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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Buildings and Cityscape


By John C Crawford

University Library and Hamilton Building During this period levels of literacy and educational opportunity expanded enormously with the result that the reading public grew to include both the middle classes and the skilled working class. The volume of books published increased from the late 17th century onwards. At the University of Glasgow a library building was erected between 1656 and 1661. The first librarian, Andrew Snype, was appointed in 1641 and was given the task of preparing the library's first catalogue. By 1691 the library had over 3,000 volumes. In 1697, Glasgow's first specialist library, that of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, was begun. It produced its first printed catalogue in 1741 and still exists in St Vincent Street.

Tait's Directory p62 In the 18th century publicly available libraries became common and there were two main types: circulating libraries, usually owned by booksellers which lent out books for a fee, rather like the modern video library; and subscription libraries, which were run like clubs or societies. The members who controlled and owned the subscription libraries paid an annual subscription and the money raised was spent on books, periodicals and administration. Some subscription libraries had high charges and these appealed to the middle classes. Later in the century skilled tradesmen began to found cheaper libraries. Both types came later to Glasgow than elsewhere. John Smith's circulating library was founded in 1753. In the 1760s there were two other circulating libraries in existence, one run by a David Home and another operated by James Knox.

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