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Book ownership in late eighteenth-century Scotland

Book ownership in late eighteenth-century Scotland: A local case study of dumfriesshire inventories

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  • Vivienne Dunstan


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-286
Number of pages22
JournalScottish Historical Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2012


Late eighteenth-century Scotland saw a period of growth in the availability of print material set against the backdrop of the Scottish Enlightenment. Yet despite much scholarly attention having been paid to the Enlightenment and an increasing interest in the books people were reading, little attention has been paid to the books that would have been found in individual Scottish houses and what they reveal about Scottish mindsets in these years. This paper addresses this topic, using a local case study of after-death inventories of personal possessions. These rich records reveal the size of household libraries, the varieties of books they contained, variation by occupation and social class, and the extent to which their owners engaged with and were influenced by debates and ideas of the time. In addition, the evidence allows us to consider the uses to which different types of books were put, examine differences between urban and provincial Scotland, and consider how and where people bought their books.



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