goal of this exhibition, and one of the goals of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) itself, is to engage scholars in the study of the history of the book.  The history of reading is but one component of this broad and dynamic field of scholarship.  It is also an exceptionally difficult one.  In highlighting the locations where individuals performed the act of reading in America, through the use of images and objects from the AAS collections, we hope to tell a story.  It is not a definitive story by any means, but a story of three centuries' worth of individuals 'caught' in the act of reading in homes, taverns, libraries, military camps, parlors, kitchens, and beds, among other places. 

At times we can see a person reading in a specific location; at other times people tell us where they are reading; and sometimes we have to perform leaps of faith and imagine, for example, a cookbook being read in the kitchen.  It’s the only logical location.  Or is it?  Our hope is that this exhibition will encourage other students of the history of the book to expand on this topic in as many imaginative and varied ways as the Society’s collection permits. 












Figure 1.2 South Side, Main Hall, Second Building of the American Antiquarian Society, 1854–1910.

[click image to enlarge]

The American Antiquarian Society has always offered a space for readers.  This archival photo of the second Antiquarian Hall shows reading tables in the room to the left and couches scattered about the interior.



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