Books and Borrowing 1750-1830


Welcome to ‘Books and Borrowing: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers, 1750-1830’

Our project uncovers and reinterprets the history of reading in Scotland in the period 1750 to 1830. Using formerly unexplored (or underexplored) borrowing records, we have created a new resource that reveals hidden histories of book use, knowledge dissemination and participation in literate culture. Drawing on the rare manuscript sources held at our partner libraries and heritage centres, our project establishes which books readers actually engaged with in the period. Represented in our records are farmers and farm workers, factors, gamekeepers, shepherds, blacksmiths, lay preachers, boltmakers, vagabonds, poachers, merchants, glovers, maidservants, coachmen, soldiers and sailors, as well as schoolchildren and members of the professional and leisured classes.

Contradicting established narratives about which books are important to our national history, the resource reveals what people really borrowed from 18 historic libraries across Scotland. It contains the borrowings of lead miners in Dumfries and Galloway, clergymen in Dunblane and Dumfries, advocates in Edinburgh, university students, professors and townspeople in the historic university towns of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow, and what Daniel Defoe called the ‘middling sort’ of people in Selkirk, Wigtown, Kirkwall, Haddington, and rural Perthshire.

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Check out our News pages to read blogs about the work of the project team over the duration of the project, and to read about events that we ran between 2020 and 2023.