Copyright literature and reading communities in eighteenth-century St Andrews

Sangster, M. (2017) Copyright literature and reading communities in eighteenth-century St Andrews. Review of English Studies, 68(287), pp. 945-967. (doi: 10.1093/res/hgx024)

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This article examines the extensive and previously underexplored eighteenth-century records of the University Library at St Andrews, demonstrating their considerable potential for enhancing and complicating our existing accounts of book use and reading within eighteenth-century institutions. It uses accessions lists, borrowing registers and surviving books to investigate the far-reaching effects of the 1710 Copyright Act and to trace St Andrews’ readers’ enthusiastic and vociferous engagements with poetry, novels, criticism and plays. Legal deposit under the 1710 Act has often been seen as being relatively ineffectual, but St Andrews’ records provide compelling evidence that it had a transformative material and intellectual impact on the university, in part through its providing considerable quantities of modern literature. While vernacular literary works were neglected in the English universities, in Scotland in general and in St Andrews in particular they came to play pioneering roles in arts curricula and circulated freely from libraries for formal study and leisurely perusal. St Andrews’ accessions lists record the significant direct and indirect impacts of legal deposit legislation on the composition of the library. A series of slice samples from the borrowing registers shows a narrow canon of exemplary literary writers giving way to more various and heterogeneous patterns of reading in which the novel became increasingly dominant. Finally, a rich vein of surviving eighteenth-century marginalia demonstrates that St Andrews’ students employed literary works as media for contentious, emotional and experimental discourses with each other, with their institution and with the social and affective values of the culture at large.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sangster, Professor Matthew
Authors: Sangster, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Review of English Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1471-6968
Published Online:28 March 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 Oxford University Press
First Published:First published in Review of English Studies 68(287): 945-967
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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