‘Reading Across Colonies’: New SouthHem Publication

Karen Wade and Porscha Fermanis, ‘Reading Across Colonies: Fiction Holdings and Circulating Libraries in the British Southern Hemisphere, 1820-1870’, Book History 26, no. 1 (2023): 71-112.

This study analyzes the fiction holdings of thirty library catalogues from twenty-three discrete circulating libraries in colonial Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Singapore from 1820 to 1870. It examines first, the frequency of book title listings; second, gender patterns and trends; and third, the prevalence of local and/or regionally-specific publications in the colonial libraries under investigation. By comparing the fiction holdings of sample libraries both against each other and against sources of information relating to wider trends in the circulation and consumption of nineteenth-century fiction, the study demonstrates, first, that early colonial libraries in the southern hemisphere evince a bias towards male-authored titles in their fiction holdings; and second, that these libraries pursued holdings of available publications written by local authors and/or containing regionally-specific content. The study thereby complicates tidy conclusions about the derivate or belated nature of early colonial libraries, as well as nuancing simple diffusionist models of book circulation.

Doi: 10.1353/bh.2023.0002


To view the publicly available dataset on which this article is based, see Fermanis, Porscha; Karen Wade, 2023, “Nineteenth-Century Fiction Holdings from Circulating Libraries in Southern Hemisphere British Settler Colonies”, https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/B251HN, Harvard Dataverse, V1.

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