Richard D. Altick (essay date 1957)
SOURCE: Altick, Richard D. “Public Libraries.” In The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800-1900, pp. 213-39. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.
[In the following excerpt, Altick examines early public libraries in England, many of which were devoted to theological works and antiquities of little interest to the general reader.]
As early as the fifteenth century, posthumous benevolence in England sometimes took the form of library endowment. Here and there, instead of leaving part of one's fortune to found and maintain a grammar school, or to relieve future generations of the worthy poor, a...
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