Archive of John Murray, publishers. Edit




  • Late 18th century-circa 1930. (Creation)


  • 71.40 linear metres (Whole)

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  • Conditions Governing Access

    Normal access conditions apply.

  • Scope and Contents

    The John Murray Archive contains the records and associated material of the publishing house of John Murray. John Murray [I], born McMurray, was an Edinburgh born marine before moving to London. He there dropped the 'Mc' from his name and in 1768 established a publishing and bookselling business that would continue until 2002. Seven successive generations of the Murray family headed the publishing business from London, initially from 32 Fleet Street, before moving to 50 Albemarle Street in 1812. The papers here date from the years just before the establishment of the publishing house until circa 1930.

    The publishing house produced books that covered a wide range of genres, including travel and exploration, poetry, novels and biography. In addition, the house of Murray were involved in other publishing ventures, such as the ill-fated newspaper endeavour, 'The Representative', and the much more successful and highly influential 'Quarterly Review', as well as producing the 'Navy Lists' for the Admiralty. The John Murray Archive covers the progress of the business from the 1760s until the early 20th century. The records reflect the activities of the publishing house and the wider world in which it functioned.

    Included is a substantial amount of correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, of and to a variety of authors, editors, illustrators, printers and other publishers. This correspondence includes details of the business of the publishing house, as well as a wealth of personal information.

    Material relating to some of the most prominent Murray authors forms a significant portion of the archive. This series is known as the 'author papers' and include letters, photographs, drafts, manuscripts, proofs and other related material of well-known figures such as Jane Austen, Isabella Bird Bishop, Charles Darwin, Sir Charles and Elizabeth Eastlake, David Livingstone, William Gladstone, Sir Austen Henry Layard, Sir Walter Scott and Sir William Smith.

    The business papers of the publishing house also survive in this archive. The extant business papers include information relating to the financial and administration processes of John Murray. These records provide a wide ranging insight into the business of one of the most significant publishing houses of the period.

    A large amount of personal correspondence has also been preserved in this archive. The 'Family Papers' are full of letters between various members of, to or about the extended Murray family, as well as their closest friends.

    Two other bookselling and publishing archives form part of the John Murray Archive. Firstly, the papers of Charles Elliot, an Edinburgh bookseller and publisher, came to the Murray family through the marriage of John Murray [II] to Anne Elliot, a daughter of Charles. Elliot had been an important publisher in the Scottish capital, particularly of medical works, and these papers provide an understanding of his business and activities.

    Secondly, and more substantially, are the papers relating to Smith, Elder and Company. Smith, Elder and Company had been one of the most important publishing houses of the 19th century, publishing the likes of the Brontes, Arthur Conan Doyle, Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope, as well as producing the literary 'Cornhill Magazine'. Following the death of Reginald Smith, John Murray [IV] acquired the publishing business in 1917 and the papers here followed. Although large volumes of the correspondence of this firm had already been acquired by the National Library of Scotland, the correspondence and business papers included in the John Murray Archive are crucial to understanding the business of thise publishing house and its authors.

    One of the most significant authors to be published by Murray was the poet George Gordon Noel Byron, Lord Byron. John Murray [II] published 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage' in 1812 and this was the start of a relationship with the poet, his life and his works that was to continue throughout the successive generations of John Murray. As a result of this relationship, the John Murray Archive includes the archive of Lord Byron, which was collected by the Murray family over many years. This vast archive includes correspondence, manuscripts, fair copies, proofs, commonplace books, receipts and bills, accounts, and other records relating to Byron and his circle.

  • General

    Please note that due to a conservation project some incoming correspondence files may be unavailable during 2020.

    You can check availability of a material from this collection by emailing the Archives and Manuscript Collections team at

  • Arrangement

    The John Murray Archive has been arranged into eight series - the incoming correspondence; outgoing correspondence; author papers; business papers; the family papers; Charles Elliot business papers; Smith, Elder and Company Archive; and, finally, the Lord Byron Archive.

  • Custodial History

    The John Murray Archive was purchased by the National Library of Scotland in 2006.