By The Book- Delving into the Stacks of Sutton's Lending Library Circa 1890

Jay Sames

--June 1, 2017.

In the late 19th century, before there was television, movie houses or the Internet, people read. In addition to newspapers, which offered news and notice of current events, local libraries offered a selection of more timeless reading matter, mostly in the form of books.


What did Suttonites read near the end of the 1800s? There’s no way to know conclusively, but a document called Catalogue of Books of Sutton Lending Library, which has found its way into the Héritage Sutton archives from the Brome County Historical Society, offers a clue. This catalogue—a list, really—is dated 1890, and represents the only evidence we have that a library even existed in Sutton at that time.

Where was this library? A plausible assumption is that it was located in the Town Hall, as were many community functions. Sutton’s Town Hall was built about 1859, and it housed a school, the same school that moved to Academy Street in the mid-1880s. Was there a library in Sutton before the Town Hall was built? We don’t know. Our 1890 catalogue is all we have.

This catalogue lists lendable books numbered from 1 to 215 (only 195 entries because 20 numbers are missing), listed on pages 1 through 7 of a booklet.[2] The entries are not in chronological nor alphabetical order, and there’s no evidence that the list was ever added to or altered. Without renumbering the entire list, there seems no way to insert an entry. Only by extending the list (e.g., in order of acquisition) could additions be gracefully effected.[3]

Thus, we take our Catalogue as we find it. Let’s have a look. We will start with history, as did our forebears.

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