Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dabney's Circulating Library, Salem, MA

I recently acquired a bookplate for Dabney's Circulating Library of Salem, Massachusetts. The library was located in the Salem Bookstore from 1789 to 1819. Circulating libraries were "for profit" rental libraries that existed in the United States from 1762 until late in the 19th century. The text on the bookplate uses the long s which looks like an f so it is probably from the eighteenth century. The heavily promotional text on the bookplate is indicative of the commercial nature of these libraries. The primary authority on circulating libraries in the United States is David Kaser's A Book For A Sixpence: The Circulating Library in America (Beta Phi Mu, 1980). Kaser developed a "Checklist of American Commercial Enterprises, 1762-1890" which included 439 circulating libraries. According to Kaser's checklist, Dabney's Circulating Library issued catalogs in 1791, 1794, and 1801. Jeffrey Croteau has conducted recent research on circulating libraries especially those that operated in Brooklyn, NY. He has expanded and continues to expand Kaser's checklist with his  "American Circulating Libraries Not in Kaser". Circulating libraries in England preceded those in the United States. I wrote a previous post about Mudie's Select Library in London, the largest of these English circulating libraries. I also wrote an earlier post about circulating library trade cards and a post about a humorous circulating library postcard.

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