Octagon Press

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Octagon Press
Official logo
Status Active
Founded 1960
Founder Idries Shah
Country of origin  United Kingdom
Headquarters location London
Distribution Worldwide
Nonfiction topics humanities, cultural geography, literature, poetry, folklore, psychology, travel and philosophy
Official website octagonpress.com

Octagon Press was a cross-cultural publishing house based in London, UK. It was founded in 1960 by Sufi teacher, Idries Shah to establish the historical and cultural context for his ideas.[1] The company ceased trading in 2014.[2]


Octagon Press published many of Shah's later works.[3] In addition, the publishing house has produced translations of Sufi classics[4] and titles by other notable authors, focusing on the fields of the humanities, cultural geography, literature, poetry, folklore, psychology, travel and philosophy.[5]

Shah used Octagon Press to increase the availability of information on Afghanistan, aware that there would be a need for such information after the country's recent history.[1] Two of his books, Darkest England (1987) and The Natives are Restless (1988), "traced affinities between the English and Afghan peoples".[3]

For many years Octagon Press sold the academic monographs published by the London Institute for Cultural Research, now sold directly by the ICR. A number of the classical works have been published with the aid of the Sufi Trust.

The Octagon Press Limited was registered in the United Kingdom as a limited liability company at Companies House on 10 January 1972.[6]

In 2014, it was stated on the official web site that "The Octagon Press announces that it is to cease from trading in its current form. The works of Idries Shah will henceforth be represented by ISF Publishing, a part of The Idries Shah Foundation. Existing editions of Octagon Press titles will no longer be available. Idries Shah's corpus of work will be relaunched in entirety in new printed and eBook editions."[2]


  • Jack L. Bracelin, a biographer. One of the first Octagon titles was the biographical work, Gerald Gardner: Witch. Attributed to Jack L. Bracelin, it was in fact ghost-written by Shah, who was Gardner's secretary at the time of writing.[7][8]
  • Edward Campbell, a Fleet Street journalist and an acknowledged authority on circuses and the training of wild animals, who had a book The People of the Secret published for a time by Octagon, written under the pseudonym "Ernest Scott".[10] The book featured an introduction by the philosopher and prolific novelist Colin Wilson.
  • Amir Habibullah, born Bacha Saqao, the son of a poor water-carrier, who eventually became King of Afghanistan. A year after being crowned, he was overthrown and executed.[11][12][13] His autobiography, My Life - from Brigand to King, is published by Octagon.
  • Khalilullah Khalili, Afghanistan's foremost 20th-century poet.[16] The Quatrains of Khalilullah Khalili is published with both Dari and English versions of the text.
  • Idries Shah, author of over forty books. His most seminal work was The Sufis, which appeared in 1964 and was well received internationally.[17]
  • Denise Winn, a British journalist specializing in psychology and medicine, is a former editor of the UK edition of Psychology Today, has written for national newspapers and magazines in Britain for over 20 years, and is author of a dozen books on psychological and medical topics. The Manipulated Mind : Brainwashing, Conditioning and Indoctrination was published by Octagon.[19]

Classical translations[edit]

Notable classical Sufi authors in translation include:

The compilation Four Sufi Classics contains:

  • Al-Ghazali: The Niche for Lights
  • Jami: The Abode of Spring
  • Jami: Salaman and Absal
  • Sanai: The Way of the Seeker


Idries Shah's books on Sufism have achieved wide critical acclaim. He was the subject of a BBC documentary ("One Pair of Eyes: Dreamwalkers") in 1970,[21] and two of his works (The Way of the Sufi and Reflections) were chosen as "Outstanding Book of the Year" by the BBC's "The Critics" programme.[22] Among other honours, Shah won six first prizes at the UNESCO World Book Year in 1973,[21] and the Islamic scholar James Kritzeck, commenting on Shah's Tales of the Dervishes, said that it was "beautifully translated".[22] At the time of his death, Shah's books had sold over 15 million copies in a dozen languages worldwide.[23]

Nobel Prize–winning author Doris Lessing, who has also had work published by Octagon Press, praised Shah's many books and saw him as a "good friend and teacher".[24]

Relief efforts[edit]

Idries Shah set up a charitable agency, Afghan Relief[25] which operated from 1984 to 2002. Its aim was to provide medical, educational and other aid to refugees[3] and Shah wrote books to assist in the operation, some of which are published by Octagon. The relief effort is also now carried out in association with The Institute for the Study Of Human Knowledge (ISHK) and their children's imprint, Hoopoe Books. Hoopoe provides books and complementary teaching materials to schools and children in Afghanistan, with official permission from Afghanistan's Minister of Education in Kabul.[26] Hoopoe also provides relief for Pakistan.

