Nature and Scope

From book history to travel writing, politics to poetry, this newly digitised resource introduces an unparalleled repository for nineteenth century culture and the literary luminaries who shaped it.

Albemarle Street 

Nineteenth Century Literary Society makes available more than 1,400 items from the archive of the historic John Murray publishing company. Watch the Introduction to the John Murray Archive here.
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. Primary source materials span the entirety of the long nineteenth century and document the golden era of the House of Murray from its inception in 1768. Records digitised in this resource predominantly focus on the tenure of John Murray II and his son, John Murray III, as they rose to prominence in the publishing trade, launching long-running series including the political periodical Quarterly Review, and publishing genre-defining titles such as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Austen’s Emma and Livingstone’s Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa.
The John Murray Archive houses the most complete archival collection of the famed poet, Lord Byron; his manuscripts and personal papers are a particular highlight of Nineteenth Century Literary Society, charting both literary triumph and personal scandal. Find out more about the Byron Papers here.
Researchers can also trace the development of key Murray titles from initial discussions through to final drafts, browsing early advertisements and tracking sales successes – and failures – across financial papers and ledgers. For five case studies which map the evolution of seminal and rarer titles published by the House of Murray, see our exhibition on The Life Cycle of the Book.



The archival items have been divided into six broadly thematic collections:

Learn more about each collection in detailed thematic guides or essays written by our Editorial Board.


Material 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
  • Rare correspondence from Jane Austen and her family
  • Financial papers charting 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
  • Several hundred advertisements originally published in the Murray journal, The Quarterly Review


Key Figures

Filter the documents by 30 figures central to the collection and literary society in this period or find out more in linked biographies. Key figures include:


For a guide to the site, Take at Tour here.