How can we be sure old books were ever read?

University of Glasgow Library

My Library, by Tom Gauld. Used with kind permission of Tom GauldMy Library, by Tom Gauld. Used with kind permission of Tom Gauld

The 'bookfool' by Albrecht Dürer in Sebastian Brant's 'Das Narrenschiff' (Sp Coll BD16-e.4) The ‘book fool’ by Albrecht Dürer in Sebastian Brant’s Das Narrenschiff (Sp Coll BD16-e.4)

Owning a book isn’t the same as reading it; we need only look at our own bloated bookshelves for confirmation. You may remember this great cartoon by Tom Gauld doing the rounds on social media a year or two ago. We love it because, in it, we can clearly see our own bookshelves and our own absurd relationship with books: unread, partially read and never-to-be-read books battling it out for space with those we’ve successfully tackled. With our busy lives and competing demands on our leisure time, the ever-growing pile of unread books can even sometimes feel like a monument to our failure as readers! Although this is surely a more common anxiety in a time of relatively cheap books and one-click online shopping…

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