History of Canongate Publishers Edinburgh

Canongate has been an established publishing house in the city of Edinburgh since 1973. When the company was formed the aim was to publish a range of books that would change lives, challenge thought and capture the imagination. This independent Scottish publisher has achieved exactly that.

One of the earliest hits for Canongate was ‘Lanark’ by Alasdair Gray. This novel helped to change the Scottish literary landscape and it is a good example of the type of book that Canongate looks for. The focus for Canongate is Scottish writers, although the authors published by the company now come from all over the world.

One of the books that really made an impact was ‘The Living Mountain’ by Nan Shepherd. This was first published in 1977 but Canongate revived interest in the book and the author by issuing a short-run reprint in 2008. The author had died in 1981 but she still became a very famous name thanks to the reprint. This is one of the company’s top-selling backlist books and Nan Shepherd has now been immortalised on a Scottish banknote.

It was in 1994 that Canongate was bought out and decided to bring in authors from beyond Scotland’s borders. The Pocket Canons aimed to bring the Bible to a new audience, with each book containing one book of the Bible and featuring introductions from well-known people including the Dalai Lama.

While these early successes undoubtedly helped to build the reputation of Canongate as a publisher of quality literature, it was in 2002 that the fortunes of the company changed completely. This is the year that Canongate published ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel. This novel is the biggest-selling winner of the Booker Prize ever and helped to earn ‘Publisher of the Year’ for Canongate, real recognition for a small, independent publishing house.