Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books

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Yale Univ., 2008 - Antiques & Collectibles - 295 pages
3 Reviews

It is easy to forget in our own day of cheap paperbacks and mega-bookstores that, until very recently, books were luxury items. Those who could not afford to buy had to borrow, share, obtain secondhand, inherit, or listen to others reading. This book examines how people acquired and read books from the sixteenth century to the present, focusing on the personal relationships between readers and the volumes they owned. Margaret Willes considers a selection of private and public libraries across the period—most of which have survived—showing the diversity of book owners and borrowers, from country-house aristocrats to modest farmers, from Regency ladies of leisure to working men and women.


Exploring the collections of avid readers such as Samuel Pepys, Thomas Jefferson, Sir John Soane, Thomas Bewick, and Denis and Edna Healey, Margaret Willes also investigates the means by which books were sold, lending fascinating insights into the ways booksellers and publishers marketed their wares. For those who are interested in books and reading, and especially those who treasure books, this book and its bounty of illustrations will inform, entertain, and inspire.

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Review: Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books

User Review  - Sarah - Goodreads

Really should get something like 2.5 stars. I liked a lot of the information in this book, but the writing was WAY less analytical than it needed to be. Pretty disappointing as an academic analysis, and not whimsical ENOUGH to just qualify as a fun book about books. Read full review

Review: Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books

User Review  - Erin - Goodreads

Nonfiction about the libraries of Brits (and the occasional American) and their book buying habits, as well as the customs of the day. Packed full of examples but not much else. A good reminder that ... Read full review

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About the author (2008)

Margaret Willes was Publisher for the National Trust, where she began its own imprint, in addition to writing and producing illustrated books. She lives in London.

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