by SRB

A Maker of Beautiful Books – Stephanie Wolfe Murray

August 26, 2017 | by SRB

An evening of celebration was held in memory of publisher Stephanie Wolfe Murray at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. Those speaking included writers Alasdair Gray, Alexander McCall Smith, Mairi Hedderwick, Alan Taylor and Tom Pow along with many from the publishing world past and present. Alexander McCall Smith wrote a poem for the occasion which he read to the audience and shares with our readers now.

A maker of beautiful books

In memory of Stephanie Wolfe Murray, publisher.



A maker of beautiful books

Knows exactly what it is that makes­­­

Paper, card, printer’s ink,

The raw words of the writer

Into that lovely object

We call a book; understands

The subtle work of fonts,

Of leading, of bindings,

That makes a book something

We wish to hold to ourselves,

To keep and cherish, to read

At times when the soul is in need

Of solace, of insight, and art

That can transform the quotidian

Into the transcendent.


A maker of beautiful books

Understands that text

Should whisper to us its message

Like a confiding friend,

Not in the trumpet tones

Of the strident, the polemical,

But gently, tactfully,

In private places of exchange

Where the loud and the angry

Have no wish to linger.


A maker of beautiful books

Brings people together

In civil and gracious converse,

Helps the puzzled and confused

To understand what it is

That puzzles or confuses them;

Puts an end to that ignorance

On which evil parasitically

Thrives; shows the weak

The way to strength, brings

Freedom to the most remote corners,

Reminds us of love

And it manifold works.



A maker of beautiful books

Lies in a Borders field

With all the hills as watchmen;

But the books she made

Live on, resolute upon their shelves

In a hundred far-flung places,

Their maker’s advocates, her legacy,

Her sure and beautiful touch

Upon our troubled world,

Less troubled for her presence,

Surer, for her example,

Of the possibilities of truth and beauty.


Alexander McCall Smith, August 2017











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