Circulating Libraries (1355 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay


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Circulating libraries became an important cultural institution in Britain in the 1780s, doing much to enable the rising middle class to have access to a broad range of reading material, especially fiction.

Circulating libraries were generally of three kinds—specialist libraries attached to, or owned by, literary and philosophical societies which were developing in most British towns and cities in the later eighteenth century; book clubs which flourished in lower middle-class and socially aspirant groups such as urban artisans who wished to better themselves; and commercial libraries which developed in London, the major cities, and such watering places as Bath to supply the reading of the lower gentry and rising middle class,…

Citation: Clark, Robert. "Circulating Libraries". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 11 April 2005 [, accessed 04 December 2022.]

189 Circulating Libraries 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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