Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

World Book Day, 2025

Today, 7th March, 2025, is World Book Day! It seemed like a good moment, therefore, for a Books and Borrowing blog, which I’m going to use to update all of our loyal readers on some of the things that have been happening in the past couple of months.

The first piece of news is that, as the eagle-eyed among you may already have noticed, our database is now live and searchable! Using the Browse, Facts & Figures and Search functions which are available in tabs at the top of our Home Page, you can now begin to see the fruits of the labours of the last three and a half years. We are very excited about this, but are launching with less fanfare than we might, in order to give our wonderful beta-testing team time to test out the resource, give us feedback, and make improvements accordingly. In April, we’ll launch fully, at which point we’ll be inviting all friends of the project to celebrate with us in Glasgow (more details about that in my next blog).

One of the visualisations of our data in the new database. This shows a breakdown of borrowings by genre, at Innerpeffray Library, 1750-1830. It was created by the brilliant Brian Aitken.

In addition to work on the database, the team have also been busy putting together not one, but two, special issues of the journal Library and Information History, which will come out in August and December 2024 respectively. The first, edited by myself, Kit and Josh, is themed around books, readers and agents, and the second around books, libraries and circulation. We are very happy with the contributions to these special issues, and are currently in the process of editing the final versions and writing the introductions to the special issues. The editorial work has been fascinating, and I’ve certainly learned a great deal from the essays I’ve been editing, which will appear in the first special issue (Library and Information History 40.2 (August 2024)). It will feature essays from Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell, Zachary Brookman, Kelsey Jackson Williams, Jessica Purdy, and Elise Watson. The topics of the essays range widely across different types of libraries (parish, school, citizen-created, monastic), countries (Greece, Bavaria, the Swiss Confederate States, Scotland, England and the Dutch Republic), and parts of the communications circuit, but what perhaps emerges most strongly from these essays is the importance of books as symbolic and cultural capital.

The Zurich Bürgerbibliothek (Citizens’ Library) from Wikimedia Commons.

The second special issue (Library and Information History 40.3 (December 2024)) features essays from Ruth Abbot, Karen Baston, Jacob Baxter and Michelle Craig, and boasts a similar range of exciting topics: the professorial borrowers at the Hunterian Library at the University of Glasgow; the Advocates Library and the writing of history; the readers of Sir William Temple’s work, and scribes and scholars in the British Library Reading Room. This issue is being edited by Cleo, Maxine and Matt.  There’s a strong focus on the importance of place in this special issue. I hope this brief teaser will encourage all readers of this blog to look out for the special issues, when they come out! I will, of course, post further details in due course.

That’s all for now; wishing you all a very Happy World Book Day!