Canongate Books is a prizewinning independent publisher based in Edinburgh’s Tweeddale Court which for more than 40 years has been pioneering in its publication of some of the world’s most interesting books.
Its authors include Yann Martel (whose Life of Pi is the best-selling Booker Prizewinner in history) President Barack Obama, JJ Abrams, Alasdair Gray, William McIlvanney, Nick Cave and Terry Gilliam.
Canongate publishes around 40 books per year. They have twice been awarded Publisher of the Year (in 2003 and 2009), Independent Publisher of the Year in 2014, and awarded BIA Marketing Strategy of the Year for Letters Live 2015
Canongate Books was founded at 17 Jeffrey Street by Stephanie Wolfe Murray in 1973. The first books published were both by Americans: Robert Shure’s novel The Monk and a reprint of Edgar Allan Poe’s Comic Tales, establishing Canongate as an international publishing house in Scotland, rather than a publisher of purely Scottish literature.
In 2013 Canongate celebrated four decades at the forefront of publishing. Today the company is run by Jamie Byng, managing director and owner since the mid-1990s.
Canongate’s most iconic books are Jimmy Boyle’s Sense of Freedom (1977), Alasdair Gray’s Lanark (1981), and Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi (2002).
Sense of Freedom broke the mould in that it was the biography of a notorious Glasgow gangster, Jimmy Boyle, written and published whilst Boyle was serving a life sentence for murder in Barlinnie prison. Five years later Canongate published Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, an illustrated dystopian novel which became the first book to win the Saltire Society’s Book of the Year award. Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi was the first Canongate book to win the Man Booker Prize, propelling Canongate into the big league when it sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
In 2015 they published Gilliamesque, the life story of screenwriter, director and Python Terry Gilliam.