Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books

Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books

by Margaret Willes
     
 

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"This book examines how people acquired and read books from the sixteenth century to the present, focusing on the personal relationships between readers and the volumes they owned. Margaret Willes considers a selection of private and public libraries across the period - most of which have survived - showing the diversity of book owners and borrowers, from…  See more details below

Overview

"This book examines how people acquired and read books from the sixteenth century to the present, focusing on the personal relationships between readers and the volumes they owned. Margaret Willes considers a selection of private and public libraries across the period - most of which have survived - showing the diversity of book owners and borrowers, from country-house aristocrats to modest farmers, from Regency ladies of leisure to working men and women." Exploring the collections of avid readers such as Samuel Pepys, Thomas Jefferson, Sir John Soane, Thomas Bewick and Denis and Edna Healey, Margaret Willes investigates the means by which books were sold, lending insights into the ways booksellers and publishers marketed their wares. For those who are interested in books and reading, and especially those who treasure books, this book and its many illustrations will inform, entertain and inspire.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Book collectors are an eccentric but persistent lot, as Willes shows in this history of the buying and selling of books. With an emphasis on Great Britain (one chapter is devoted to Thomas Jefferson), Willes, former publisher of the National Trust, tackles her subject with considerable learning and with a gusto atypical of a scholarly volume. Of especial interest are insights on Samuel Pepys's diary entries on books acquired; the first memoir of an English bookseller in 1705, The Life and Errors of John Dunton; the significance of the spread of coffee houses in Britain during the 18th century (not unlike the "Starbucks effect" on the Internet generation); the 16th-century origins of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the paperback and bookstore-chain revolutions of the 20th century. The role of women as collectors and disseminators, from Bess of Hardwick in the 16th century to Oprah Winfrey, is notable. There's a wealth of information here, though some chapters cohere more successfully than others, and a somewhat breathless final chapter surprisingly omits Amazon and e-books as they relate to collecting. 90 illus. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

Relying on primary sources such as correspondence, invoices, and diaries to profile the book-buying practices of prominent individuals, Willes depicts the transformation of the book in England from luxury item to commodity. Nine detailed chapters introduce readers equally to reading tastes, family travails, and the developing publishing industry. Willes, former publisher for the National Trust, moves chronologically from Bess of Hardwick (b. 1527) to political and literary leaders Denis and Edna Healey (born 1917 and 1918, respectively), granting one American, Thomas Jefferson, a chapter among the dozen English individuals presented. Unlike other profile collections, such as Pre-Nineteenth-Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers, Willes's book occasionally departs from highlighting individuals: Chapter 6 discusses distribution of fiction in the 1700s, and Chapter 8 describes the trend toward greater literacy in the late 1800s. Addressing readers familiar with English culture, Willes does not always explain references to historical events or aspects of English units of currency. Reproductions of artwork and chapter notes enhance this thoroughly researched, interdisciplinary work. Recommended for academic libraries.
—Marianne Orme

Virginia Quarterly Review

"A handsome, richly illustrated ramble through the history of book buying. . . . This is a charming book, full of digressions—biographical and historical nuggets abound—but it is also clearly the fruit of a remarkable range and depth of research."—Peter Walpole, Virginia Quarterly Review

— Peter Walpole

Academia
". . . . This is a fascinating book for anyone with a touch of bibliomania. . . . Much of the information is relevant to book lovers and librarians everywhere. After reading this book, you'll never think of book ownership in quite the same way again."— Academia
Library and Information History

“. . . enchanting and delightful. . . . Willes’s diligent and skillful research in a wide range of archives is demonstrated on every page. . . . [C]aptivating; it is at once both instructive and entertaining. Anyone who loves books and their history will love Reading Matters.” — Peter H. Reid, Library and Information History

— Peter H. Reid

Virginia Quarterly Review - Peter Walpole
"A handsome, richly illustrated ramble through the history of book buying. . . . This is a charming book, full of digressions—biographical and historical nuggets abound—but it is also clearly the fruit of a remarkable range and depth of research."—Peter Walpole, Virginia Quarterly Review
Library and Information History - Peter H. Reid
“. . . enchanting and delightful. . . . Willes’s diligent and skillful research in a wide range of archives is demonstrated on every page. . . . [C]aptivating; it is at once both instructive and entertaining. Anyone who loves books and their history will love Reading Matters.” — Peter H. Reid, Library and Information History

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300164046
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
05/25/2010
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

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Meet the Author

Margaret Willes, the former Publisher for the National Trust, has written and illustrated numerous books. She lives in London.

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