Nineteenth Century Literary Society

The John Murray Publishing Archive

An unparalleled resource for nineteenth century culture and the literary luminaries who shaped it.

Nineteenth Century Literary Society offers unprecedented digital access to the peerless archive of the historic John Murray publishing company.

Held by the National Library of Scotland since 2006 and added to the UNESCO Register of World Memory in 2011, the Murray collection comprises one of the world’s most important literary archives.

This digital resource enables researchers to discover the golden age of the company that published genre-defining titles including Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Austen’s Emma, and Livingstone’s Missionary Travels.

In addition, the resource makes available the most complete archival collection of Lord Byron, charting both literary triumph and personal scandal.

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Key Data

Period Covered

  • c.1768 -  1900

Key Figures

  • Lord Byron
  • Charles Darwin
  • David Livingstone
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • Washington Irving
  • Politicians such as William Gladstone, Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli
  • Contemporary bestselling authors including Austen Henry Layard and Charles Lyell
  • Pioneering female writers including Jane Austen, Elizabeth Eastlake and Isabella Bird 
  • Editors of the periodical, the Quarterly Review, such as William Gifford, John Gibson Lockhart and Whitwell Elwin

Highlights

  • Correspondence charting the founding of the business by John Murray in 1768
  • Annotated drafts of Lord Byron’s works including Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and the poet’s personal papers
  • The completed, first edition file copy of On the Origin of Species, with related correspondence from Charles Darwin
  • Financial papers recording the sales success of hundreds of Murray titles
  • Correspondence sent home from Isabella Bird’s travels in America, Australia and the Far East
  • Drafts of David Livingstone’s seminal work, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, with proof illustrations
  • Advertisements originally published in the Murray journal, The Quarterly Review

Source Archives

  • The John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland

Editorial Board

  • Deidre Lynch, Harvard University
  • David McClay, Former Senior Curator of the John Murray Archive
  • Tom Mole, Edinburgh University
  • Leigh Wetherall-Dickson, Northumbria University
  • Charles Withers, Geographer Royal for Scotland

Key Themes

  • Literature and poetry
  • Publishing and book history
  • The life and works of Lord Byron
  • Travel and exploration
  • Science and geology
  • Politics and society

Additional Features

  • Former curator, David McClay introduces the John Murray Archive in a video interview
  • An exhibition on the Life Cycle of the Book charts the evolution of five titles published by the Murrays
  • Biographies offer an insight into the key figures who made up the business and literary society in this period
  • A chronology of relevant events provides context for young scholars
  • A selection of specially commissioned essays introduce the key themes of the collection