October 28, 2023

George Ronald Publisher celebrates 80th Anniversary

This past spring, two members of the Ottawa Bahá'í community, Linda O'Neil and Heather Harvey, were thrilled to be part of the celebrations for the 80th Anniversary of the much beloved and prolific Bahá'í publishing company, George Ronald. Invitations had been sent out around the world to authors, book distributors, editors, illustrators, and others who had contributed to George Ronald over the years, and about 80 gathered for two days of events in a small village just outside of Oxford, England.

"I was so honoured and excited to be invited," said Heather Harvey, past manager of the Ottawa Bahá'í bookstore. "I had some money put aside from a trip that was cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic and couldn't think of a better way to use it."

Linda O'Neil added, "I was thrilled to meet Bahá'í authors I had long admired, such as Katherine Jewett Hogeson who wrote the recent biography of Horace Holley, and Earl Redman who has published many volumes of Bahá'í history."

The weather was gorgeous, roses were in bloom, and about 80 participants spent two days together listening to details of each other's projects and attending a presentation on the history and operations of the company. Not only were new friends made, but people who had only met on Zoom or by email were able to get to know each other in person.

George Ronald (GR) was founded in 1943 by a Bahá'í actor, David Hofman, who loved storytelling and was looking for a way he could be of service to the British Bahá'í community, even while he was busy most evenings and weekends on stage. When the company began, there were only occasional publications, but in 1947, the business was set up full time. In the beginning, books of both general interest and on Bahá'í topics were published. When, in 1963, David Hofman's service to the Bahá'í Faith took him to the World Centre of the Bahá'í Faith in Haifa, Israel, his wife Marion Hofman took over leadership of the company, and over time much of the editing and publishing work of the company has been done by women.

The company aims to publish books that are "useful, authentic and accurate. At last count, GR collaborates with over 170 authors, and has over 300 books in print. Over the years, titles have included books of history, biography, introductions to and commentary and study guides on the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, children's books, academic titles, architecture, the arts, and books to help Bahá'ís in their quest to live a life inspired by Bahá'u'lláh and His teachings. Three of the most recent publications are Bahá'í Community of the British Isles: 1844 - 1963; Bahá'í House of Worship - Design, Construction and Community, and; Concept of Peace in the Bahá'í Faith.

On the last morning, our well-informed guide Stephen Vickers led a tour of Oxford which focused on landmarks associated with historical moments of the Bahá'í Faith. In December 1912, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, son of Bahá'u'lláh and head of the Bahá'í Faith from 1892 to 1912, visited Manchester College. We spent time in the chapel where He spoke on themes that included science, knowledge and the unity of religions, and visited the library where He engaged in more intimate conversations. We also viewed landmarks associated with Shoghi Effendi, grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 to 1957. Shoghi Effendi was in Oxford from July 2020 to November 1921, where he studied at Balliol College. It was here that we spent most of our time, seeing the windows to his rooms, visiting the chapel and student union, and soaking up the atmosphere of this lovely old college.

It was with great reluctance that we went our separate ways after this shining weekend, having made new friends, renewed old friendships, and were inspired by the stories shared about George Ronald, to continue to read, write and honour the world of ideas.

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