John Murray Archive

National Library of Scotland & John Martin Gallery, London


The John Murray Archive might well be the jewel in the National Library of Scotland’s crown.

The Week

It contains more than 200 years of ephemera related to the great publishing firm’s history, including manuscripts and letters from the likes of Byron, Walter Scott and Jane Austen. Hugh Buchanan known for his extraordinary depictions of Europe’s great libraries, spent a year studying the archive, and has produced a set of 19 watercolours based on the papers of nine authors from the Murray stable. his paintings are dramatically exquisite, but this show is worth visiting for its breadth of literary history alone. each work here contains a wealth of reference – you can even make out snatches of business correspondence. From Walter Scott’s review of Childe Harold to Osbert Lancaster’s cartoons for the Daily Express, the collection takes us from the sublime to the ridiculous. Best of all are two paintings devoted to Patrick Leigh Fermor; looking at them, you feel complicit in his guerrilla escapades.