The Kite Runner companion curriculum, published by Amnesty International USA contains a list of books recommended for further reading by the Afghanistan Relief Organization (ARO, founded in 1998 and not to be confused with Shah's original Afghan Relief).[27] These recommended books include several works for children by Idries Shah published by Hoopoe, and Ikbal Ali Shah's Afghanistan of the Afghans and works by Saira and Safia Shah published by Octagon.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff. "Idries Shah – Grand Sheikh of the Sufis whose inspirational books enlightened the West about the moderate face of Islam (obituary)". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2000-05-25. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  2. ^ a b Staff (2014). "Octagon Press". Octagon Press. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  3. ^ a b c Cecil, Robert (1996-11-26). "Obituary: Idries Shah". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  4. ^ Malik, Jamal; Hinnells, John R. (eds.) (2006). Sufism in the West. London, UK/New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. p. 32. ISBN 0-415-27407-9. 
  5. ^ Staff. "About the Octagon Press". Octagon Press. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  6. ^ Company details of Octagon Press Limited (The) at ukdata.com
  7. ^ Lamond, Frederic (2004). Fifty Years of Wicca. Green Magic. p. 9. ISBN 0-9547230-1-5. 
  8. ^ Pearson, Joanne (2002). A Popular Dictionary of Paganism. London, UK/New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. p. 28. ISBN 0-7007-1591-6. 
  9. ^ Staff. "Historical figures: Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890)". BBC History. Retrieved 2009-05-26. [dead link]
  10. ^ Stacey, Don (2006-05-18). "Obituaries: Edward Campbell". The Stage. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  11. ^ Balland, Daniel. "BACCA-YE SAQQA". Encyclopædia Iranica (Online ed.). United States: Columbia University. 
  12. ^ "Habibullah Kalakani". Afghanistan Online. Retrieved 3 September 2006. 
  13. ^ Dupree, Louis: "Afghanistan", page 459. Princeton University Press, 1973
  14. ^ Smoley, Richard; Kinney, Jay (2004). Hidden Wisdom. Wheaton, IL/Chennai, India: Quest Books. p. 244. ISBN 0-8356-0844-1. 
  15. ^ Galin, Müge (1997). Between East and West: Sufism in the Novels of Doris Lessing. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-7914-3383-8. 
  16. ^ Staff (1987-05-14). "Khalilullah Khalili Dies at 79; Afghan Poet and Ex-Official". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  17. ^ Staff (1996-12-02). "Idries Shah, 72, Indian-Born Writer Of Books on Sufism (obituary)". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  18. ^ Shah, Tahir (2006-07-09). "Expert's Picks: Travel & Adventure". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  19. ^ Staff. "The Manipulated Mind : Brainwashing, Conditioning and Indoctrination". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  20. ^ Staff (2008-04-24). "Poetry of Rumi a Unifying Force of Civilizations". America.gov. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  21. ^ a b The Middle East and North Africa. Europa Publications Limited, Taylor & Francis Group, International Publications Service. 1988. p. 952. ISBN 978-0-905118-50-5. 
  22. ^ a b Lessing, Doris; Elwell-Sutton, L. P. (1970-10-22). "Letter to the Editors by Doris Lessing, with a reply by L. P. Elwell-Sutton". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  23. ^ Westerlund, David (ed.) (2004). Sufism in Europe and North America. New York, NY: RoutledgeCurzon. pp. 136–138. ISBN 0-415-32591-9. 
  24. ^ Lessing, Doris. "On the Death of Idries Shah (excerpt from Shah's obituary in the London The Daily Telegraph)". dorislessing.org. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  25. ^ Afghan Relief was registered with the UK Charity Commission (no. 289910). It was founded 25 July 1984 and ceased to exist and was removed from the registry on 3 October 2002. See Charity Commission record. It used the same Post Office box number in London as the Society for Sufi Studies for its address
  26. ^ Staff. "Hoopoe Children's Books: Books for Afghanistan". Hoopoe Books. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  27. ^ Afghanistan Relief Organization (ARO) is a non-political, non-religious, nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization, registered in the United States and in Afghanistan, founded in the United States in 1998.
  28. ^ Staff. "The Kite Runner companion curriculum (pdf)" (PDF). Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 

External links[edit]