A Brief History of Island Studies Press

After the Institute of Island Studies (IIS) at UPEI was established in 1985 (housed within the Department of Extension), it didn’t take long to publish its first title: Ed MacDonald’s A Community of Schools was published later that year.

Between 1985 and 2000, the Institute of Island Studies published twelve books (five in the Island Studies Series of monographs and three sets of conference proceedings), as well as two co-publications with outside presses, two videos, an LP record, and three reports. Published in 1991, Them Times by David Weale was a perennial bestseller, selling over 15,000 copies. Jim Hornby’s Black Islanders brought together Prince Edward Island’s black community for the first time; as a result, a Black Islanders Co-op was formed, plays such as The Old Stock were written and produced, and the community suddenly was recognized as playing a significant role in Island history. David Weale’s A Stream Out of Lebanon had a similar effect on the Island’s Lebanese community.

Black Islanders

At that time, manuscripts were either submitted to the IIS for consideration by the Publishing Committee, or staff and/or the Committee identified a potential book idea and brought someone on board to write a manuscript. Publishing projects were recommended to the Advisory Board by the Committee after a rigorous assessment process that included outside peer review; the members of the committee included people knowledgeable about publishing and academia and over the years included such people as Ed MacDonald, Deirdre Kessler, John Cousins, Lawson Drake, John Crossley, Allan Hammond, Michael Hennessey, Ian MacQuarrie, Harry Baglole, and Laurie Brinklow. The mandate of the publishing program was to make scholarly books accessible to a popular audience. It was not meant to compete with trade publishers; rather, it filled a development role, publishing the results of its own research, or that of scholars doing original research in the field of Prince Edward Island studies or the broader discipline of Island Studies. Laurie Brinklow was hired in 1990 to serve as Publishing Co-ordinator for the IIS; funding for her position came from various grants and her job was made permanent in 2000.

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Sometime between 2000 and 2002, the publishing program was rebranded Island Studies Press (ISP), complete with a logo, designed by Matthew MacKay of UPEI’s Integrated Communications, which serves to this day. With a separate advisory board, ISP was eligible for Canada Council for the Arts Project funding, and received $2,500 in 2002 to publish The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from the Island, edited by Anne Compton. That was the only time the Press received funding from the Canada Council.

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A business plan/proposal to create Island Studies Press, produced in March 2003 by MacPherson Roche Smith & Noonan and funded by Regis Duffy at Diagnostic Chemicals Ltd., proposed a merger between ISP and The Acorn Press, which Laurie had founded in 1993. The idea was to create a stronger publishing company that would fill a gap left when Ragweed Press disappeared from the publishing landscape in 2000 with the bankruptcy of its parent company, Stoddart Inc. With Ragweed no longer “The Island Publisher,” there was a niche to be filled; by combining forces, ISP (with Acorn as the literary imprint) would be eligible for Block Grant funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as sales-based funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage; and the combined number of scholarly titles would make it eligible for the Aid to Scholarly Publications program. The merger was not adopted by the University, but ISP continued to publish one to two titles per year, and Acorn went on to publish four to eight titles per year (Laurie sold Acorn to Terrilee Bulger in 2010, and it continues to flourish, publishing over a dozen titles per year). ISP is now eligible for Aid to Scholarly Publications funding.

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Between 2002 and 2015, ISP published another twelve books, as well as two co-publications with the Atlantic Veterinary College (Pets, Professors, and Politicians) and the Prince of Wales Alumni (A Century of Excellence), both written by Marian Bruce.

Those Splendid Girls

In 2014, Island Studies Press published Those Splendid Girls: The Heroic Service of Prince Edward Island Nurses During the Great War by Katherine Dewar. The book was shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award in 2015.

samuelhollandhisworkandlegacyonpei

In 2015, Island Studies Press continues to flourish, co-published Samuel Holland: His Work and Legacy on Prince Edward Island with Holland College. Written by Earle Lockerby and Doug Sobey, the book sold out of its original printing and has been reprinted for the Christmas season.

Island Studies Press has an active Publishing Committee that advises on manuscript selection. Members include Ed MacDonald, John Flood, Irene Novaczek, Peter Rukavina, Laurie Brinklow, Simon Lloyd, and Ann Greyborn.

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For information on each of the titles, and to purchase books online, please visit Island Studies Press online bookstore..