Source and activity 5

Extract from a letter to his publisher, 1977

Page from a handwritten letter
Letter to Canongate Books.
{NLS reference: Acc.11197/77]
View larger letter image

This is part of a letter Alasdair Gray wrote to his contact at Canongate Books, regarding the publication of his novel 'Lanark'.

In the letter, Gray gives detailed instructions about pages in the book which have complex layouts.

In this extract, he discusses the way in which quotations from books, newspapers, and other sources should appear in the final version.

Suggested activity

Source 4, source 5 and source 6 can be used together to demonstrate the process of publishing, proofing, and the importance of page layout and design.

Each source illustrates a different stage producing a final version of 'Lanark' for publication, and you might like to compare them with the most recent printed edition (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2007, pages 448-450).

This source shows an extract from a letter that Gray wrote to his publisher. Sources 4 and 6 show a page from the handwritten manuscript, and a proof page produced by the printer, with author's edits.

In each case, it's clear that Gray has a specific vision for the way in which the text should be presented in the final, printed version.

Do you think that the page layout and design has any impact on the meaning, or highlights important elements of the text?


Themes in focus - Alasdair Gray

Find out more about Alasdair Gray in NLS collections

The Alasdair Gray Archive is listed under ‘G’ in our Guide to Manuscripts Collections.


Search our catalogue for books by or about Alasdair Gray.


Visit the Scottish Screen Archive site to find films inspired by, featuring, or about Alasdair Gray, including a clip of the film ‘Faces’ using masks made by Gray.

Alasdair Gray on the web

Visit Alasdair Gray’s own website for lots of information.


Find out more about the ‘Lanark’ manuscript held at Glasgow University Library.

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