Reading Matters

Five Centuries of Discovering Books

Margaret Willes

View Inside Price: $25.00


May 25, 2010
304 pages, 5 x 8
90 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300164046
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

It is easy to forget in our own day of cheap paperbacks and mega-bookstores that, until very recently, books were luxury items. Those who could not afford to buy had to borrow, share, obtain secondhand, inherit, or listen to others reading. This book examines how people acquired and read books from the sixteenth century to the present, focusing on the personal relationships between readers and the volumes they owned. Margaret Willes considers a selection of private and public libraries across the period—most of which have survived—showing the diversity of book owners and borrowers, from country-house aristocrats to modest farmers, from Regency ladies of leisure to working men and women.

Exploring the collections of avid readers such as Samuel Pepys, Thomas Jefferson, Sir John Soane, Thomas Bewick, and Denis and Edna Healey, Margaret Willes also investigates the means by which books were sold, lending fascinating insights into the ways booksellers and publishers marketed their wares. For those who are interested in books and reading, and especially those who treasure books, this book and its bounty of illustrations will inform, entertain, and inspire.

Margaret Willes, the former Publisher for the National Trust, has written and illustrated numerous books. She lives in London.

'A must-have for anyone obsessed by books.' - The Good Book Guide

'A delightful literary ramble.' - The Independent

'An enjoyably discursive and anecdotal account.' - Times Literary Supplement

'An insightful and delightful journey through the history of book buying and selling. Intriguing historical facts and anecdotes - including a look inside famed diarist Samuel Pepys's vast personal library complete with trendsetting, custom-made bookshelves - make it an addictive read for book lovers.' - Shelf Awareness, top ten books of 2010

"[Willes] tackles her subject with considerable learning and with a gusto atypical of a scholarly volume. . . . There's a wealth of information here."—Publishers Weekly

"Filled with fascinating tidbits. . . . This is a fascinating book for anyone with a touch of bibliomania. . . . Much of the information is relevant to book lovers and librarians everywhere. After reading this book, you'll never think of book ownership in quite the same way again."—Academia

"A handsome, richly illustrated ramble through the history of book buying. . . . This is a charming book, full of digressions—biographical and historical nuggets abound—but it is also clearly the fruit of a remarkable range and depth of research."—Peter Walpole, Virginia Quarterly Review

“Every now and again, an enchanting and delightful book appears which mixes real scholarship with eminently readable prose. Margaret Willes’s Reading Matters is one such work … Willes’s diligent and skilful research in a wide range of archives is demonstrated on every page … The volume is generously illustrated throughout … [and] each illustration is fascinating … Books about books can be tricky affairs but this one is captivating; it is at once both instructive and entertaining. Anyone who loves books and their history will love Reading Matters.” - Peter H. Reid, Library and Information History

“… a wide-ranging history of readers and reading … a book rich in anecdote.” - Christina Hardyment, Oxford Today

"A good history of publishing and book reading as seen in a wide range of libraries."—Contemporary Review

“Through a series of chapters based on detailed and expert knowledge of important book collections, Willes opens up a wide range of matters connected to reading. This is a fascinating book.”—C.M. Woolgar, The Hartley Library, University of Southampton

"How do books furnish rooms -- and minds? How have they been produced, sold, acquired, and read since William Caxton? These questions, always intriguing, are illuminated in this colorful bibliophilic excursion." - Jonathan Rose