Novels of Interest

4. The term ‘circulating library’ indicates an organization or institution intended for the sharing of literary works among a membership or group. Circulating libraries in England date back to the seventeenth century. They gained importance from about the 1780s alongside improved literacy rates, an increasingly affluent middle class, and the expansion of the print industry, among other factors. For example, the increasing popularity (and availability) of novels early in the nineteenth century, perhaps especially following Scott’s first novel, Waverley, or ‘tis Sixty Years Since (1814), parallels the rise of the circulating library from about 1780 well into the Victorian period.