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Travels into Print

Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773-1859

In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, books of travel and exploration were much more than simply the printed experiences of intrepid authors. They were works of both artistry and industry—products of the complex, and often contested, relationships between authors and editors, publishers and printers. These books captivated the reading public and played a vital role in creating new geographical truths. In an age of global wonder and of expanding empires, there was no publisher more renowned for its travel books than the House of John Murray.

Drawing on detailed examination of the John Murray Archive of manuscripts, images, and the firm’s correspondence with its many authors—a list that included such illustrious explorers and scientists as Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell, and literary giants like Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott—Travels into Print considers how journeys of exploration became published accounts and how travelers sought to demonstrate the faithfulness of their written testimony and to secure their personal credibility. This fascinating study in historical geography and book history takes modern readers on a journey into the nature of exploration, the production of authority in published travel narratives, and the creation of geographical authorship—a journey bound together by the unifying force of a world-leading publisher.

392 pages | 15 color plates, 25 halftones, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography

History: Discoveries and Exploration, European History, General History

History of Science

Library Science and Publishing: Publishing


"As this remarkable new volume shows, the pains of authorship are only part of the labor that goes into making books. Seeing a work into print in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries involved coordination between pressmen, typesetters, binders, illustrators, accountants, distributors, papermakers, and a wide range of other occupations. Travels into Print focuses on what is probably the most significant and intimate of these relationships, that between publisher and author. In doing so, it makes a major contribution to book history and one that is bound to interest historians of science."

Jim Secord, University of Cambridge | Isis

“This is a work solidly based on extensive research in the John Murray Archive, now made more accessible since becoming a jewel in the crown of the National Library of Scotland. . . . As is the custom with the University of Chicago Press, production standards are of the highest and at a price much more favourable than is the norm for British publishers. The coloured plates, and black and white illustrations in the text are all carefully chosen to add to the narrative. . . . Readers with an interest in nineteenth-century publishing without a specialist interest in discovery and exploration will find much of interest in the developments of a major publishing house.”

Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society

Travels into Print provides a crucial textual back story, as it were, to more theoretically inflected studies of nineteenth-century travel writing, one that sheds new light on the complex ways colonial encounters and narratives made the journey into print. . . . Travels into Print has much to offer scholars of nineteenth-century literature, history, and print culture. Meticulously researched, the book also forms a fine introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of travel studies and to the current state of scholarship in the field. . . . One hopes that Travels into Print marks the beginning of still deeper forays into questions of textual production and history, a rich and largely unchartered corner of travel writing studies.”

Nineteenth-Century Contexts

“Opens up a world of travel writing. The link between a world-leading publisher and two centuries of exploration is . . . celebrated.”

Discover: The Magazine of the National Library of Scotland

“A significant interdisciplinary study that makes contributions not just to the history of geographical exploration and of the book trade, but also to the history of science, art, and cartography, as well as to popular culture, literary studies, and theories of the meaning and reception of ideas. . . . In summary, this is a well-researched, in-depth analysis of a relevant and interesting subject. It is recommended for those interested in historical geography, the history of books, or the relation between popular culture and exploration.”

Beau Riffenburgh | Polar Record

“A landmark in the study of travel literature.”

Ab Imperio

“This methodologically sophisticated study is a landmark in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship. . . . The authors’ thorough exploration of the John Murray archive and their astute deployment of contextual material make Travels into Print an invaluable contribution to the fields of geography, history of science, and history of the book. It will be a benchmark against which the value of further interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies will be measured.”

Eleni Loukopoulou, independent scholar | British Journal for the History of Science

“Astute and valuable. . . . Though Travels into Print is concerned with a specific genre of writing which appeared from one publishing house at a well-defined moment in time, the intervention it makes is an important one to remember for all students of authorship.”

Jasper Schelstraete, Ghent University | Authorship

"Travels into Print works out from a single institution, Murray’s publishing house, to interweave historical geography and literary and print history to think about the ways in which global exploration yielded books and how those books were shaped by explorers, writers, publishers, and audiences."

Jeffrey N. Cox, University of Colorado at Boulder | SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500–1900

Travels Into Print is a study of both how these narratives were written and published, and how readers came to understand Britain’s place in an expanding world through their consumption of these works. The authors argue that Murray was not simply reproducing travel diaries; the publisher often had a good deal of influence on how narratives were shaped and presented, including the maps and illustrations that were reproduced from field sketches with varying degrees of accuracy. Analyses of the texts themselves show how writers strove to present themselves as credible and authoritative, and how government sponsorship perhaps affected the motive and message of exploration narratives. John Murray's prominence in the field permits wider conclusions to be drawn about the history of publishing and the production and reception of travel writing. The interdisciplinary nature of this treatment makes the work accessible and relevant to scholars in many fields. . . . Recommended.”

