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Celebrating Scottish Publisher Legacies at the Edinburgh Book Festival

The weekend saw the launch of the Edinburgh Book Festival 2020, an online pageant of literary events about the latest page-turners including several events by authors signed to Scottish publishers.

From Canongate to 404 Ink and other greats in between, publishers are essential to keeping the National Library of Scotland’s catalogue full of the latest literary talent for the public to view at  the Library. We’re missing the usual festivities at Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square this year but alongside a worldwide audience, we’ll be on the edge of our sofas delighting in the  restorative ability of books to make us all feel better.

The National Library of Scotland is Scotland’s Legal Deposit Library by which virtue, every book published in the UK and Ireland is safely preserved in a national library. Each Legal Deposit Library’s core collection is made up of books sent by publishers via the Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries, (not to be confused with Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency). More publishers are starting to supply the British Library with eBook versions of their titles which can then be read online at our reading rooms. We receive more than 40,000 books every year representing the cultural output of the UK publishing industry. It’s certainly a squeeze, but as far as possible we seek to take in donations of the printed book by Scottish literary authors so that even where there’s an eBook, we can usually provide the original hardback or paperback. We’re the ultimate hoarders, hanging onto everything we’ve ever received but with good reason: to ensure a record of Scottish life is preserved for all time.

On the publisher’s side, Legal Deposit requires that a copy of each new title is sent to the Library. Relinquishing a free copy might seem an ask, especially when the Book Festival would usually be providing a significant source of financial revenue for publishers. Yet the trade-off works in publisher’s favour too; promoting both books and authors to the Library’s international membership.

Without being able to get our hands on any signed copies in the Book Tent this year, we can instead highlight a few of the events promoting the incredible work of Scottish publishers. For example:

  •  404 Ink are touting (free) tickets for events with Nadine Aisha Jassat, author of Let me tell you about this. The relatively recent publications of these bold literary innovators are a fantastic addition to the National Library providing a snapshot of Scotland’s independent publishing scene.
  • Birlinn are profiling the work of prolific political commentators including James Naughtie and off-setting that with music journalism (Stuart Cosgrove) and children’s illustration (Lari Don and Eilidh Muldoon).
  • Black & White Publishing will be showcasing the wares of national treasure Julia Donaldson alongside the latest offering from Scottish novelist-of-the-hour Kirsten Innes.
  • Several literary pickings are on offer from Canongate this year. Matt Haig’s new book The Midnight Library about the imaginative, life-giving qualities of the Library is on our watchlist! With contemporary fiction from authors Patience Agabi and Kathleen Jamie to boot.
  • Plus, Saraband showcase among others, works by Chitra Ramaswamy and Amanda Thomson.

Other Scottish presses also represented at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2020 include Charco, HappenStance and Red Squirrel. We’d love to ensure they all grace the Library’s bookshelves.

As explained in the Library’s online event ‘The Joy of Spines’, some of the most important books of the past few centuries sit on our shelves thanks to the wonder of Legal Deposit. Through publishers’ ongoing support, the most significant books discussed in future Book Festivals  may be inspired by this continuous celebration of Scottish publishing.