SOCIAL LIFE OF BOOKS


SOCIAL LIFE OF BOOKS

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS    Book Number: 88500    Product format: Hardback

Sub-titled 'Reading Together In The Eighteenth-Century Home', Abigail Williams explores the evolution of reading and the lesser known world of the everyday uses of books and reading in company, in the homes of the middling sort and lesser gentry. Although the schoolroom, the parish church, the tavern, the coffee-house, and the university all provided important locations for reading aloud, the home was a space distinct in itself, both public and private. Revisiting the busy world of domestic reading offers us the chance to explore the many ways in which books have knitted people together. They studied books on how to improve their elocution skills, learning to assume postures of passion and pathos as they read aloud in company. They copied down and shared their favourite poems, read out dialogues from popular novels, orated moving or comic fragments of plays, lent one another volumes of sermons, and discussed them afterwards. They invested in sofas in their libraries, or put bookcases round the fire to enable the sociable enjoyment of books. Reading aloud could mean sitting on a bench and reading cheap printed versions of folk tales to an illiterate artisan audience, or gathering the family around for a sermon on Sunday evening. It could mean sitting alone and enjoying the sound of a text or it could also, increasingly, mean standing up in a newly furnished parlour in front of a group of polite acquaintances. With new formats and new forms of access, readers engaged with books in multiple ways and our book shows the fates of individual works and offers glimpses of how texts circulated in ways sometimes unimagined by their original authors. Alain-René Lesage's 'The Devil Upon Two Sticks' was a comic novel first published in French in 1707 and translated into English the following year. It is seldom read now, but for a century after its publication it was reprinted nearly 40 times, enjoying a consistent success and popularity among book groups and circulating libraries. The book trade was also changing during the 18th century as was the increasingly prominent role of leisure and hospitality. Here is reading as a pick-me-up, a dangerous influence, a source of improvement, a way to stave off boredom, and even as a health-giving substitute for a walk in the open air. A history of the social life of books by an Oxford scholar. Towards the end of the century, amateur dramatics became popular for those with grand houses and enough space, of which 120 examples are recorded. The most famous fictional example is the scandalous amateur theatricals in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, and Williams argues that there was a generally understood difference between domestic reading aloud and full-blown performance. 352pp published by Yale University Press, the strength of the book lies in its sheer wealth of examples from provincial archives. Illus.
Published price: £30
Bibliophile price: £10.00


Additional product information

ISBN 9780300208290
Browse these categories as well: History, Books About Books

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