An architectural typology for the early modern country house library, 1660-1720

West, Susie (2013). An architectural typology for the early modern country house library, 1660-1720. Library, 14(4) pp. 441–464.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/library/14.4.441

Abstract

David Pearson ‘s discussion of the formation of a directory of seventeenth-century book owners is taken up and extended in this article. Pearson’s ‘landscape of book ownership’ has material dimensions which could usefully be included in such a directory. Housing books in a room, on shelves, surrounded by additional collections, are all contributions to this landscape. Pearson’s call for a reference framework is answered by the proposal of a typology of early English library rooms, based on their attributes of scale, fittings and location with the plan of the country house. Case studies are drawn from an intensive study of the county of Norfolk. Archive evidence supports a re-evaluation of the problem of the name of the book room: study, library or closet? Personal collections housed in closets are linked to single owners, but the study or library can be seen as the open resource for the household, rather than assuming that it is primarily for the male owner of each generation. The reappraisal of the different roles of these spaces within the house allows notions of shared use to break down some existing boundaries in the scholarly literature, particularly over the gendered nature of the closet.

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