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Before the Public Library

Reading, Community, and Identity in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850

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Before the Public Library explores the emergence of community-based lending libraries in the Atlantic World before the advent of the Public Library movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Essays by eighteen scholars from a range of disciplines seek to place, for the first time, community libraries within an Atlantic context over a two-century period. Taking a comparative approach, this volume shows that community libraries played an important – and largely unrecognized – role in shaping Atlantic social networks, political and religious movements, scientific and geographic knowledge, and economic enterprise. Libraries had a distinct role to play in shaping modern identities through the acquisition and circulation of specific kinds of texts, the fostering of sociability, and the building of community-based institutions.
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Mark Towsey and Kyle B. Roberts

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Mark Towsey and Kyle B. Roberts