John Murray III (1808 – 92)

John Murray III was one of several British publishers whose guidebooks popularised the concept of touring holidays by rail in foreign countries.

He was the grandson of the Edinburgh-born John Murray I (1745-1793) who established a publishing house in London in 1768, and son of John Murray II (1768-1843), publisher of Lord Byron (1788-1824) and Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) who established the family company’s office at 50 Albemarle Street where it long remained. The third John Murray entered the business after study at the University of Edinburgh, and travels in Germany where he took part in a ceremony commemorating Byron and Goethe at Weimar. He published English translations of Goethe, and, later in his career, the works of Charles Darwin (1809-82) and Hermann Melville (1819-91).

His first travel guide, A Handbook for Travellers to Holland, Belgium and the Rhine appeared in 1836 and was followed by guides to Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Spain, Egypt and Russia. From the 1850s he also published guides to parts of Great Britain, including London and Cornwall. By 1900 his company had produced more than 400 guidebooks. They were continued in the twentieth century as the Blue Guides.

Murray’s nineteenth-century guidebooks are perhaps the most scholarly of their kind, and include much information about mining and manufacturing in the areas they feature, which can be of great interest to historians of industry. The fifteenth edition of A Handbook for Travellers on the Continent being a guide to Holland, Belgium, Prussia, Northern Germany and the Rhine from Holland to Switzerland, published in 1863, is a particularly good example.