The John Murray Archive
One of the most extraordinary literary archives in the world is about to be put on show at the National Library of Scotland. The John Murray publishing house saved more than 150 thousand documents, manuscripts and letters from writers, including Walter Scott, Disraeli, Darwin and Livingstone.Vanessa Collingridge discovers how Byron's memoirs were burned in John Murray's fireplace, and how this priceless collection of literary papers was found in an old linen press.
One of Murray's most famous authors was Charles Darwin, and the archive includes his original letter outlining the chapters of The Origin of Species. It was a book which changed our understanding of the world, but when Vanessa Collingridge delves into the boxes of papers she discovers that the letter in which he asks the publisher to read his manuscript is surprisingly modest.
The famous Scots publishing family were strong advocates of women's writing. Their authors included the explorer Isabella Bird Bishop, and her letters to Murray include vivid descriptions of her travels, a stunning series of photographs and some exotic hand-made passports.
Vanessa Collingridge delves into the John Murray literary archive to uncover a series of remarkable papers surrounding Walter Scott, whose Waverley Novels were originally printed anonymously. When the publisher John Murray guessed the identity of the man behind the blockbusters, Scott denied having anything to do with them. But shortly afterwards, at a dinner in Edinburgh, he was forced to admit he was the writer. Amazingly, Murray's son was a witness to the confession, and wrote home to tell his father his suspicions had been right all along!.