One Building, Multiple Perspectives: Iron Bars and Bookshelves Book Launch

One Building, Multiple Perspectives: Iron Bars and Bookshelves Book Launch

By Mark Lindenberg

As a relative newcomer to Québec City, I’m interested in learning about local landmarks, the history and culture they contain, and what it all means for residents and visitors alike. An excited capacity crowd gathered at the Morrin Centre on June 20 for the official, bilingual launch of Iron Bars and Bookshelves: A History of the Morrin Centre (Étagères et Barreaux de Fer: Une histoire du Morrin Centre in French).

Which just goes to show that there’s always more to learn about the city’s fascinating history, whether passing through, or putting down roots.

Starting off the proceedings, Barry McCullough noted that the project had been overseen by three Morrin Centre Presidents. Ladd Johnson, Vice-President of the Centre, noted that the project had been conceived of 14 years ago, and described some of the twists and turns on the road to completion and publication. Robin Philpot, President and publisher of Baraka Books and Gilles Herman, General Manager and editor at Les éditions du Septentrion, both instrumental in bringing the English and French versions (respectively) to fruition, also spoke of the part they played in the process.

The book, with a Foreword by Louise Penny, is divided into three sections, the first being Prison Reform and Prison Society: The Quebec Gaol, 1812-1867, by Donald Fyson. As he presented the fact that the Morrin Centre had imprisoned 60,000 people over its lifetime, Fyson spoke movingly about those people being at the heart of Québec’s history, and talked of how the book satisfies the general reader’s curiosity, as well as the the academic reader’s.

The second section, A Presbyterian Stronghold in Catholic Quebec: Morrin College (Since 1862) is written by Patrick Donovan, who reminisced about the first time he came into the Morrin Centre at 17, and then again at 19, and how it affected him. He spoke of thinking that the history of the building as a college might be dull, describing other aspects (its history as a jail, for instance) as perhaps more exciting to his mind. But he came to appreciate the College’s contribution to city life, noting that Morrin College admitted women decades before Université Laval did. Ground-breaking stuff, to be sure!

Louisa Blair, writer of the third section of the book, Moose in Flames: The Story of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, noted that the society was founded in 1824 by the Earl of Dalhousie. Early in its life, the Morrin Centre functioned as a museum, gallery and library, and Blair noted that it was also a very early repository of Canadian archives. On a personal note, the audience learned that Blair’s daughter had taken her first steps in the Morrin Centre.

All three authors showed the passion they have for this project with their engaging, often witty words, pausing to let audience laughter subside. Following the formalities, the authors gathered at the book-selling table to sign copies for buyers, while people continued to mingle, and marvel at the Morrin Centre’s extraordinary past.

Title: Iron Bars and Bookshelves
Authors: Louisa Blair, Patrick Donovan, and Donald Fyson
ISBN: 9781771860802
Price: $34.95
Publisher: Baraka Books


This article is kindly supported by Livres Trois Canons – the English Bookstore in Quebec City at Place Naviles.

Tel: (418) 204-4325

info @ livrestroiscanons .com
Quebec City English bookstore

Librairie anglaise à Québec 


Categories: Quebec Literature

About Author

Mark Lindenberg

Mark Lindenberg's essays have appeared in The Globe and Mail and Maclean's Magazine, among other publications. In a career spanning 15 years, three provinces, and two official languages, he has written, edited, and translated work on a wide variety of topics for employers and clients alike. Mark lives in Quebec City with his wife and two cats.

Write a Comment

Only registered users can comment.