Scottish Writing Facts
Feature

Nov 2012

Scottish Writing Facts

The write stuff

Scotland’s list of acclaimed contemporary writers of fiction, poetry and plays reads a little like a Who’s Who of literature. Our long list of literary stars includes James Kelman, A L Kennedy, Ali Smith, Jackie Kay, Kate Atkinson, Iain Banks, Janice Galloway, Liz Lochhead, Alasdair Gray, Gregory Burke, Irvine Welsh, Andrew O’Hagan, James Robertson, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Douglas Dunn, Edwin Morgan and John Burnside. Carol Ann Duffy, the UK’s Poet Laureate, hails from Glasgow and world-famous authors Alexander McCall Smith (No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series), Ian Rankin (Rebus series) and JK Rowling (Harry Potter series) all live and work in Edinburgh. There are approximately 600 authors registered with the Society of Authors in Scotland (2009).

(Source: www.cityofliterature.com www.societyofauthors.org)

On the shoulders of giants

Scotland has a distinguished position in the pantheon of world literature, through our poets, novelists, short story writers, philosophers, screenwriters, playwrights, storytellers, song makers, scientists, historians and biographers. Novelists associated with Edinburgh have made a particularly strong impact around the world: James Hogg (The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner), Sir Walter Scott (The Waverley Series), Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), JM Barrie (Peter Pan), Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes series), RM Ballantyne (The Coral Island), John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps) and Muriel Spark (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).

(Source: We cultivate literature, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, 2004)

What’s in a name

From heroic epics to poignant tragedy, Scotland’s early literature was dominated by poetry and in particular, John Barbour (c.1320-1395). Perhaps our best known figure internationally is Robert Burns (1759-1796), our national Bard, whose work is celebrated worldwide with Burns Suppers on 25 January each year. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), recognised in Europe as the creator of the modern historical novel, was the first British novelist to become a famous public figure, pioneering a new type of romantic historiography. His novels, ballads, poems and other writings have been translated into almost every major world language and the world’s largest monument to an author sits in Edinburgh, commemorating Scott’s life and work. The Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation has already recorded over 20,000 Scottish titles translated into over 100 languages worldwide.

(Source: We cultivate literature, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and University of St Andrews, Department of English website, 2009)

Edinburgh, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature

In 2004 Edinburgh was designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, a permanent title celebrating Edinburgh’s status as a literary capital and pioneer in the UNESCO Creative Cities network. It is the capital of a nation renowned throughout the world for its writers, past and present, with a vibrant writing and publishing community. It is home to the world-famous Edinburgh International Book Festival, the National Library of Scotland, numerous prestigious collections, libraries both public and private, bookshops, literary tours and is a noted centre of education with four universities. The ‘Literature Quarter’ area of the city contains the Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Scottish Book Trust (Scotland’s national agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing), Canongate Books, the Writers’ Museum, Makars’ Court (commemorating our writers and poets), the grand Central Library and the imposing National Library of Scotland.

(Source: www.cityofliterature.com)

The written word

Printing, book importation and learning were firmly established in Scotland when the first printing press was set up by Androw Myllar and Walter Chepman in Edinburgh in 1508. Many of today’s global publishing houses have their origins in Scotland, including Chambers, Nelson, John Murray, Collins and A. & C. Black, and for years the magazine world was dominated by Edinburgh titles, The Edinburgh Review and Blackwood’s Magazine. The Encyclopaedia Britannica was first published in Anchor Close in Edinburgh in 1768. The University of Edinburgh’s James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are Britain’s oldest literary awards and among the most prestigious awarded for literature written in the English language. The Saltire Society Literary Awards annually recognise outstanding Scottish writing.

(Source: We cultivate literature, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, 2004)

Buy the book

There are around 120 publishers in Scotland. In a typical year, Scotland’s publishers produce 3,000 titles, pay royalties to over 14,000 writers and launch the careers of hundreds of new writers. Scotland has publishing activity worth an estimated £343 million (at invoice value) to the Scottish economy, which is more than the cashmere industry and just behind the salmon industry.

(Source: www.publishingscotland.co.uk)

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