- New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2017.
- 7 x 10 inches
- cloth, dust jacket
- 368 pages
- ISBN: 9781584563624
Price: $65.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 128979
"An Actors Library provides much insight into the collecting practices and book buying (and selling) world of the eighteenth century.... Smith ably demonstrates how a study of a personal collection of books can reveal social, cultural, and literary relationships....The book is a lovely production."
- Millicent Weber, Script & Print
"An exemplary piece of modern library history... while An Actors Library will quickly become required reading for Garrick specialists and those interested in the history and dispersal of eighteenth-century private libraries, it is also about much more than that, not least as an intimate account of the centrality of books to social relationships and family life in the eighteenth century."
- Mark Towsey, Library and Information History
"Splendidly designed... deeply learned and well-written."
- William Baker, The Year's Work in English Studies
An Actor's Library is the first major academic study of the library of David Garrick, the celebrated eighteenth-century actor and theatre manager, and its publication coincides with the 300th anniversary year of his birth. Book collecting was no fringe leisure interest for Garrick; it was a lifelong preoccupation. He assembled a general library of over 3,000 volumes and a renowned dramatic library of ca. 1,300 old plays, the latter bequeathed to the British Museum in 1779. Rich in English drama and books on theatre history, dramaturgy and the theory of dramatic character, the library was recognised as an unrivalled scholarly resource by contemporary editors of Shakespeare and other early English dramatists, and by literary and musical historians. Garrick extended liberal access and borrowing privileges to friends and acquaintances such as Charles Burney, Thomas Percy,George Steevens and Thomas Warton. Garrick's library facilitated his own private study and connected him inextricably to the book collecting culture of the period.
Samuel Johnson reportedly once mocked Garrick's bibliophilic ambitions, saying: "Lookee, David, you do understand plays, but you know nothing about books!" In fact, Garrick knew rather more about books than Johnson was prepared to credit, and this study convincingly restores Garrick's reputation as one of the eighteenth-century's great book collectors.
The author's approach is interdisciplinary and exploits the extensive archival legacy of Garrick and his wife, their contemporaries, and Mrs. Garrick's two executors, largely unpublished and unstudied until now. Through a process of bibliographical detective work, Smith located over 200 books with a Garrick provenance, a number of which preserve traces of the sociability of Garrick's collecting (bookplates, inscriptions and other marks of ownership) and enable a broader understanding of the formation and dispersal of private libraries in the long eighteenth century. As chronicled in these pages, Garrick was actively engaged in the London and Parisian book markets and was an energetic sponsor of contemporary literary productions. The example of his dramatic library influenced a new generation of collectors of old English plays, and following his death his books enjoyed afterlives as significant theatrical collectibles. Designed by Scott Vile at the Ascensius Press.
Nicholas D. Smith is an archivist at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and was curator of the V&A display, "David Garrick: Book Collector" (September 2016 - May 2017). He is the author of a previous monograph, The Literary Manuscripts and Letters of Hannah More (Ashgate, 2008).