Books and Borrowing: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers, 1750-1830

Books and Borrowing uncovers and reinterprets the history of reading in Scotland in the period 1750 to 1830 through 144,000 borrowing records across 18 libraries.

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Results of an advanced search for author 'Sir Walter Scott'
Results of an advanced search for author 'Sir Walter Scott'

An AHRC-funded collaboration between the universities of Stirling and Glasgow, Books and Borrowing uncovers and reinterprets the history of reading in Scotland in the period 1750 to 1830. Using formerly unexplored (or underexplored) borrowing records, the project created a valuable new resource that reveals hidden histories of book use, knowledge dissemination and participation in literate culture.

Drawing on the rare manuscript sources held at eighteen partner libraries and heritage centres, the project establishes which books readers actually engaged with in the period. Represented in the records are farmers and farm workers, factors, gamekeepers, shepherds, blacksmiths, lay preachers, boltmakers, vagabonds, poachers, merchants, glovers, maidservants, coachmen, soldiers and sailors, as well as schoolchildren and members of the professional and leisured classes. The project provides tools to analyse the reading of lead miners in Dumfries and Galloway, clergymen in Dunblane and Dumfries, advocates in Edinburgh, university students, professors and townspeople in the historic university towns of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow, and what Daniel Defoe called the ‘middling sort’ of people in Selkirk, Wigtown, Kirkwall, Haddington, and rural Perthshire.

The online resource features more than 20,000 digitised images of library register pages and around 144,000 transcribed library borrowing events involving more than 11,000 borrowers and 27,000 books.  The resource provides comprehensive search and browse facilities, including options to filter search results by criteria such as book genre, borrower occupation and gender, and borrowing records provide facilities to 'click through' from much of the data contained in them to search results for the item in question.  In addition, the resource features an online exhibition on the books and readers of Georgian Edinburgh, numerous interactive visualisations and an interactive map of borrowers at the Chambers Library in Edinburgh.


Main contacts: Katie HalseyMatthew Sangster

Developer: Brian Aitken

Start year: 2020

End year: 2024

Funded by: AHRC

Subject area: English Literature

Keywords: APIDigital CatalogueDigital EditionDigitisationHistoryMappingTranscriptionVisualisation

Record last updated 2024-02-14