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Sangster & Halsey, Books and Borrowing Across Scotland, 1750-1830

Matthew Sangster
University of Glasgow

Katie Halsey
University of Stirling

This joint presentation, by Katie Halsey (Stirling) and Matthew Sangster (Glasgow) will discuss the AHRC-funded Books and Borrowing project, which is aiming to assemble a corpus of c. 150,000 Scottish borrowing records dating from between 1750 and 1830.  The project draws on sixteen different partner libraries, from Orkney and Aberdeen to Westerkirk and Wigtown, with users including lead miners, students , farmers, professionals, tourists and townspeople.  The libraries represent the range of types from the period, from a private castle library and provincial subscription libraries to the large libraries of the universities and the Faculty of Advocates; they have been selected primarily on the basis of their holding records for our period, but also to represent the widest possible geographical and demographic spread.  We will each speak briefly about our completed pilot projects on borrowings from Innerpeffray Library and the University of Glasgow before turning to our progress with the large dataset the Books and Borrowing project has been preparing since July 2020.  Our discussion will consider the advantages of transforming manuscript records into flexible digital forms that can allow us to move from anecdotal histories to accounts grounded in wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative data.  We will set out the hypotheses regarding Enlightenment and the Romantic period that we plan to test and draw on our current research to suggest some initial conclusions.  We will also discuss our data structure and the challenges we have encountered thus far in the hope that this will set the stage for productive interchanges with other workshop participants about the best ways of creating new digital possibilities from complex and hitherto intractable manuscript bureaucracy.