The Dublin Library Society and its founding members: associational activity and cultural patriotism in late-eighteenth-century Dublin.
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ABBAS, H. 2017. The Dublin Library Society and its founding members: associational activity and cultural patriotism in late-eighteenth-century Dublin. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
In late-eighteenth-century Dublin, options were limited for an expanding reading public who wished to consult quality printed works. During this period of the Anglican Ascendancy, membership to institutional libraries or participation in associational activities was largely limited to elites and those from the Established Church. The Dublin Library Society provided a public reference library service without restrictions of confession, connection, elections, or status—with admission based only on ability to pay the initial two-guinea charge (and one thereafter). Using hitherto neglected primary sources, particularly contemporary newspapers, this thesis will examine the origins of the Dublin Library, public reaction towards it, and its position promoting cultural patriotism and inclusivity in public library service provision in late-eighteenth-century Dublin. Also, a detailed prosopographical analysis of the library’s founding subscribers, specifically for their occupational backgrounds and associational activities, will show that the library represented a cross-section of Dublin’s reading public and help identify the social and cultural milieu in the capital. Through a combination of historical and prosopographical research on the library and its members, this study aims to contribute to both library history and the wider fields of social, cultural, and urban history of Dublin. The library was founded amidst a backdrop of Irish patriotism evidenced by the achievement of legislative independence from Britain. Dubliners expressed their patriotism through participation in clubs and societies that promoted Irish cultural, commercial, political, and social improvement and self-sufficiency. Further Enlightenment ideals of toleration and intellectual cultivation were embodied in these associations. By the end of this examination, the Dublin Library Society will be regarded not only as significant in the expansion of Dublin’s literary public sphere, but also a noteworthy location of the Irish Enlightenment in the capital.