Books as Gifts: The Meaning and Function of a Personal Library
‘Much of the evidence used in researching the history of individuals’ reading preferences and practices is elusive and transient. Most individuals do not leave material traces—why would they?—of an activity which nonetheless, in many cases, occupies a significant proportion of their waking lives; and the traces that some of them do leave are often enigmatic or ambiguous. The ‘personal library’, however—by which I mean a collection of books acquired over a period of time by a specific individual (as distinct from a family or an institution)—may reasonably be regarded with some optimism as a potentially rich source of information, at least about that individual’s reading history, and perhaps also about wider patterns of reading behaviour which he or she may exemplify.’ (Author’s introduction)
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