In 1972, Kirk Howard was a community college instructor frustrated by the lack of books dedicated to Canadian history. So he decided to start up Dundurn Press. He named the company after Dundurn Castle, located in Hamilton, Ontario, where he’d grown up.
Dundurn started as a small publisher of Canadian non-fiction, focusing on military history, current affairs, politics and biography, and soon expanded into well-researched art books, featuring the work of painters such as A.Y. Jackson, Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris. Other projects included work from Montreal's Beaver Hall Group and covered works from institutions such as the National Arts Centre, the Canadian Opera Company, the Stratford Festival and Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.
Dundurn was awarded a 46-volume book contract in 1991 to publish the proceedings of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing. To carry this out, Dundurn acquired Hounslow Press, Simon & Pierre and Boardwalk Books. In 2005, Sandcastle Books’ award-winning 38-title children’s fiction list from Beach Holme Publishing was also acquired.
Dundurn’s expansion didn’t stop there. In January 2007, it acquired the assets of Natural Heritage Books. Six months later Dundurn acquired Beach Holme’s adult list, which included the works of James Reaney, Mark Frutkin, Joe Rosenblatt, Patrick Friesen, Robin Skelton and Marilyn Bowering, amongst others. In 2008, the English-language imprint of Montreal’s XYZ Publishing was acquired, which featured biographies including pianist Glenn Gould, painter James Wilson Morrice, Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Robertson Davies. In 2011, Blue Butterfly Books merged with Dundurn bringing an impressive list of fiction and non-fiction titles. In 2011, Dundurn acquired Napoleon and Co., adding an impressive list of mystery and young adult titles to the roster.
In 2010, the company was awarded the inaugural Wilson History Prize for Publishing Canadian History by the Wilson Institute at McMaster University. Howard, in turn, created the Dundurn History Prize, to be awarded to the best unpublished manuscript of regional history, with the host city to change yearly. In 2012, Kirk was presented the President’s Award by the Ontario Historical Society for 2011, and Dundurn became the sponsor of the Arthur Ellis Unhanged Award (for unpublished manuscripts).
Titles published by Dundurn Press have won or were nominated for the following distinctions:
- Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, Non-Fiction and Translation
- The Toronto Book Award
- Lambda Literary Award
- The City of Ottawa Book Award
- The University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography
- The Commonwealth Writers Prize
- The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
- The Edgar Allan Poe Award
- The Arthur Ellis Award for Mystery Fiction
Dundurn’s children’s imprints have also been recognized by:
- The Governor General’s Literary Award
- The Sheila A. Egoff Award
- The Red Cedar Award
- The Silver Birch Award
- The White Pine and Red Maple Awards
Dundurn’s long and successful road started with less than five employees, and it has since expanded to over 20. The company now has more than 2,500 books in print and 1,700 ebooks available. In May of 2012, the company was nominated for the Libris Award for Publisher of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association, and throughout 2012 Dundurn will celebrate 40 years in Canadian publishing.
For more information, visit the Dundurn Press website.