Histories of eighteenth-century book use have often relied on anecdotal accounts produced principally by elite auditors. This is not because other kinds of data have not survived, but because evidence is often immured in fragile, complex and inaccessible – but potentially immensely valuable – manuscript sources. Eighteenth-Century Borrowing at the University of Glasgow contributes to realising the potential of such sources by making openly available high-quality digital materials and rich, searchable data relating to book borrowings in the mid eighteenth century.
Archival library records at Glasgow are patchy, but for the eighteenth century, six registers detailing student borrowings and professorial loans have survived. This site allows users to work with images and data from the three registers that record student borrowings. These cover the period between March 1757 and January 1771.
The site provides a range of interfaces: you can search the data, controlling a number of parameters; browse the registers page by page; browse normalised book titles, author names and student names; examine the professors on whose authority books were taken out; consider borrowings by the classes in which students were enrolled; browse by lending dates; and glance through the unnormalised line entries as originally recorded in the registers. The most popular books and authors, and the most assiduous borrowers, can be seen using the frequency lists. In all cases, clicking through will take you to pages where you can tab between our transcribed data and high-resolution, zoomable images of the original manuscripts.
To help explain the borrowing records, we have provided some contextual information on the University library in the eighteenth century, as well as a list of the professors and a transcription of some of the library’s rules.
We welcome feedback on the data and the site, and would be very glad to hear from people who have questions or who have found this resource helpful.
Matthew Sangster, Karen Baston and Brian Aitken