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What did university students read in the Scottish Enlightenment?

Records of the University of St Andrews Library provide a rich resource for the study of what students and professors were reading the long eighteenth century.

The Library is unique in retaining such a significant collection of bibliographic data sources for the period. 45 volumes of borrowing registers (or “receipt books”) have survived, recording what books were borrowed and by whom, along with 24 metres of library catalogues for the period 1644-1980 and 10 volumes of Stationers’ Hall books, listing the books which were received by the Library between 1710 and 1836, when it functioned as a copyright library under the terms of the Copyright Act, and was entitled to receive a copy of each book published in Britain.

The fact that undergraduates were allowed to take books out (they were actually discouraged from reading within the Library itself), has resulted in the creation of unusually copious records of titles borrowed, and the relative isolation of the town of St Andrews has been a factor in ensuring that these records have survived more or less intact. In addition, the diversity of the materials acquired under the 1710 Copyright Act makes this extensive collection of documents an unusually rich data source for the study of books and reading in enlightenment Scotland.

This website will show some of the ways in which we have interrogated the data so far, and will provide access to a selection of the digitised source materials used so that they are available to researchers wishing to undertake analysis of their own.