Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Elkin Mathews, Ltd. mss., ca. 1919-1987, consist of the correspondence and business papers of Elkin Mathews, firm, booksellers, as well as the personal papers of Percival Horace Muir, 1894-1979, bookseller and author. Founded in 1885 by Charles Elkin Mathews, the business began in the Cathedral Close at Exeter but moved to London in 1887 when Elkin Mathews and John Lane went into partnership. Within a very few years publishing became the principle interest of the firm, now Elkin Mathews and John Lane Ltd., with retail sales of books, old and new, taking a secondary place. The two men parted company in 1894 and Mathews, although continuing to publish, returned to a greater concentration on bookselling. He died in 1922. A.W. Evans, ex-curate, ex-journalist, and himself a collector and customer of Elkin Mathews, acquired the business as a going concern from Mathews' widow. Percy Muir joined the firm, as a partner, in January 1930, becoming managing director in 1939. It was under his stewardship that the firm moved from London during the German blitz to Blakeney, Norfolk.

Muir was associated with the firm until his death in 1979. He was a founder and first president, 1945-1947, of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and played a major role in the establishment of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), serving as its first president, 1948-1950, and subsequently as first Life President of Honor. The author of several bibliographies and books on book collecting, as well as an autobiography: Minding My Own Business (Chatto & Windus, 1956), he also made frequent contributions to Colophon, Library, and various bibliographical journals such as Bookman's Journal. He was also a founder and member of the editorial board of Book Collector.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Business – Financial; III. Business – General; IV. Personal. An inventory is available.

The correspondence pertains to both the business dealings of Elkin Mathews, Ltd. and the personal life of Percy Muir.

Gift. 1969

Collection size: 69,334 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.