Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Muir mss. II, ca. 1892–1981, consist of the correspondence and business papers of Elkin Mathews, firm, booksellers, as well as manuscripts and personal papers of Percival Horace Muir, 1894–1979, bookseller and author. Percy Muir was associated with the antiquarian bookselling firm, Elkin Mathews, Ltd. from 1930 until his death in 1979. 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.

Percy Muir was president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association in Britain from 1945-1947, and chaired the first conference of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) in 1947. He became president of the ILAB from 1950-1952 and was subsequently elected the 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. Elkin Mathews, Ltd.; II. Muir. The Elkins Mathews series contains correspondence, papers and business records of the company. The Muir series is the personal correspondence and writings of Percy Muir.

An inventory is available.

Acquired: 2000

Collection size: 1,200 items

Related manuscripts: Muir mss.

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.