Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

Libraries, Lives and Legacies: Further Details on our Call for Papers for April 2023

This week, we’d like to highlight the Call for Papers we posted a couple of weeks back (posted again in full below) and provide a bit of extra detail about our Research Festival.

In April 2023, Books and Borrowing and our friends on the C18th Libraries Online project expect to be able to launch initial versions of our open-access databases, making freely available a vast quantity of information on books, borrowers, subscribers, libraries and other agents in networks of circulation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  To celebrate this, we’re teamed up to run a series of events under the umbrella Libraries, Lives and Legacies.

In Liverpool (and online), we’ll be holding two day-long symposia. One of these (on Friday April 14th) will include papers on the central focus of the C18th Libraries Online project: the subscription libraries that sprang up on both sides of the Atlantic following (directly or indirectly) the example of the Library Company of Philadelphia (founded in 1731).  Papers will consider these libraries from a wide range of perspectives, thinking about their founders, committees, users, collections, catalogues, institutional practices, circulations, power dynamics, and roles in social, political and intellectual culture.

The second Liverpool symposium (on Thursday April 13th) will focus on the ways in which Digital Humanities tools are making possible new forms of work in the History of the Book, showcasing a range of projects that use the affordances of the digital to make available fresh interpretations and powerful interpretative tools to help us better understand the histories of authorship, publishing, reading and book culture. This event will include demonstrations of the C18th Libraries Online and Books and Borrowing databases.

The following week, on Monday April 17th and Tuesday April 18th, we welcome all those with an interest in reading during the very long eighteenth century to the University of Stirling for a two-day in-person conference exploring all the diverse ways books were circulated and engaged with between 1650 and 1850. The Call for Papers for this conference is currently open, and we warmly encourage interested researchers to submit abstracts and to contact us if you have any questions (

Those presenting will be in excellent company: we’re delighted that the conference will hear plenary addresses from two towering figures in book-historical research. Deidre Shauna Lynch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University.  The author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History (2015) and The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (1998) and the editor of numerous important works and collections, including, most recently, The Unfinished Book: Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches to Literature (with Alexandra Gillespie, 2021), she is one of the world’s leading scholars of reading, book culture and the ways that literature makes us think and feel. Andrew Pettegree is the Bishop Wardlow Professor of History at the University of St Andrews. He will be familiar to book historians for books such as The Book in the Renaissance (2010), The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know about Itself (2014), Brand Luther: 1517, Printing and the Making of the Reformation (2015) and, most recently, The Library: A Fragile History (with Arthur der Weduwen; 2021), as well as for his pioneering work on the Universal Short Title Catalogue and his founding and editing Brill’s Library of the Written Word series. We’re also delighted that we’ll have the chance to hear from librarians and practitioners in our roundtable, which features Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence (Edinburgh University Library), Lara Haggerty (Library of Innerpeffray), Rachel Hart (University of St Andrews), Robert MacLean (University of Glasgow) and Robert Betteridge (National Library of Scotland).

We hope that many of you will consider being a part of this festival of book-historical research – the discussions promise to be really rich, and we’d love to see you in Liverpool, online or in Stirling (or, indeed, all three).


Libraries, Lives and Legacies

Organised by the AHRC-funded ‘Books and Borrowing, 1750-1830′ and ‘Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic’ projects.

Split-Venue Research Festival

13-14 April 2023 – University of Liverpool and online

17-18 April 2023 – University of Stirling

We are glad to announce a series of events on Libraries, Lives and Legacies in April 2023, and to invite papers for our conference. Registration for all events will be available in the new year.

At the University of Liverpool and Online (hybrid events)

13 April: Subscription Libraries in North America and the British Isles, 1731-1801: Books, Concepts, People, Communities

A one-day symposium featuring pre-circulated work-in-progress papers emerging from the ‘Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic’ project. Please contact for further information.

14 April: Old Books, New Media: Digital Humanities Showcase

A one-day workshop showcasing digital humanities projects exploring the history of the book, and featuring the launch and demonstration of two major new AHRC-funded open-access databases on libraries in the long eighteenth century. Please contact for further information.

At the University of Stirling (in-person conference)

17 to 18 April: Reading and Book Circulation, 1650-1850

Keynote Speakers:

Deidre Lynch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature, Harvard University
Andrew Pettegree, Bishop Wardlaw Professor of History, University of St Andrews

Featuring a round table discussion with librarians and practitioners:

  • Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian, Edinburgh University Library
  • Lara Haggerty, Keeper of Books, The Library of Innerpeffray, Crieff
  • Rachel Hart, Senior Archivist & Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments, University of St Andrews
  • Robert MacLean, Special Collections Librarian, University of Glasgow
  • Robert Betteridge, Eighteenth-Century Printed Collections Curator, National Library of Scotland

Call For Papers

The organisers invite 20-minute papers that approach the topics of reading and book circulation in the (very) long eighteenth century from any methodological perspective. Since Robert Darnton first challenged researchers in the field of book history to consider how to retrieve the history of reading, many new approaches have been pioneered, and much new evidence has come to light. At this conference, we hope to survey the state of the field, facilitating conversations between librarians, archivists, and researchers from a variety of different disciplines, and considering the myriad ways in which understanding book circulation and reading habits can shed new light on our period.

Papers might address (but are not limited to) any of the following topics:

  • Communities of reading
  • Individual readers
  • Relationships between actors in the communications circuit
  • Institutional practices and the history of reading
  • Library history and collection histories
  • Education and pedagogy
  • Theoretical approaches to reading
  • Methodological challenges and solutions
  • Archival materials and other new evidence

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers, or 800 words for pre-formed panels of 3 or 4 speakers, as a Word document attachment to Professor Katie Halsey at,with the subject line ‘Reading and Book Circulation Conference’ by 6 January 2023. Please include a 100-word biography for each speaker.