Once you got all dressed in the 1700s, you needed to have some place to go! You might even go to the library for a book club meeting, although that could cause people to talk.
These libraries weren’t just places to find books, but social institutions as well. One famous library also had a billiard room, a public exhibition room, and a music library. “They were not the hushed environments that we now associated with libraries, but, at their best, elegant spaces full of people to converse with,” Williams writes. Libraries even had a touch of controversy, as they gave people of different social classes access to books and offered women a place to congregate outside the home.
As books became more available to everyday people, they gathered to share them with each other, and even to discuss them, in bars and public houses as well as libraries. Of course, when people get together to talk, the subject cannot be limited to one subject, and a social gathering needs refreshments, right? Read about those early, rowdy book clubs at Atlas Obscura.