Edinburgh international Book Festival produced a surprise last night and great credit is due to all those who made it happen at short notice.
The event was A Tribute to Stephanie Wolfe Murray, celebrating the Co-Founder of Canongate Books, who died in June this year.
A large crowd of friends and family filled the Studio theatre to hear an hour of tributes most ably hosted by publisher Jamie Byng, the present Managing Director of Canongate, who described Stephanie as his Mentor and an inspirational figure in his life.
Speakers included Flora Fraser (daughter of Antonia Fraser, whose Anthology of Scottish Love Poems was an early Canongate success); Alan Taylor – founding editor of The Scottish Review of Books and past Booker judge who spoke of friendship in the formative years of Canongate; Alasdair Gray, whose Scottish Book of the Year Award-winning Lanark was published by Stephanie; Mairi Hedderwick who spoke of help, visits and long journeys in the company of this very special publisher.
Common to all speakers was their fondness and gratitude at a very personal level for a publisher who was always prepared to provide support and encouragement beyond the limits of commercial boundaries and in so doing created finished works of great beauty. Sadly, it was noted by many, publishing has changed so that we shall not see her like again.
The evening was fittingly brought to an end by Alexander McCall Smith who read out his poem, specially composed for Stephanie: ‘A Maker of Beautiful Books’. She could not have been better described.
All those attending received a copy of Stephanie Wolfe Murray – A Life In Books, a collection of memoirs compiled by her son Rupert Wolfe Murray, to whom thanks are due.