The library, as described by the 1771 Encyclopædia Britannica

I was walking through the stacks on a rare quiet day (classes don’t start until next week), when I stumbled upon the 1771 Encyclopædia Britannica. I couldn’t resist looking up the entry for library:

an edifice or apartment destined for holding a considerable number of books placed regularly on shelves ; or , the books themselves lodged in it.

We can all agree that libraries have come a long way since being simply buildings full of books, but here’s the part that really had me rolling on the floor:

In Edinburgh there is a good library belonging to the university, well furnished with books ; which are kept in good order, and cloistered up with wire-doors, that none but the keeper can open, and are now lent out only upon consignation of the price ; a method much more commodious than the multitude of chains used in other libraries.

Still, I think this would be an appropriate tagline even today:

Libraries: disseminating information through the most commodious methods for centuries


3 thoughts on “The library, as described by the 1771 Encyclopædia Britannica

  1. Neat. Certainly gives some perspective. I’ve been to Edinburgh University’s library and I promise, it’s no longer “cloistered up with wire-doors” anymore. :-)

    • Too bad, that would have made for an interesting library tour. But what I really want to see is a library with a multitude of chains – sounds pretty punk rock!

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