John Murray Archive display

Public preview of treasure trove goes on show,

A photocall with David Livingstone, Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb will take place at the National Library of Scotland on Wednesday 14 April from 10.30am until 12.00 noon. The National Librarian Martyn Wade will be available to talk to reporters.

A unique sample of a multi million pound treasure trove of writings is to go on display to the public in Scotland at the country's National Library.

Selected material from the world famous Murray Archive of 150,000 items can be seen by the general public for the first time in Edinburgh when a exhibition outlining the contents of the archive opens on 14 April.

The highlight of the exhibition, entitled 'The Four O'clock Friends', will be the original David Livingstone manuscript, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries (1865), which covers his journey down the Zambesi River in Africa. Other priceless writings by Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott will also be on display.

The exhibition recalls the great writers, scientists, explorers, adventurers, politicians and thinkers who made up the social circle of the publisher John Murray in the 19th century.

Visitors will be able to find out how the archive can help bring the 19th century to life. They will also have the opportunity to voice their opinions about the prospect of the archive being brought to Scotland permanently.

The outstanding archive, containing private letters, manuscripts and other correspondence from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton, to name a few, is being offered to the National Library at a reduced price in order that the collection is kept in Britain.

The archive has been valued at £45 million but is being offered to the National Library of Scotland for £35 million.

The Murray publishing family, which is based in London, owns the archive but the current head of the family, John Murray VII, wants the Collection to be placed in the National Library of Scotland because of the strong Scottish content and the fact that John Murray I was born in Edinburgh.

Martyn Wade, the National Librarian, said, 'This exhibition will give the public an opportunity to see for themselves some of the extraordinary items that are contained in this wonderful archive. It will provide a rare chance to preview a few items from this treasure trove for the first time in Scotland, including the original writing of one of its most famous sons, David Livingstone.'

The Scottish Executive has already committed £6.5 million pounds towards the purchase of the archive. An application for £22 million has been made to the National Lottery Fund. The National Library of Scotland will aim to raise the remaining funds through an appeal.

'The Four O'clock Friends' exhibition opens on Wednesday 14 April and runs until Monday 10 May.

Opening hours are Monday-Saturday 10.00-17.00 and Sunday 14.00-17.00. Admission is free. For enquiries from the public, please contact the NLS Events Hotline on 0131 622 4807.

For press enquiries, please contact Alexandra Miller on 0131 622 4820 or 07990 848 908, or Nat Edwards on 0131 623 3700 extension 3840 or 07766 311 225.

Notes to Editors on the John Murray Collection


  • Dr David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire on 19 March 1813. After studying medicine in London, he was ordained under the London Missionary Society in 1840, and the next year arrived in Cape Town to begin exploration in Africa. In 1852-6 he was the first European to discover the L Ngami, and the Victoria Falls of the Zambesi. He was welcomed home as a hero, and published his Missionary Travels (1857). Over the next 15 years he led various expeditions to Africa and is credited with discovering Lakes Shirwa, Nyasa, Mweu and Bangweulu. He returned to Bangweulu where he died after a period of severe illness in 1873. His grave is in Westminster Abbey.
  • The characters of David Livingstone, Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb are provided by actors from Mercat Tours, the only walking tour company in Scotland to be accredited with four stars from VisitScotland. The tours are presented by specially trained graduate guides and are thoroughly research by professional historians.
  • John Murray Publishing was established in 1768. The founder, the first John Murray, was born in Edinburgh in 1737. Seven generations of Murrays have run the business. It is now owned by Hodder Headline publishers.
  • John Murray is the seventh generation Murray to run the business. The firm of John Murray was one of the greatest and perhaps the most influential of all British publishing houses, with an unrivalled list of authors.
  • The archive includes the personal and business papers and correspondence of the Murray publishing family and includes literature, exploration, politics, scientific and engineering discovery.
  • The letters journals and manuscripts date from 1768 through to 1920. In total there are more than 150,000 items.
  • Authors include, Lord Byron, David Livingstone, Charles Darwin, Jane Austen, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, John Galt, James Hogg, Sir John Kirk, and Herman Melville to name a few. JMW Turner and David Roberts provided illustrations for Murray books.
  • The National Library of Scotland is one of the leading research libraries in Europe. It houses eight million printed items and has been a Legal Deposit library since 1710. Every week it collects more than four and a half thousand new items.
  • In order to raise the purchase price of £35million the National Library of Scotland has applied to the Heritage Lottery fund for £22million and must also raise £6.5m itself to match the Scottish Executive £6.5million.
  • £3m will be handed over immediately to the National Library of Scotland to endow the Archive. The aim is that the Library should not have to call on any of its normal funds for administering the Archive.
  • The balance will go into the John R Murray Charitable Trust and a key purpose of this Trust will be to support the Archive whenever the need occurs such as for future conservation or the purchase of items that relate to the Collection. It will also endow 50 Albemarle Street to secure its future as one of the UK's key historic buildings.
  • No member of the Murray family will gain personally from the sale.

5 April 2004

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