Monday, July 09, 2007

John Murray Archive Exhibited

The National Library of Scotland recently opened The John Murray Archive, a 150,000-piece collection of materials from one of Britain's greatest and longest-running publishing houses. The archive includes items from the firm's founding in 1768 through 1920 - among them correspondence with more than 16,000 authors and other figures including Darwin, Lord Byron, Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott.

A £1 million exhibition at the NLS is designed to showcase select pieces from the collection: the hall "has a green door like the John Murray house in London, and it leads to a shrunken reproduction of the drawing room where famous visitors gathered and talked. Tall pods of glass, each devoted to a literary or scientific figure, are dimly illuminated with purple lighting, each displaying single sheets of original letters," the Scotsman reported recently. Rare Book Review adds "The innovative technology used in the exhibition will allow visitors to view transcripts of the letters, learn about their background and even e-mail a copy home to study at their leisure."

The exhibit includes, for example, Charles Darwin's letter to Murray proposing the publication of The Origin of Species, as well as coded messages from Benjamin Disraeli about the establishment of a daily newspaper.

Scotland's National Library purchased the collection eighteen months ago for £31 million.

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