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Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd.
Type Chambers Harrap is an Hachette Livre UK company
Genre Reference
Predecessor W.R.Chambers Publishers and
George G. Harrap and Company Ltd
Founded First publication in 1819
Headquarters Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Industry Publishing
Products (see below)
Employees ~30

Chambers Harrap Publishers (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd) is a reference publisher based in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom and now holds the property rights of the venerable W.R.Chambers Publishers and its competitor George G. Harrap and Company (founded: 1901).


History of Chambers

Chambers was founded as "W. & R. Chambers Publishers" by the two brothers William Chambers of Glenormiston and Robert Chambers. They were born into a rich, mill-owning family in Peebles in Scotland in 1800 and 1802 respectively, during the time of the war with France. The war impoverished the family and, in 1813, the family left Peebles for Edinburgh. Robert remained at home to finish his education, but William was forced to find work to support his parents. He was a keen reader and would get up early in the morning to read by the dawn light because he was too poor to buy candles. He was apprenticed to a bookseller, at the sum of 4 shillings a week. Robert, also an avid reader, could not go to university when he finished school because his parents could not afford to pay. He too moved to Edinburgh, rented a one-roomed shop in Leith Walk, and set himself up as a bookseller when he was just 16 years old. William's apprenticeship came to an end when he turned 18 and he joined Robert working in the shop.

Although they had had a modest beginning, the brothers began to do well. They had no training in printing and binding but together they printed, bound and published 750 copies of The Songs of Robert Burns in around 1819. This was the nearest thing to a guaranteed best-seller in 19th-century Edinburgh, and brought further profits and some fame.

In 1824, Robert wrote and the brothers published Traditions of Edinburgh. Education was always the main priority for William and Robert. In 1832, they published The Chambers Journal, a weekly newspaper containing articles on subjects such as history, religion, language and science, many of which were written by Robert himself. It was an immediate success and within a few years the weekly circulation had risen to 84,000 copies. This put an end to their struggle to survive although they still had to work hard.

Chambers is still based in Edinburgh today and publishes an extensive list of innovative and ultra-reliable language and reference titles, covering English-language dictionaries, thesauruses, bilingual dictionaries, and specialist titles on subjects such as biography, quotations, literary characters, science and technology and world history.

Chambers List

Chambers Harrap Publishers is best known for its flagship title, The Chambers Dictionary, which contains more words and definitions than any other single-volume dictionary and is known for its occasional humorous definition. The Chambers list is currently split into the following areas:

  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauruses
  • Language Reference
  • Subject Reference
  • School Range
  • Crosswords
  • Puzzles
  • Games
  • Phrasebooks
  • Adult Learners' Range


Chambers purchased the formerly independent Harrap's in the early 1990s. Harrap mainly publishes bilingual dictionaries, for instance Harrap's Shorter French Dictionary. The Harrap list also includes study aids, slang dictionaries, phrasebooks and business dictionaries. In the UK, Harrap publishes bilingual titles in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Polish.

Recently Chambers has started selling Harrap publications under the "Chambers" imprint. It is not known whether the name "Harrap's" will continue in use.


At the end of 2007 Chambers Harrap Publishers acquired the rights to publish the renowned British slang lexicographer Jonathon Green's Slang Dictionary as Chambers Slang Dictionary, originally published by Cassell of the Orion Publishing Group. This new edition was published in October 2008.


On 1 January 2008, Chambers Harrap Publishers acquired the Brewer's list from Orion Publishing Group, including the famous Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

See also

  • For other history and founders:

External links



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