book ownership in England c. 1700

From 1675 to 1725, only about 20% of middle-rank English households reported books other than Bibles in probate inventories.  Bibles were listed in only 5% of inventories.  Middle-rank households means households with statuses ranging from lesser gentry down to lesser yeomen.  Less than a quarter of these households apparently owned significantly valued books c. 1700.

Picture ownership was similar to book ownership.  Cooking pots, in contrast, were reported in about 70% of probate inventories.

Lower book prices, greater literary, and more leisure time explain the much greater personal interest in books compared to three centuries ago.  What determines demand for owning books and how that demand relates to e-books held in the clouds is much less clear.

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Statistics: Book and picture ownership in English probate inventories, 1675-1725 (Excel version)

Data source: Lorna Weatherill.  Consumer behaviour and material culture in Britain, 1660-1760, 2nd ed (London: Routledge, 1996).

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