Friday, January 4, 2019

Reading Rooms

Public libraries today offer a collection of books that you can borrow, as well as a place to read periodicals.

Reading room, Magnus Enckell 1899
In the 18th and 19th centuries, those functions were typically separated. A reading room, or cabinet de lecture, was a place where you could, for a small fee, read newspapers, magazines, novels, and pamphlets. 

Libraries didn't stock those publications, and most ordinary people didn't get them delivered to their homes.

Johann Peter Hasenclever's The Reading Room (1843)
Reading rooms were also open late, and they were well heated and well lit, so they were attractive places to hang out together.

Etching by Gustave Janet after Charles Yriarte
In France, cabinets de lecture were especially popular after the Revolution, as people became more interested in politics. According to Wikipedia:
"Often at the cabinets, as with at the clubs, coffee houses, salons and bookshops, serious discussions would break out. People argued, hurled abuse and fought one another over specific facts in order to attack or defend the public figures being discussed. Whether by the light of a lantern or a simple oil lamp, people came to feed their political appetite and to leave better prepared for the debates that took place in the street."
Wikipedia on Cabinet de lecture

No comments: