Circulating Library Catalogue – Thurnam’s of Carlisle

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An uncommon example of a circulating library catalogue – Thurnam’s of Carlisle 1827, Parts I-XIX, a total of nearly two thousand works, a decent sized circulating library if we compare this to the figures listed in Allan’s ‘A Nation of Readers’ (Table 4.1) – parts were added to the catalogue as new books became available; John Turton had a copy of Thurnam’s catalogue to part XXVI in a 2013 catalogue.

Thurnam’s ‘let out to read’ books at £1, 1s a year; 12s half a year, 7s a quarter, 4s a month, or by single volume at 1d each evening, though “the proprietor will sometimes be necessitated to charge a trifle additional for expensive works”.

The books are mainly fiction, which led to worries about the influence of circulating libraries, indeed the chapter on circulating libraries in Allan is titled ‘Inlets of Vice and Debauchery’, opening with a wonderful quote by Cooke, “how many young people, especially girls, often procure, and sometimes in a secret manner, books of so evil a tendency, that not only their time is most shamefully wasted, but their morals and manners tainted and warped for the remainder of their lives”.

For an excellent overview of book clubs, reading societies, subscription libraries, circulating libraries and early public libraries, see David Allan, A Nation of Readers – The Circulating Library in Georgian England (2008)