Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

History

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Daniel C. Littlefield

Abstract

In South Carolina, a colony known for its wealth and transatlantic connections, private libraries offer a unique lens through which to explore the culture of reading and book ownership that was an essential part of daily provincial and early national life. Largely overlooked by historians, personal libraries functioned as statements of wellrounded, often cosmopolitan identities before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. A careful reading of newspaper advertisements, probate inventories, loyalist claims, and correspondence, in conjunction with extant books, bookcases, portraiture, and spaces allows us to reconstruct the culture of reading and book-ownership that dominated Lowcountry society before 1800. Doing so reveals the importance placed on reading and a recognition of the book's formulative influence upon cultivating the individual self among middling and elite families. Often displayed in the most public spaces of private homes, book collections functioned as carefully curated statements of one’s professional and academic life, hobbies, interests, and leisure, as well as material expressions of taste and wealth, framed—like portraits—by elegant mahogany cases. By situating books acquired in various ways for various reasons within private homes and individual lives, we find that male and female readers shaped their books as much as the books they owned and read shaped them.

Included in

History Commons

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