A story from the publishers of Katharine Hill's book 'Born Free'

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A story from the publishers of Katharine Hill's book 'Born Free'
Article by Stephanie Heald, publishing director at Muddy Pearl.

Every book has a story, many stories, behind and within it. That is certainly true of this one. Born Free begins with a description of a busy worker, the ant, and how our lives can feel as full and hectic as the short existence of that tiny invertebrate. Katharine Hill writes about how the pandemic gave her a chance to see a life lived differently; at a slower pace, with time to be thoughtful and deliberate. From seeing herself as the busy ant, Katharine realised she actually wanted to be like the lioness: ‘resting and yet fully alert, attentive to the moment, ready to jump up and go the distance at a second’s notice’.

The rest of the book lays out the ways and means of becoming more ‘attentive to God’s presence in the midst of the demands of the day ... [allowing] activity to flow from that place of stillness, love and peace’. Katharine has written Born Free beautifully and many people have worked extremely hard to bring it to life.

But I’d like to tell you about one of the unsung heroes, the printer. If you were to visit Bell and Bain, our wonderful book printer in Glasgow, you’d see a swimming-pool-sized shed with vast stacks of paper; shelves of printing inks; enormous metal printing plates; machines folding, gluing, binding and trimming; and many lovely new books coming off the line ready to ship. It’s a noisy, busy factory spinning out thousands of books every hour. If you worked there, you might well feel like the proverbial, industrious ant.

At Muddy Pearl, we try to take care about the design of our books. With this one, we felt it was extra special and pushed the boat out – the paper is creamy and thick; the cover is olive green Wibalin®, gold blocked on the spine; the endpapers are printed to match the jacket design. The delivery was on time and the books were lovely.

Then came the call. Someone noticed there was a blank page. Not at the end of a section or chapter, so it might seem deliberate, but in the middle. Blank, apart from a running head and a page number. There’d been a late change, the page layout had somehow slipped and none of us had noticed. What on earth could we do? Pulp them all and start again? How could we possibly justify all that waste? Bell and Bain came up with the plan that we could try to ‘tip in’ a page.

The pallets of books were collected from the distributors. Katharine wrote exactly one page of new text – good and important text – and David typeset it so that it would flow exactly. We proofread very, very carefully. Bell and Bain printed the page and then their team sat around a table, painstakingly cutting out one page and sticking in a new one. The books were boxed back up, packed on pallets and shipped back to the warehouses. All done.

Then, talking to our account manager at Bell and Bain, they expressed how they had been glad of all the work we’d sent them recently. Doing the tip in had been a significant time; the skilled, careful hand work – cutting 5,000 pages out of 5,000 books and carefully sticking 5,000 new pages in – felt a bit like the old days. As they quietly cut and stuck over several days, they had time to talk. It sounded to me like a kairos moment, when they had time to be attentive – if not directly to God, then certainly to their work, and to the book Katharine has written, which tells of her faith. Attentive to the page they were sticking in, which, providentially, is about Jesus, the cross and how even in our darkest times, our lives are in his hands.

And so, if you run your finger around the edge of the book, you’ll feel a slight unevenness. Every single book will be unique, because a page has been tipped in by hand. A page about Jesus, the cross and how he’s with us even when things seem dark. That is one of the stories behind this book. My prayer is that it will reach many others in ways that we might never plan, expect or imagine, and that it will be a blessing to every one of us.


Katharine Hill LLB JP is UK Director at Care for the Family. She speaks and writes on family matters, is a regular author for The Huffington Post, and author of several books. Katharine leads on Care for the Family’s policy agenda representing the organisation at government level. She has served as a family lawyer and as member of the board of the International Commission on Couple and Family Relations.



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Born Free (Hard Cover)
Katharine Hill
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