and Archives Canada
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