H. Corbett, Northeastern University | Choice

"A highly readable book."

Jahrbuch für Kommunikationsgeschichte

“[A] magisterial interpretation of the publishing process at the house of Murray. . . . A welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in the nexus of exploration and travel, authorship, and bookmaking. Keighren et al. have carefully documented in a most readable volume the complex process of transforming words about the world into print.”

Steven Driever, University of Missouri-Kansas City | Historical Geography

"Travels into Print is a fascinating incursion into the Murray archive. With the sustained focus on travel and exploration texts, this book is particularly useful in 'disclosing' the complex ways in which explorer and traveller figures, themselves discursive constructions, acquired publishing identities as authoritative authors and readers whose texts operated as cultural artefacts, corporately fashioned by publishing houses."

Sandhya Patel, Université Clermont Auvergne | Viatica

"This book is an outstanding piece of research, successfully conveying the hard work put into the process of publishing with Murray in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The authors’ eyes for the details are exceptional! They were able to couple their explanation of the publication process with interesting stories of different explorers, deftly showcasing their thoughts and troubles at the same time. Each narrative is so well embedded in the book that complicated theoretical concepts can be easily understood, and they help explain life and living conditions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book is highly recommended for history, geography, and tourism students as well as scholars of exploration and literary writing."

Christian Kahl, Almaty Management University, Kazakhstan | Journeys

“The originality of the book’s focus lies in its attention to the whole process of publishing, from the writer’s original notebooks through to the end product and its marketing. It moves from the facts of travel and geographical exploration to consider how the accounts of these travels appeared in print—a journey that turns out to have been rich in complications. This kind of attention is made possible by the uniquely full records that survive in the John Murray Archive. In this sense, the book is a case study; but the issues raised are so wide-ranging that it turns itself into a much more ambitious analysis. Each of the three authors has clearly brought different strengths to the project, broadening and deepening the book’s range. But they have worked together so effectively that the book reads as if it had been written by a single author: there is only one voice. A triumph for the virtues of collaboration and a novel, needed, and groundbreaking contribution, this is a truly original and major work, arguably the most important yet to appear in the burgeoning field of travel writing studies.”

Peter Hulme, University of Essex, UK | author of "Cuba’s Wild East: A Literary Geography of Oriente"

“No one did more to transform travel writing into one of the nineteenth century’s most popular genres than the publishing firm of John Murray, and no one has done more to reveal the significance of that project than the authors of this important new book.  Making meticulous use of the Murray archives, Keighren, Withers, and Bell have written a rich and penetrating account of how, as they put it, ‘the world was put into words.’  Their study offers fresh insights into the premises and practices of travel and exploration, the struggle to give credibility to travelers’ tales, the highly mediated process by which travelers became authors, the social and economic forces that shaped print culture, and much more, making it a work that scholars in a range of disciplines will want to read.”

Dane Kennedy, George Washington University | author of "The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia"

Travels into Print offers an original and nuanced approach to book history that exposes the rich interdisciplinary nature of the field. While the work claims neither to be a house history nor an exhaustive exploration of the Murray Archive, its three authors interweave perspectives from historical geography, history of science, art history, material culture, and literary studies to examine travel, topography, and the book trade. In the process, they demonstrate the complex technical, intellectual, political, cultural, and moral negotiations and interventions that bring printed works into the public sphere. Written in a highly engaging, accessible style, Travels into Print gives a fascinating glimpse into the multivariate worlds of travel and exploration narratives and how they have been fashioned in and out of the imaginations of authors, publishers, and their audiences.”

Sydney Shep, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

"The authors’ meticulous handling of evidence derived from thorough bibliographical and archival research banishes any reading of the many works in Murray’s list of ‘Voyages, Travels, and Adventures’ as simple, factual narrative. "

Maureen Bell | Publishing History

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter One
Exploration and Narrative: Travel, Writing, Publishing, and the House of Murray

Chapter Two
Undertaking Travel and Exploration: Motives and Practicalities

Chapter Three
Writing the Truth: Claims to Credibility in Exploration and Narrative

Chapter Four
Explorers Become Authors: Authorship and Authorization

Chapter Five
Making the Printed Work: Paratextual Material, Visual Images, and Book Production

Chapter Six
Travel Writing in the Marketplace

Chapter Seven
Assembling Words and Worlds


Books of Non-European Travel and Exploration Published by John Murray between 1773 and 1859: By Date of First Imprint, with Notes on Edition History before 1901

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