Appeal to preserve John Murray publisher’s papers
[…] Until recently the archive of 150,000 documents was housed in unsuitable conditions at the publisher’s office in Albemarle Street, London, an address that became almost as famous as some of its authors.
John Murray’s story itself is as interesting as that of many of its writers. The publishing firm started in 1768 when a young Scottish naval officer, John MacMurray, left the service to become a bookseller. He dropped the ‘Mac’ and set up in Fleet Street, using his seaman’s experience to secure contracts to ship books overseas. Murray died in 1793. In 1811 his son, John Murray II, was offered a manuscript by a certain George Gordon, Lord Byron. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage had been rejected by two rivals, but Murray took it – and the first edition sold out within days.
Last year the seventh John Murray offered the firm’s entire collection of papers to the National Library of Scotland at the knockdown price of £33m. None of the money will go directly to the family, but will instead go towards education projects and making the archive available and accessible to the public. However, the last £5m of the asking price still needs to be raised and this week crime writer Ian Rankin will launch a fundraising campaign to keep the archive in the UK.
A spokesman for the NLS said: ‘The John Murray Archive is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge, wisdom, gossip and ideas from across the 19th century. The range it covers – from literature to science through politics, travel and exploration – is remarkable. It really is a showcase for the ideas that changed the world.
‘We are immensely proud that we have this in Scotland, but we just need to make sure that we keep it here.’