Scotland pays tribute to Washington

Washington Irving, author of classics including 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and 'Rip Van Winkle', is the latest literary figure to be celebrated in the John Murray Archive exhibition at the National Library of Scotland.

Handwritten letters penned by the author 160 years ago are amongst a collection of manuscripts on display to showcase the story behind this great author.

Irving was first published by John Murray II of the world-famous Murray publishing house. However it is his relationship with John Murray III that cemented his legacy with the acclaimed publisher.

Determined to protect copyrights which had cost his father £10,000, John Murray III supported Irving when he became embroiled in a legal battle with publisher Henry George Bohn (who attempted to produce a copy of his works in 1850).

David McClay, senior curator at the National Library of Scotland, said: 'The new items we have added to the John Murray Archive exhibition tell Irving's fascinating story, including his legal dispute which was eventually settled out of court.

'Irving is an important character for us to feature in the exhibition, given not only his remarkable friendship with Murray, but also his subsequent transatlantic literary success.'

Items on display include an autobiographic letter in which Irving defended Murray's legal right to the ownership of his work, and a legal copyright document from 1860. Also included is a letter from Irving introducing a friend to John Murray. Such a letter often gave access to Murray's famous literary drawing room, which has been graced with the presence of many famous names, including Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Campbell.

Washington Irving will be included in the exhibition for the next two years, while the materials on display will be rotated every six months.

The John Murray Archive Archive is one of the world's most significant literary and cultural archives from the past 250 years, mapping seven generations of the Murray publishing house. It is home to more than 150,000 papers, manuscripts, letters and other documents representing the world's most celebrated writers, thinkers, politicians, explorers, economists and scientists and their relationship with the Murrays. The John Murray Archive exhibition space, at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, shows some of the highlights from this vast collection.

An ongoing fundraising campaign to ensure that the archive is preserved for future generations has amassed £30 million over the last five years, and the Library is working to raise the remaining £3 million.

21 December 2010

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