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" A Powerful Means Of Improving The Neighbourhood": Subscription Libraries

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Chapter Summary

Subscription libraries were just one of a range of different types of institution that provided book-lending facilities in eighteenth-century Scotland, none of which were 'public' in the modern sense. Subscription libraries themselves were essentially private clubs: members paid an entry fee and an additional subscription each quarter for an equal share in the society; the library they accumulated over the years was intended to be permanent. Churchmen, lawyers and doctors also tended to share in common a university education, giving subscription libraries a direct link to the Scottish Enlightenment as it was produced at the Scottish universities. The most extensive borrowing registers to survive belong to the Selkirk Subscription Library, founded in 1772 and the property of a healthy mix of urban professionals and tenant farmers drawn from a wide hinterland. The registers cover a fifteen year period between 1799 and 1814.

Keywords: Scottish Enlightenment; Selkirk Subscription Library



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