Reading, Politics and Love: The Gift of the Book in Eighteenth-Century England

By Polly Bull

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First edition of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan published in 1678.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel about fortitude and love, Marmee gave her four daughters books as presents one Christmas. The books were copies of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The March daughters had been complaining about their poverty and Marmee intended to teach a lesson of stoicism and charity through Bunyan’s work. She succeeded, and the girls gave away their breakfast to the poor on Christmas morning. This book-gift was meant to inspire, one of the functions of historical book-giving explored in this post. Continue reading