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Book Clubs and Associations

image Cambridge Book Club Records, 1832–1975; Series: II. Records (notebooks); 1832–1836. bMS Am 1646.1, no.1. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Book clubs and literary associations provided social venues for reading, by offering occasions for members to gather for dinner, public readings, formal debates, and informal conversation on literary, political, and social topics. Clubs often functioned as dinner and social organizations with a literary bent or served as a means of purchasing and circulating reading material through a library. Associations, whose nature and aims varied widely, encompassed local book clubs, reading circles for professionals and schoolchildren, college literary associations, and women's reading societies.

Selections from Harvard

Works selected for the Reading collection emphasize clubs and associations that exhibited some social dimension and were concerned with acquiring and circulating reading matter.

Purely literary associations that gathered for broad discussions of literary, social, or political topics with no common source of reading matter have received less emphasis.

Book clubs that operated as printing societies are not included.

Published Materials

Selections, largely drawn from collections in the Widener and Houghton libraries, demonstrate the diversity of book clubs and literary associations and the printed materials they produced, such as lists of recommended works for book clubs, histories of local and professional clubs, printed copies of orations read before the clubs, printed club and association constitutions, and member lists.

Manuscript Materials

From Houghton Library, the records of the Cambridge Book Club, which included Harvard faculty members and prominent members of Boston society, and the records of the Burchard Literary Association.

From the Harvard University Archives, the records of the Imitatores Omnium Honestarum (IOH), a Harvard College student club.

From the Schlesinger Library, the "Annals of the Johnnies," comprising Helen Lawrence Appleton Brooks's reading club records, and the records of the Sherborn (Massachusetts) Female Reading Society and Benevolent.

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Associations and clubs