2023 A. S. W. Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliiography: Leah Price, Reading from Home, Lecture 3
Lecture 3: Reader ≠ inessential worker
Descriptive bibliography has taught us to mine printed artefacts for evidence of the division of labor. But because making forms only the first stage of the book’s lifecycle, that negotiation prefigures a longer series of unequal collaborations among the different parties involved in its circulation – not just in the bookshop and the library, but also within the middle-class home.
Most Victorians who owned a bookshelf employed a servant. Those dependents came into daily contact with printed matter that they had no right to read or even touch (the subject of Monday’s lecture), while owning and sometimes even reading books gifted by the former (as I’ll discuss on Tuesday). Where middle-class children’s sense of reading as work collided with servants’ understanding of education as the antonym to paid labor (I’ll suggest Thursday), we can trace the origin of conflicts that continue to play out in an ongoing pandemic.