House of Anansi, is a small literary press established in Toronto by David Godfrey and Dennis Lee in 1967 at the height of the Centennial revival, cultural and otherwise. The press was named after a storytelling West African spider god, inspired by Godfrey's time in Africa, and was committed to promoting the work of new writers emerging in the late 1960s. According to Lee, Anansi was "born out of a desperate anger about the fact that we've never taken this country seriously enough to fight for it." Since its beginnings, Anansi has been an explicitly pro-Canadian publisher and in 1969 was responsible for publishing one third of all novels in English Canada, an impressive sign of its rising popularity. Anansi has published a considerable number of books that have won prestigious awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Governor General's Literary Awards, Rogers Writers' Trust Prize and the Man Booker Prize, and is considered a successful independent press.
The press quickly became a rallying point for contemporary writing, both in Toronto and nationally, with its interest in experimental fiction, current poetry, criticism and the translation of young Québec writers. It became identified with a strong nationalist and often anti-American sentiment, opening the critical debate of the 1970s with the publication of Northrop Frye's The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination (1971) and scoring a major success with Margaret Atwood's Survival (1972) and Dennis Lee's Savage Fields: An Essay in Literature and Cosmology (1977).
In 1989, Anansi was sold to Stoddart Publishing, which caused considerable apprehension in literary circles. It was feared that Anansi's independent, intellectual and distinctly pro-Canadian spirit would be lost in the deal. Michael Davis - formerly with major Canadian publishing house Macmillan - was brought in as publisher. Davis was keen to keep Anansi's reputation unscathed and so assembled an editorial board of critics, writers and academics. In doing so, Davis hoped to remain in tune with literary minded groups on university campuses. Davis's plan proved successful and Anansi acquired many critically-acclaimed upstart writers. By 1998, Anansi had published several books that earned nominations for distinguished literary awards. Additionally, Anansi is the publisher of the CBC Massey Lectures series.
Financial troubles arrived in 2002 with the bankruptcy of Stoddart Publishing. Scott Griffin, celebrated Canadian poetry-lover and founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize, bought Anansi in 2002. In 2003, Anansi was the inaugural winner of the Small Publisher of the Year award by the Canadian Bookseller's Association. By 2007 - following a year of literary award list domination with two Giller and six Governor General nominations - Anansi was awarded Publisher of the Year, a prize that historically went only to major publishing houses. In 2010, House of Anansi launched its Anansi International Imprint.