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Jul 21, 2010

Elke and Tim Inkster have made an important and enduring contribution to Canadian literature. In 1974 they founded The Porcupine’s Quill (PQL), a publishing house based in Erin, Ontario. Renowned for excellence in design and production, and for taking risks with new, unpublished authors, the firm has helped kick-start the careers of many of Canada’s best known writers . PQL publications have won numerous awards and serve as an example to the world of Canadian publishing excellence.

Its first title came off the press in 1975: Brian Johnson’s only book of poems, Marzipan Lies. Brian Johnson is currently the film critic for Maclean’s and "claims to have met Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, twice!" (almost certainly an in-joke here that I’m not privy to).  Many of the early titles were slim volumes written by poets Tim Inkster had met as a student at the University of Toronto — amongst them Ed Carson who until recently was President of Penguin Canada, and Brian Henderson who is currently the publisher at Wilfred Laurier University Press.

I met the Inksters recently in the garden behind their Press House. It butts up against the West Credit River, where this little critter spent most of the morning chopping and hauling lumber from one bank to the other.

While he was doing this Tim and I made our way back into the press room to talk about the history of The Porcupine’s Quill and how to go about collecting its books. During this discussion we hit on how market forces often influence appearance: namely glossy versus matte finished covers. It was here that Tim got into describing the difficulties he’s encountered dealing with Chapters, Canada’s one and only big box bookstore.