Peter Washington

Literary Legacies

The Seven Lives of John Murray: The Story of a Publishing Dynasty

By

John Murray 370pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

At first sight, this book might seem to be a vindication of the hereditary principle in its purest form: male primogeniture. It tells the story of John Murray, a powerful publishing house for almost two hundred and fifty years, and until recently controlled by its eponymous head in an unbroken line from father to son. But as usual in the book trade, things are more complicated than that.

The company was founded in 1768 by the first John Murray. Like so many successful commercial publishers of his day, he was a Scottish chancer with limited scruples and unlimited faith in his own ability. His faith was justified in the end but the

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