Judge a book by it‘s cover and it‘s odds on it‘s a Virago. The now familiar house-style of a rediscovered painting framed in olive green. has transformed corners of the nation‘s bookshops into a cross between the Tate and the Botanical Gardens. At the Virago Bookshop in Covent Garden all is verdant: books. plants. shelving. only the ﬂoorboards have been spared. It is a remarkable story with the stamina of a saga for new chapters are continually being written.
The latest is ‘Scottish Classics‘. a new series which is being launched in Edinburgh on 20 February with the publication ofthree reprints: Marriage by Susan Ferrier. Mary and Jane Findlater‘s Crossrr'ggs and Catherine Carswell‘s Open the Door.I Time was when it was nigh-impossible to get hold ofany Scottish book in paperback but since the Scottish Arts Council‘s investigation in 1982 into the feasibility ofa library of‘significant‘ Scottish books. reprinting has been rife. So I asked Alexandra Pringle. a Virago director and the editor of the series. to explain the thinking behind it. ‘Since Virago Classics started in 1978 with Antonia White‘s Frost in May we‘ve published books by women from many different countries— Ireland. Australia. America — now it seemed a logical progression to do Scotland which apart from Stramullion doesn‘t have a tradition of Scottish literature by women. and we have plans for more. Crossriggs for instance. was recommended by Paul Binding and was mentioned by David Cecil in a TLS symposium on neglected writers!
With Virago buying up rights in an
; overcrowded market place. is there j not a threat to Scottish publishers already embarked on their own
series? ‘The more the merrier’. says an ebullient Richard Drew. who gives the impression that he‘d be only too happy to take on a monstrous regiment of women any
5 day of the week. His ‘Scottish Collection‘ started last year with
' eight titles at least one of which.
Naomi Mitchison‘s The Bull Calves would have been high on the Virago shopping list. He regards his series as one of the best things he‘s done since he started publishing independently
(previously he was with Collins) both
in terms ofpersonal and trade satisfaction and prestige. Reaction from Scottish booksellers over Christmas. the trade‘s peak period. was very encouraging. but he admits t that ‘south of Carlisle‘ he has a problem which he is vigorously attempting to surmount by frequent forays on train and plane.
This is where Virago has the advantage for it‘s ‘Scottish Classics‘ came from the same mould as it‘s other titles and will sit on the shelf alongside those. Not everyone is as dismissive ofthem as Richard Drew. i ‘a down-market production. I
- a sensible package. Stephanie
publisher Canongate. also plans to
This year will be a good one for anyone interested in , Classic Scottish fiction. Alan Taylor examines two of the publishers Richard Drew and Virago.
Virago Modern Classics
husk”... _E__ Crossriggs
Two of vlrago’s Scottlsh Classics. The 1818 soclsl satire of ‘Marrlago' and the ‘Crossrlggs' the tale at a woman who rolusss to conform. up-market price‘ (£3.95). though he admires the way Virago sells books i ‘like soap‘ and is encouraging people to compare their value with films. record. tapes and videos.
Essentially it‘s a cover story and Drew acknowledges that Virago‘s is
Wolfe-Murray. of the Edinburgh
do a paperback list and says. intriguingly. she has ‘some interesting women on the shortlist‘. She agrees. as she has done successfully. with her ‘Kelpies‘ (children‘s paperbacks). that ‘it I
helps to put a label on them‘ and that will be a high priority if she goes ahead.
So with the Scottish Academic Press planning to expand its ‘Scottish Classics‘. there is no shortage of choice. But who will survive and is there enough good material to go round? Judy Moir. Administrator of the Scottish Publishers Association. reckons there is but adds. ‘lt‘s very difficult to measure the fund of reprintable fiction and there are so many imponderable factors which determine cost. Whether a book is out ofcopyright. whether you reset or reprint from the original. whether you get subsidy and whether you‘re able to sell rights abroad. I think two or three will survive.‘
; ‘they‘re not bestsellers‘
And on past form. one will
undoubtedly be Virago. For Virago
south ofCarlisle is no problem and
f Viking in the United States take all
its ‘Classics‘. Alexandra Pringle is
. optimistic. on the basis ofinitial : reaction. but cautious: ‘They are not
what you‘d call bestsellers. but we do want to do them.‘ Virago‘s ‘Scottish Classics‘ will be
; reviewed in a forthcoming List.
Marriage by Susan Ferrier will be
j discussed on Prospect (R Scotland) ; Sunday 9. 2.30pm. (Alan Taylor)
’ IN V Books: In vogue? The
Great American novel revisited.
Late: Out late? Guide to discos, food. fuel . . .
Style: In love? Saying it
! with style — or not.
Restaurants: Dining out? Restaurants to woo and chew in.
Travel: Getting about.
? Alastair Scott surveys five 5 years globetrotting.
The List 7 — 20 Feb 3E