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 Minutes of the Edinburgh Subscription Library, 1794

Subscription libraries

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One reason given for the establishment of the Edinburgh Subscription Library was that circulating libraries were 'chiefly stored with trash'. People unhappy with existing libraries started subscription libraries. That way they could make sure that book selection and management could suit the needs of their community - self-help for mutual improvement.

 Laws of the Edinburgh Subscription Library

The Edinburgh Subscription Library

The Edinburgh Subscription Library was founded in 1794, the main founder being the Reverend Dr. Hall who went on to become the President of the Library. It opened because 'it was a matter of considerable difficulty to procure books of value, without an expense which few are able to bear'. The aim of the Library was to collect 'the most valuable books in miscellaneous literature' as well as 'the most eminent publications of the season'.

 Share register of the Edinburgh Subscription Library

When the Library was founded the entrance fee was £1.11s.6d (£1.57 ½) and the annual subscription was 10s.6d. When a person paid the entrance fee they were given a share, which they could sell if the member no longer wished to use the Library, or it could be passed on to a descendant.

 Catalogue of the Edinburgh Subscription Library

When the Library first opened the books were stored in the Session House of Rose Street Chapel, but by 1807 the Library could afford its own premises on South Bridge. The paid librarian was William Syme between 1794-1819. The Library survived into the 20th century. These are some of the subscribers to the Edinburgh Subscription Library in 1833.

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In this section:
Circulating libraries | Subscription libraries | Itinerating libraries | Free public libraries


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