Sunday, February 26, 2012

200 Year Old New York City Circulating Library Letter

I recently acquired what is now the oldest item of postal librariana in my collection. It is a folded letter written on March 14, 1812 by Andrew T. Goodrich to his mother and sister in New Haven, Connecticut. Goodrich was the owner of the A. T. Goodrich and Company Circulating Library and Bookstore in New York City. The primary purpose of the letter is to facilitate the move of Goodrich's mother and sister to New York. However, Goodrich also discusses how well his circulating library is doing. Goodrich writes: "My Library is a capital thing. It brings me in money very fast, and the most respectable people in town are among my subscribers, & the number is daily augmenting. There are an uncommon number of respectable & beautiful young Ladies who are my subscribers, and who of course bring with them their attendants … Mr. Goodrich's Circulating Library & Bookstore will soon be known as 'genteel and fashionable'." The library and bookstore also sells "the Ladies their new music & fancy stationary." A catalog of the Goodrich library was published in 1818 and included 1,765 books. In A Book For A Sixpence: The Circulating Library in American (Beta Phi Mu, 1980), David Kaser reported that of the books listed in the catalog, 53% were fiction and 16% were literature. There is a list of libraries in 19th century New York City on Wikipedia which includes the Goodrich library. Although the letter is not in great shape, it is still a very nice item to add to my collection.

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