Stephanie Wolfe Murray broke the publishing mould

Stephanie Wolfe Murray in the Canongate office in 1982
Stephanie Wolfe Murray in the Canongate office in 1982
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It was perhaps because she had no experience in the field she broke the mould in Scottish publishing.

Stephanie Wolfe Murray trampled over any boundaries she encountered and completely transformed the industry – all in her pursuit of producing beautiful books.

A co-founder of the Edinburgh publishing house Canongate, she is best known for introducing Alasdair Gray and his debut novel Lanark and for publishing reformed criminal Jimmy Boyle’s autobiography, A Sense of Freedom, written while he was still in prison.

She later went on to immerse herself equally enthusiastically in charity work, rebuilding homes for the destitute in Kosovo.

Born in Dorset and educated at a girls’ boarding school in Northamptonm, he mother, determined to prepare her for life as an eligible society lady sent her to Italy where she studied art. A charismatic beauty, who once appeared as a cover girl on Queen magazine, she fell for Scottish journalist Angus Wolfe Murray whom she married when she was barely out of her teens. They lived in London and Leeds before moving to Scotland where they settled in a remote home in Inverness-shire.

They later moved to her husband’s family home near Peebles, and the seeds of Canongate were sown thanks to their American friend Bob Shure. When he had difficulty getting a novel published they established their own publishers, working out of an office off Edinburgh’s High Street and naming it after the Canongate area.

It was 1973 and the couple issued Shure’s book alongside a collection of the American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories.

When she and her husband split up and he left the company, she continued to run the business on a shoestring. Shortly before they parted her husband had discovered excerpts of Lanark in a magazine, so she followed up and, with her colleague Charles Wild, published the novel that has since become a modern classic.

While bringing up her four boys, she went on to publish Jimmy Boyle’s book and Charles Palliser’s epic novel The Quincunx as well as supporting less high-profile writers, such as struggling poets, and mentoring other publishing talent. She helped to establish the Scottish Publishers Association (now Publishing Scotland), a co-operative for independent publishers, was a long-standing member of its board and on the founding board of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

By 1994, despite her ingenuity, Canongate was in financial difficulty and was bought out by her colleague Jamie Byng. Mrs Wolfe Murray retired from publishing but became heavily involved in charity work instead. She helped to set up the Edinburgh charity Scottish European Aid, which later merged with Mercy Corps Europe, which now works all over the world. She was also involved with Edinburgh Direct Aid, the Scottish Charities Kosovo Appeal and Connect Humanitarian Agency.

Returning to Scotland, she moved to the Borders and was reunited with her husband Angus some 30 years after they separated. She died aged 76 on June 24. She is survived by her husband and their sons Kim, Rupert, Gavin and Magnus.