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A Nation of Readers: The Lending Library in Georgian England

Overview

Reading was one of the defining obsessions of Georgian England?serving as both passionate interest and the natural focus for intensive criticism and controversy for the middle and upper classes of the day. It?s not surprising then that a proliferation of book lenders and booksellers would strike up a competition for the patronage of a generation of readers. This pioneering volume on the history of reading in eighteenth-century England explores the origins, organization, and impact of book clubs, reading ...

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Overview

Reading was one of the defining obsessions of Georgian England—serving as both passionate interest and the natural focus for intensive criticism and controversy for the middle and upper classes of the day. It’s not surprising then that a proliferation of book lenders and booksellers would strike up a competition for the patronage of a generation of readers. This pioneering volume on the history of reading in eighteenth-century England explores the origins, organization, and impact of book clubs, reading societies, and subscription and circulating libraries, as well as the opportunities increasingly offered to readers by a variety of other collections—including those provided by religious, educational, and recreational institutions. A Nation of Readers compellingly argues that the proliferation of library facilities greatly increased the quantity and diversity of texts available. It also suggests that the resulting circulation of books on a previously unimaginable scale made possible the creation of a substantial and broadly based reading public, thereby adding immeasurably to the cultural vitality that so distinguished Georgian England and left its mark on literary generations to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer

"An invaluable contribution to book history of the eighteenth century. . . . A Nation of Readers lays to rest such old canards as that circulating libraries only stocked novels . . . and he demonstrates that reading in (or at least through) libraries was a phenomenon that stretched from the lowest laborer to the royal family."

— Norbert Schuerer

English Historical Review

“By his approach, Allan is able to offer a new synthesis of the development of reading as an activity.”—James Raven, English Historical Review
Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer - Norbert Schuerer

"An invaluable contribution to book history of the eighteenth century. . . . A Nation of Readers lays to rest such old canards as that circulating libraries only stocked novels . . . and he demonstrates that reading in (or at least through) libraries was a phenomenon that stretched from the lowest laborer to the royal family."
2010 Eliza Atkins Gleason Book Award

2010 Eliza Atkins Gleason Book Award from the American Library Association Library History Round Table
English Historical Review

“By his approach, Allan is able to offer a new synthesis of the development of reading as an activity.”—James Raven, English Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780712349673
  • Publisher: British Library, The
  • Publication date: 1/15/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Allan is reader in history at the University of St. Andrews and has held visiting fellowships at several universities, including Harvard and Yale. His most recent books are Scotland in the Eighteenth Century: Union and Enlightenment and Adam Ferguson.

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Table of Contents


1 'A Taste of Polite Writing': Readers and Reading in Georgian England
 
2 'An Able Tutor and Agreeable Companion': Book Clubs and Reading Societies
 
3 'An Ample Fund of Amusement and Instruction': The Subscription Libraries
 
4 'Inlets of Vice and Debauchery': The Circulating Libraries
 
5 'Our Publick Library': Other Institutional Collections
 
6 'I Have Not Read So Many Books for Nothing': Reading and the Making of a Polite Public
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