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Monday, March 25, 2013

Regency Libraries

Free public libraries as we know them today did not exist in the Regency. Libraries were part of book shops, and a fee was required to take out books.

Most of the bookshops were concentrated in large cites, such as London. Here’s a list of booksellers in London, with their specialties:

Some booksellers kept libraries, and some had Reading Rooms only.

Hatchard’s, the bookseller that figures most prominently in Regency romances, had a Reading Room, while Hookham’s had both a Reading Room and a circulating library.

Here’s Hookham’s library catalog:

Here’s Hookham’s ad for its library:;view=fulltext

Libraries were not for the poor. Hookham’s yearly fee for taking out twelve books was forty-two shillings (two guineas, or two pounds, two shillings), about $150 in today’s money. Part of the large fee was due to Hookham’s location in high-priced Mayfair, but some was also due to the cost of books. Books were expensive, thanks to a tax on paper, and only the well-heeled could afford to buy or borrow.

In A Similar Taste in Books, my hero and heroine meet in Hookham’s circulating library over a copy of Pride and Prejudice. Since they both like Pride and Prejudice, can love be far behind?

A Similar Taste in Books, Book 1 of Love and the Library, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and other places where eBooks are sold.

Thank you all,


Top picture is of the British Museum Reading Room, from Wikipedia


Cheryl Bolen said...

Nice post, Linda. If I'm not mistaken, the photo is from the OLD British Library reading room. Sadly, since the library relocated to a larger, more modern building, it's lost a lot of its charm. Still, I've enjoyed researching in the new "stacks."

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Cheryl. Nice to know someone who has actually been to the British Library.