Circulating libraries first appeared in Britain in the 18th century. Over the course of the next century they transformed Britain's relationship with books and helped to raise literacy rates. Circulating libraries were much like our public libraries today, except that customers had to pay to loan books. As such, they were primarily used by the middle and upper classes.
This advertisement for Tennent's Circulating Library in Bath dates from the late 18th century. As well as books, the library stocked maps, prints, stationary and even medicines.
- Article by:
- Kate Flint
- The novel 1832 - 1880, Reading and print culture
Professor Kate Flint explores the way Victorians bought, borrowed and read their books, and considers the impact of the popular literature of the period.