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Leighton Library, Dunblane

Scotland's oldest purpose-built library founded in 1687

Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

‘Books and Borrowing: An Analysis of Scottish Borrowers’ Registers, 1750-1830’

This project (under the auspices of the University of Stirling, the University of Glasgow and the Arts and Humanities Research Council) uncovers and reinterprets the history of reading in Scotland in the period 1750 to 1830. Using formerly unexplored (or underexplored) borrowing records, the members of the project are undertaking cutting-edge research, and creating a valuable new resource that will reveal hidden histories of book use, knowledge dissemination and participation in literate culture.

Click on this link for references to Dunblane's historic Leighton Library on the site for Books and Borrowing 1750-1830

This includes information about the "Water Drinkers" of the Leighton Library, tourists who travelled from Dunblane to drink from the mineral springs a few miles north of the town from 1815 to 1833. This contextualises the borrowings of the Water Drinkers within Dunblane’s history as a spa town, as well as information about the borrowers themselves: who the Water Drinkers were, how they used the library, where they travelled from, and the books that they borrowed.

The Books and Borrowing database is now live and accessible from the project's homepage (

To illustrate the database's scope and some numbers, the project has digitised and transcribed borrowing records from eighteen historic libraries across Scotland (including Dunblane's historic Leighton Library). The database comprises almost 145,000 borrowing records from over 27,000 borrowed books across 21 genres. Spanning the years 1732 to 1840, it includes data on over 12,500 authors and over 11,000 borrowers.

In terms of the Leighton Library's records, the project has digitised and transcribed all of the library's late eighteenth and early nineteenth century borrowings contained across three ledgers. Overall, the Leighton data comprises 6,737 borrowing records of 809 books borrowed between the years 1780 and 1840. These books were written by 565 authors and borrowed by 306 individuals. 245 (80%) of these borrowers were male, while 61 (20%) were female, although the vast majority of borrowing records (95%) were made be men. According to the data, an average of 22 borrowings were made per borrower and each book holding was borrowed an average of 8 times. The project has also digitised the Leighton's Minute Book (1734-1822) and a fourth ledger, containing borrowings from 1725-48. Images from both may be viewed on the website.

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