Purposes of Subscription Library

1985 Words8 Pages
Following the years of revolution, the eighteenth century was relatively stable and peaceful age. General improvement of life and urbanisation led to increase in the amount of spare time and money. The commercialisation of the leisure also made recreational activity more affordable, especially for the new middle class constituted by professionals. Their new vulnerable status in the society led them to seek their own culture, such as participation to society activities and enrolment to the subscription library. Subscription Library was first established in Liverpool in 1758, and it spread across Britain, growing the number of subscribers along the way. It was essentially a private library, requiring a payment of a guinea for entry and another ten shillings or so for the annual subscription fee. In turn, the members were allowed access to the permanent collection of the books. In this essay, I would like to discuss the possible purposes of the subscription library in the eighteenth century, by studying the library catalogues and regulations. Firstly the library’s role in the associationalism and the polite culture would be considered. Then I would like to discuss how the library served as a place of forming a uniformed society, offering useful knowledge and promoting equality. Lastly, its exclusiveness would be studied. The purpose of the subscription library could be best explained as a part of the associationalism culture and the desire for the polite society.
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