John Murray (publisher)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

John Murray is a British publisher, known for the authors it has published in its history, including Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, Charles Lyell, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herman Melville, Edward Whymper, Thomas Malthus, and Charles Darwin. Since 2004, it has been owned by conglomerate Lagardère under the Hachette UK brand. Business publisher Nicholas Brealey became an imprint of John Murray in 2015.

Contents

History

The business was founded in London in 1768 by John Murray (1737–1793), an Edinburgh-born Royal Marines officer, who built up a list of authors including Isaac D'Israeli and published the English Review.

John Murray the elder was one of the founding sponsors of the London evening newspaper The Star in 1788.

He was succeeded by his son, also called John Murray, who made the publishing house one of the most important and influential in Britain. He was a friend of many leading writers of the day and launched the Quarterly Review in 1809. He was the publisher of Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Washington Irving, George Crabbe and many others. His home and office at 50 Albemarle Street in Mayfair was the centre of a literary circle, fostered by Murray's tradition of "Four o'clock friends", afternoon tea with his writers.

Murray's most notable author was Lord Byron, who became a close friend and correspondent of his. Murray published many of his major works, paying him over £20,000 in rights. On 10 March 1812 Murray published Byron's second book, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which sold out in five days, leading to Byron's observation "I awoke one morning and found myself famous".

On 17 May 1824 Murray participated in one of the most notorious acts in the annals of literature. Byron had given him the manuscript of his personal memoirs to publish later on. Together with five of Byron's friends and executors, he decided to destroy Byron's manuscripts because he thought the scandalous details would damage Byron's reputation. With only Thomas Moore objecting, the two volumes of memoirs were dismembered and burnt in the fireplace at Murray's office. It remains unknown what they contained.

John Murray III (1808–1892) continued the business and published Charles Eastlake's first English translation of Goethe's Theory of Colours (1840), David Livingstone's Missionary Travels (1857), and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859). Murray III contracted with Herman Melville to publish Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847) in England; both books were presented as nonfiction travel narratives in Murray's Home and Colonial Library series, alongside such works as the 1845 second edition of Darwin's journals from his travels on Template:HMS. John Murray III also started the Murray Handbooks in 1836, a series of travel guides from which modern-day guides are directly descended. The rights to these guides were sold around 1900 and subsequently acquired in 1915 by the Blue Guides.

His successor Sir John Murray IV (1851–1928) was publisher to Queen Victoria. Among other works, he published Murray's Magazine from 1887 until 1891. From 1904 he published the Wisdom of the East book series. Competitor Smith, Elder & Co. was acquired in 1917.

His son Sir John Murray V (1884–1967), grandson John Murray VI (John Arnaud Robin Grey Murray; 1909–1993) and great-grandson John Murray VII (John Richmond Grey Murray; 1941–) continued the business until it was taken over.

In 2002, John Murray was acquired by Hodder Headline, which was itself acquired in 2004 by the French conglomerate Lagardère Group. Since then, it has been an imprint under Lagardère brand Hachette UK.

In 2015, business publisher Nicholas Brealey became an imprint of John Murray.

John Murray archive

The archive of John Murray Publishers, from 1768 through to 1920, was offered for sale to the nation by John Murray VII for £31 million and the National Library of Scotland has acquired it, including the manuscript of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. On 26 January 2005, it was announced that the National Library was to be given £17.7m by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the £31.2m price offered by John Murray on condition the Library digitise the materials and make them available. The Scottish Government agreed to contribute £8.3m, with the Library setting a £6.5m fundraising target for the remainder.

John Murray timeline

  • 1768 – John MacMurray, a former lieutenant of the Marines, buys a bookselling business at 32 Fleet Street. He changes his name to Murray and uses his naval contacts to build up a thriving business
  • 1806 – The first bestseller, A New System of Domestic Cookery, by A Lady (Maria Rundell), was published, with a second edition two years later

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Film adaptations of John Murray titles




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