50 Albemarle Street

50 Albemarle Street

The drawing room at 50 Albemarle Street.

I was fortunate enough to be given a tour this week of 50 Albemarle Street—the home, from 1812, of the John Murray publishing firm. William Macintosh’s book was published by John Murray I when the firm was located further east in Fleet Street, but Murray II relocated the business to more fashionable premises in an effort to attract a more up-market clientèle and roster of authors. The drawing room soon became the venue of literary soirées, playing host to authors, politicians, and scientists. Lord Byron and Walter Scott were frequent visitors—the latter dubbing the group the “Four o’Clock Friends”. Although the move to Albemarle Street, and the firm’s ascendancy as Britain’s leading nineteenth-century publisher, postdated Macintosh’s death by several years, the lessons the firm had learned from the publication and reception of his book had an important influence on its future strategy, particularly when it came to texts of travel. Having spent the best part of the past five years researching the Murray firm for a forthcoming book (Travels into print) it was a wonderful privilege to wander the building and understand the spaces in which the firm, and the family, operated. I was shown around by Virginia Murray, the wife of John Murray VII, whose passion for the firm’s history is infectious.

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