For many years in catalogues of forthcoming publications Alsadair Gray's Anthology of Prefaces has been referred to. Some suspected a Gray type joke as the book failed to appear year on year. Was it a post modern joke? Gray after all was the man that had an erratum slip inserted in an earlier book reading "This erratum slip was inserted by mistake." The apparent joke was taken too far when one catalogue of second hand books published almost a decade ago suggested that the book had not appreciated in value and was worth roughly £20 second hand. This was not a bad sum for a non-existent text. Snippets of text appeared occasionally, and while the book remained unpublished it became apparent that Gray was beginnning to make serious progress on the work. It then became known that others were assisting Gray in his task of glossing the prefaces including crucially important Scottish writers such as Jim Kelman, Tom Leonard, Janice Galloway, and Alison Kennedy.
So now the book has arrived. The title has changed (now The Book of Prefaces, rather than an anthology). The price rather more than the suggested second hand value.
And it is well worth the wait. This will stand as a monument to Gray's achievements as an artist (of words and of pictures). His remit has been to produce a history of literature in English from the sixth century to the present day.
This is a book to revel in. Among prefaces to novels and poems (from the well known, such as Mary Shelley's genesis of Frankenstein to the less well known such as Trahern's poetry) there are prefaces (and prologues) to works of philosophy (e.g. Bentham and Franklin) and law (the introduction to Stair's Institutions, a crucially important work in the survival of Scots law as an independent legal system).
The book is beautifully illustrated, wonderfully designed, and contains a charming introduction by Gray detailing reasons for prefaces and for enjoying reading them (my favourite, enjoying watching authors in a huff).
This book will be an invaluable companion through life, and careful reading will have the desired effect of making an individual appear better read and more erudite than they really are.
Buy and enjoy this wonderful book.