Important acquisitions

Dialogues of the dead. 5th edition.

Author George Lyttelton, Baron Lyttelton
Title Dialogues of the dead. 5th edition.
Imprint London: John Murray,
Date of Publication 1768
Language English
Notes This is the first book published by John Murray I, thus marking the start of what would grow to be a mighty publishing business carried on by successive generations of his family. In October 1768, a young Scottish naval officer based in Brompton, London, John McMurray (he would change his surname to 'Murray' around this time) was looking for a business investment. He found a suitable one in William Sandby's bookselling business in Fleet Street. Sandby had published the first four editions of "Dialogues of the dead" and the 5th edition was Murray's first publication, "the book ushered Murray into the trade in a respectable manner" (Zachs, p.22). In November 1768 the book sold to customers at 5s. 6d. and to the trade at 2s. 11d. Two separate print settings of the 5th edition are known, which may indicate that Murray's first publishing venture go off to a shaky start, the first printing possibly not being good enough, necessitating a second printing. However, the book would go on to be a steady seller for Murray over the coming years. Baron Lyttelton (1709-1773) was an English politician and writer. His "Dialogues of the Dead" was first published anonymously in 1760 and consisted of a series of imaginary dialogues between important historical and literary figures, from Classical times right up to the 18th century, on moral themes. It was inspired by a work of the same name from the 2nd century AD by the Ancient Greek author Lucian of Samosata, who also wrote 'Dialogues of the gods'. A further model was the "Dialogues" of the French Catholic theologian Francois Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambrai (1651-1715). Three of the dialogues in Lyttleton's collection were written by the writer, Elizabeth Montagu, who was a close friend of him. The first three editions sold quickly, and Lyttelton wrote four additional dialogues in 1765, which were added to the 4th edition. Later critics were harsh in the criticisms of the work, regarding them as 'dead dialogues', lacking the humour or spontaneity of Lucian's originals.
Shelfmark AB.2.214.41
Reference Sources W. Zachs, "The first John Murray and the late eighteenth-century London book trade" Oxford, 1998; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Acquired on 20/07/14
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