Daniel MacMillan, Scottish publisher, died on the 27th of June, 1857.
Daniel MacMillan was born, the son of a crofter, on the Isle of Arran and, together with his brother Alexander, in 1843, he was co-founder of the successful publishing house, Macmillan Publishers Limited. Daniel’s grandson, Harold Macmillan, became the British Prime Minister from 1956 to 1963. The Macmillan family continued to manage the publishing company well into the 1970s and it has a rich literary history. Macmillan’s stable of authors comprised an exceptional gallery of late nineteenth-century novelists including, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll (including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Sean O’Casey, John Maynard Keynes, C.P. Snow, Rudyard Kipling and William Butler Yeats. Macmillan’s prominence in trade publishing continues to this day, but it also has great strengths in the educational and scholarly fields including ‘Nature’ magazine, which is widely considered to be the world’s leading scientific journal.
Daniel MacMillan was born in 1813, five years before his brother, Alexander. After completing his primary school education in his early teens and as was common in those days, Daniel started work. Daniel worked for a bookseller and bookbinder in Irvine. When wee Alexander grew up, he taught in a school for several years, before joining a firm of booksellers in Glasgow.
In 1833, Daniel MacMillan went south to make his fortune in England, with little more than his canny Scottish instincts and a strong desire to succeed as a book publisher. At first, he worked in a bookstore, which was located near Cambridge University and which specialised in classical authors. MacMillan soon gained a reputation amongst University students as a well read, reliable guide to recent publications. Daniel next spent a brief period with a London bookseller, where he was joined by his younger brother. Then, in 1843, the MacMillans opened their own shop, D. & A. Macmillan, at 57 Aldersgate St., in London, and published their first two books. These were ‘The Philosophy of Training’ by A. R. Craig, which called for the establishment of additional teachers’ colleges in Britain, and ‘The Three Questions’ by W. H. Miller.
Daniel and Alexander were assisted by friends such as the author, Charles Kingsley, who provided them with some capital. However, the early days were hard and the company found itself near bankruptcy. After just a year and with money borrowed from Archdeacon Julius Charles Hare, the brothers transferred their business to larger premises at 17 Trinity St., Cambridge. Back in that University City, D. & A. Macmillan began to flourish amongst the literary and academic community.
The name changed to Macmillan & Co., in 1850, and a few years later, Charles Kingsley provided something more valuable than his capital injection when he wrote ‘Westward Ho!’, which was published in 1853; Macmillan’s big commercial success. Another noteworthy publication, in 1857, was ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’, by Thomas Hughes. Books such as these, laid the foundations for Macmillan’s strong fiction list.
In 1854, the theologian, Frederick Denison Maurice, a patron of Macmillan’s, was first published by the firm. Maurice was a close friend of the brothers and became the author of over seven hundred books and pamphlets published by Macmillan. Daniel’s sons were named Frederick and Maurice in his honour. Together with Maurice and Archdeacon Hare, Daniel and Alexander became supporters of the reform movement known as ‘Christian Socialism’ and most of their early publications reflected the liberal sentiments of that group, such as its commitment to universal education in Great Britain. As a consequence, the firm became a leading publisher of textbooks and other educational material.
Despite being the business brain behind Macmillans before his death, Daniel’s considered publishing to be more than just a business venture; rather a vocation in the truest sense. He is quoted as saying, “You surely never thought you were merely working for bread!” On the other hand, the two Scots brothers were also practical men, who earned their living from the sale of books and they operated their publishing firm with a judicious mixture of idealism and market savvy.
Daniel Macmillan died on the 27th of June, 1857, whereupon Alexander assumed the direction of Macmillan & Co. He remained at the helm for the next thirty-two years, opening a second branch at 23 Henrietta Street, London, in 1858, and dispatching George P. Brett to open an American subsidiary, in 1896.
‘Macmillan’s Magazine’ was introduced, in 1859, and remained a pillar of mid-Victorian culture until its demise, in 1909. Many of England’s most brilliant writers, including Tennyson, T. H. Huxley and Herbert Spencer, contributed during that period. Macmillan & Co. prospered under Alexander’s astute guidance and continued its tradition of providing inexpensive educational texts with a number of long-running series, including the ‘Science Primers’, edited by Huxley, ‘English Men of Letters’, and ‘Literature Primers’. It also published ‘The Practitioner’ for the medical profession and ‘Nature’, the prestigious science journal still read around the world.
A few years after World War II ended, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. sold its successful United States subsidiary, which became Macmillan Publishing Company and grew to be one of the largest publishing houses in America. Both the original Macmillans’ firm and the American company were acquired by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, between 1995 and 1999.