This lecture series will explore seventeenth-century personal book ownership, looking not only at book acquisition patterns but also investigating motives and collecting cultures. A key theme will be the use of material evidence from books themselves to help to enhance our understanding of seventeenth-century values.
How widespread was book ownership in the seventeenth century, across all ranks of society? In an average English town of that time, in how many houses might we expect to find books? It is easy to gather evidence of book ownership among academics, aristocrats, clergymen and physicians, but harder to track it in the families of artisans, yeomen and those who were not university-educated. There are however many surviving books, scattered across libraries, whose markings testify to ownership among the humbler sort. This lecture will look at how far we can answer those opening questions.