Alexander Macmillan (1818 – 1896), Irvine-born book publisher.
The great world-wide publishing company, now known as Macmillan Publishers Ltd. was founded by two brothers, Daniel and Alexander in 1843.
Daniel and Alexander’s father, Duncan, moved to Irvine, where he kept cattle and worked as a carter. On 3 October 1818 Alexander was born in Irvine. Duncan died when the boys were young. Neither Daniel nor Alexander had any formal education except for four or five years at school but both would later read widely to educate themselves. Daniel worked for seven years for Irvine bookseller and printer Maxwell Dick. In 1843 they formed a partnership in book publishing, which would last till 1857 when Daniel died of tuberculosis. Their firm dealt with serious subjects – education, Christianity, classical literature, science and mathematics.
In 1851 Alexander married Caroline Brimley and they had three sons, Malcolm, George and William and two daughters, Margaret and Olive.
From being a small firm Alexander expanded the list to more than 150 titles annually. In 1855 they published their first novel, Charles Kingsley’s “Westward Ho” and their first best seller was Thomas Hughes’ “Tom Brown’s School Days” in 1857. A new venture was a shilling magazine – MACMILLAN’S MAGAZINE – published from 1859 till 1907. The firm expanded moving from Cambridge to London and it would become one of London’s leading publishing houses.
In 1869 an American branch was established as well as others in Canada, Australia and India. Many of the great Victorian authors were published by Macmillan including; Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling and William Butler Yeats.
In 1871 Alexander’s wife died and the following year he married Emma Pignatel and they had a son and a daughter. Sadly his eldest son, Malcolm, disappeared while hiking with a friend and the body was never found.
Throughout his life Alexander worked very hard and was known as a generous benefactor to authors. By the 1880s he was less involved in the business. The three maxims of the Macmillan family were interest in education, belief in religion and generosity in business.
Alexander Macmillan died on 26 January 1896 at his home in London. His nephew Frederick, later knighted, and probably the most respected and personally popular publisher of his day, succeeded him as Chairman of Macmillan.