Introduction: Colonial Book Traffic and Transatlantic Community -- Enrichment of Charleston and Literature in South Carolina -- Early Membership and Mission of the Library Society -- Organization and Sociability -- New Members and the Desire for Grandeur -- Booksellers -- Ordering the Books -- Financing the Orders -- Getting the Books Across -- Literary Priorities -- Learned and Scientific Community -- Fiction, Prints, and Changing Attractions -- Pirates, Reprints, and the Final Letters -- Letter Book -- Charles Town Library Society "Copy Book of Letters," 1758-1811 -- Members of the Charleston Library Society before 1779 -- Chronological List (by Date of Admission, 1759-1779) of New Members Purchasing New Shares -- Reconstruction of the Foundation Collection of the Charleston Library Society during Its First Twenty Years, 1748-c.1769.
In 1994, James Raven encountered a letterbook from the Charleston Library Society detailing the ordering, processing, and shipping of texts from London booksellers to their American customers. The 120 letters, covering the period 1758-1811, provided unique material for understanding the business of London booksellers (for whom very little correspondence has survived) and Raven decided to publish an annotated edition of the letters. The letterbook, reproduced in its entirety, forms an appendix to the present volume, but Raven's study has blossomed from a relatively narrow examination of booksellers and their customers to a larger exploration of the role of books and institutions such as the Library Society in the formation of elite cultural identity on the fringes of empire. As a result, this meticulously researched book has much to offer scholars of gentry culture and community in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world as well as historians of the book.