Until recently, historians of reading have concentrated on book ownership and trying to map out a history of who read what. The reading experience has been a subject more difficult to research. As has been pointed out before, egodocuments can be valuable sources in this case. Following this lead,
Literacy in Everyday Life focuses upon four early modern Dutch diaries in which readers document their daily life and in which they recount their reading. In the analysis, other ways in which these four readers communicated are also addressed, especially speech and writing. This book therefore provides an insight into the possible uses of literacy and the interaction between the printed, written and spoken word in the early modern Dutch Republic.
Jeroen Blaak is a member of the research group Egodocuments, Erasmus University Rotterdam. He has written on several early modern and modern Dutch diaries and autobiographies.
"Blaak illustrates not just what kind of books these people read - even listing the titles - but also how, why, and where they read them. He writes this book from the relatively new and refreshing angle of media history, especially examining the interaction between the printed, the written, and the spoken word.
Literacy in Everyday Life is an entertaining and well-documented study, with some surprising conclusions.[...] Blaak places his study in a wider international context [...]. This makes his book very readable, as well as useful for the international researcher."
Dutch Crossing 34 (2010) 279-281
Literacy in Everyday Life is an entertaining and well-documented study, with some surprising conclusions. By giving detailed information on these diarists' lives, their reading behaviour is placed into context, and is linked to everyday social practices. In this way, Blaak identifies how books dominated conversations, or how ideas influenced the readers' choice or, more importantly, the reception of books. He is able to nuance findings from traditional book historical research [...] Blaak places his study in a wider international context by referring to foreign studies, and especially to English research. This makes his book very readable, as well as useful for the international researcher."
Mirella Marini in
Dutch Crossing vol. 34, no. 3, November 2010
List of illustrations
List of abbreviations and archive names
I. Historical research on reading and writing: from book ownership to the use of media
II. Mirror of literacy: reading and writing in the diary (1624) of David Beck
III. Aristocratic literacy: Pieter Teding van Berkhout and his ‘journal’ (1669-1712)
IV. Aural and eyewitness testimony: reading, writing, and discussions of current affairs in Jan de Boer’s chronological journal (1747-1758)
V. A devout reader and writer: literacy in Jacoba van Thiel’s ‘account-book of the soul’ (1767-1770)
VI. Literacy in everyday life
Appendix I: Reading behaviour in figures
Appendix II: Titles of books mentioned in the diaries
List of sources
Readers with an interest in book history, the history of reading, literacy, media and the history of communication, as well as those interested in the history of autobiographical writing.