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John Murray Archive unwrapped

28/03/2006

The John Murray Archive, one of the world's most important literary collections, was unveiled in Edinburgh today as preparations are made to put them on permanent display at the National Library of Scotland.

A selection of the 150,000 letters, journals and manuscripts dating from 1768 to 1920 will be seen by the public at any one time from September. A permanent exhibition space and a special John Murray Reading Room is planned for summer 2007.

The collection, which includes items by writers such as Charles Darwin, David Livingstone and Jane Austen, was bought by the National Library for £31.2 million with the aid of a £17.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Today Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson and National Librarian Martyn Wade watched as some of the last items from the collection, built up by Edinburgh-born John Murray at his famous London publishing house, were being unwrapped.

Ms Ferguson said:

"The arrival of the John Murray Archive in Scotland is hugely exciting for the National Library in Edinburgh and for Scotland as a whole. As the most significant literary archive to become publicly available in the past 100 years it is literature's jewel in the crown and it is an immense achievement to see it finally arrive in Scotland."

Highlights from the John Murray Archive:

The Byron Collection

Letter from Lady Caroline Lamb to Lord ByronThe most extensive and important collection of Byron in the world.

  • the major portion of the poet's original manuscripts and annotated proofs
  • his surviving journals
  • the largest single collection (approximately 1,200) of his own letters
  • letters to Byron from fellow poets and writers - such as James Hogg, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley - his family, his publisher, his closest friends, servants, travelling companions, politicians, artists, actors, mistresses, acquaintances and unknown fans, solicitors, bankers and merchants
  • letters about Byron

British European and American Literature

  • Jane Austen, writing about the publication of Emma
  • Washington Irving, corresponding from France, Spain, the USA and elsewhere
  • Sir Walter Scott, offering his opinion on everything from the Quarterly Review to political issues

Other literary figures represented in the archive include: Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, William Wordsworth, Anthony Trollope, George Elliot, Allan Cunningham and J M Barrie. The collection also contains the pre-eminent holding of manuscripts by George Crabbe.

Science and Technology

  • Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859
  • Charles Babbage
  • Humphry Davy
  • Michael Faraday
  • William Thomas Brande
  • Sir Charles Lyall

Economics and Politics

  • Isaac and Benjamin Disraeli
  • William Ewart Gladstone
  • Sir Robert Peel
  • John Stuart Mill
  • Winston Churchill

Scholarship and the Arts

  • Edward Lear
  • John Constable
  • Fanny Kemble
  • Sir David Wilkie
  • John Ruskin
  • Sir Edwin Landseer