John Murray (publishing house)

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John Murray
John Murray
Parent companyHachette UK (brand under Lagardère Group)
Founded1768; 256 years ago (1768)
FounderJohn Murray
Country of originScotland
Headquarters locationLondon
Publication typesBooks

John Murray is a Scottish publisher, known for the authors it has published in its long history including Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, Charles Lyell, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herman Melville, Edward Whymper, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and Charles Darwin. Since 2004, it has been owned by conglomerate Lagardère under the Hachette UK brand.


John Murray (1745–1793), the eponymous founder of the publishing house

The business was founded in London in 1768 by John Murray (1737–1793),[1] an Edinburgh-born Royal Marines officer, who built up a list of authors including Isaac D'Israeli and published the English Review.[2]

John Murray the elder was one of the founding sponsors of the London evening newspaper The Star in 1788.[3]

John Murray II

He was succeeded by his son John Murray II, who made the publishing house important and influential. 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, Mary Somerville 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.[4] It remains unknown what they contained.

John Murray III

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 Journal of Researches from his travels on HMS Beagle.[5] 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.

John Murray IV

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.[6] 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, known as Jock Murray; 1909–1993)[7][8] 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.[9]

In 2015, business publisher Nicholas Brealey became an imprint of John Murray.[10]

John Murray archive[edit]

The John Murray Archive 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.[11][12][13][14][15]

John Murray timeline[edit]

Film adaptations of John Murray titles[edit]


  1. ^ Zachs, William (1998). The First John Murray and the Late Eighteenth-Century Book Trade. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 7. ISBN 0-19-726191-4.
  2. ^ John Treadwell Nichols (1812). "(Printers and booksellers)". Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. Vol. 3. London: Printed for the author, by Nichols, Son, and Bentley. OCLC 1138961.
  3. ^ Belanger, Jacqueline; Peter Garside; Anthony Mandal; Sharon Ragaz (4 January 2003). "British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database Of Production And Reception, Phase Ii: Advertisements For Novels In 'The Star', 1815–1824". Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text. ISSN 1471-5988. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  4. ^ Eisler, Benita. Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, page 3.
  5. ^ Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography; Volume 1, 1819–1851, (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 392, 482–84, 508–10.
  6. ^ Wisdom of the East Series, Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  7. ^ Leigh Fermor, Patrick (23 July 1993). "Obituary: Jock Murray". The Independent. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  8. ^ Murphy, Dervla (8 April 2019). "Jock Murray – A Scholar and a Gentleman". The Oldie. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  9. ^ Hachette UK (2008). "Corporate History Highlights". Hachette UK. Hachette UK. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  10. ^ Hachette UK buys Nicholas Brealey
  11. ^ "Stars back literary archive plans". BBC News. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2007.
  12. ^ "John Murray Archive unwrapped". Scottish Executive website. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  13. ^ "About the John Murray Archive". National Library of Scotland. Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  14. ^ "John Murray Archive Catalogue". National Library of Scotland. Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2007.
  15. ^ "Pages from history". Retrieved 27 April 2007.
  16. ^ "Maria Rundell". (Persephone Books information page)
  17. ^ "Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology". British Library. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021. (OCLC 8990449 (all editions))
  18. ^ Cunningham, Joseph Davy (1849). A History of the Sikhs: From the Origin of the Nation to the Battles of the Sutlej. John Murray.
  19. ^ Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries; and of the Discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa. 1858–1864 (PDF)
  20. ^ "An etymological dictionary of modern English". 1921.
  21. ^ "Heat and Dust | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  22. ^ Laing, Olivia (7 July 2007). "Review: Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  23. ^ "Mister Pip | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Sea of Poppies | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Category List – Best Novel | Edgars Database". Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Icelight — The Crime Writers' Association". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  27. ^ Wood, Heloise (18 January 2022). "John Murray's new crime imprint Baskerville launches with Herron and Boyle". The Bookseller. Retrieved 31 December 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]