Macmillan was founded in 1843 by Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, two brothers from the Scottish Isle of Arran. They initially set up as booksellers and publishers in London, but soon moved to Cambridge, which became their publishing base until 1863, and where they ran a well-known bookshop. In its early days Macmillan had a commitment to publishing religious, educational and scientific work, and the work of the intellectual community at Cambridge. While its lists gradually became more eclectic, Macmillan maintained its reputation as a publisher of serious books. In more than 150 years of independent publishing, Macmillan's output encompassed books from a wide spectrum, including science (it published Nature magazine from 1869), reference works, educational material, history and biography.
The company was also an important publisher of serious and popular literature. Macmillan was the original publisher of many significant British authors, in book form and in Macmillan's Magazine. It became a leading publisher of children's books, having published its first juvenile title in 1860.
In 1886 Macmillan published the first of its editions for colonial markets, the Colonial Library series. Later series, extending to the 1960s, were the Empire Library, Dominions Editions, and the Overseas Library. More than 1700 titles are estimated to have been published in these editions, which consisted largely of fiction. They were sold very extensively in Australia, and contained some colonial writing, including Rolf Boldrewood's Robbery Under Arms in 1889.
Macmillan opened a branch in New York in 1869, initially an agency, but from 1886 a publisher in its own right, which rapidly became one of the most powerful publishers in America. Publishing operations were also set up in Australia, and in Japan, Mexico, and the emerging markets of Africa and Asia.
Since 1999 the Macmillan Group has been wholly owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. It continues as a large and reputable publisher of education and reference works, adult and children's trade books, and magazines, with agencies in more than 70 countries. Macmillan's publishing activities in Australia include Macmillan Education Australia and Pan Macmillan Australia, one of the leading publishers and marketers of a wide range of general books under the imprints Macmillan, Sun Books, Pan, Picador, Ironbark and Pancake Press.