A nation of readers: the lending library in Georgian England

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British Library, 2008 - History - 281 pages
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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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Book Clubs
The Circulating Libraries
Other Institutional Collections

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About the author (2008)

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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