Excerpt from Catalogue of the Leeds Library: With a Short History of the Library, the Rules at Present in Force, a List of the Proprietors, and a Subject Index
The Leeds Library, known at different periods in its career as the Leeds Circulating Library, the Leeds Old Subscrip... tion Library, and the Leeds Old Library, was founded in 1768. It is the oldest proprietary library in York shire, and next to the Liverpool Lyceum, the oldest proprietary library in England. The first circulating library in the English provinces was started at Birmingham in 1757 by William Hutton, a bookseller and the author of the History of Birmingham, the Trip to Coatham, and other well known books, and the first proprietary circulating library was founded at Liverpool in 1758, and is now known as the Liverpool Lyceum. In 1760 was founded the Warrington Circulating Library, now merged in the Warrington Museum, in the promotion of which Joseph Priestley, at that time a schoolmaster in Warrington, was very active. In September, 1767, Dr. Priestley left War rington and came to Leeds as minister of the Mill Hill Chapel, and to him, or to his in¿uence, may fairly be ascribed the foundation of the Leeds Library. Leeds was at this time rising into prominence as the headquarters of the West Riding cloth trade, and the importance of its position may be gauged by the fact that it boasted of two newspapers, the Leeds Intellzlgerzeer, founded in 1754, and the Leeds Mercmjy, revived in 1767. But the appetite of the town for literature ofa permanent value had hitherto been satisfied by the book sellers; the splendid library of Ralph Thoresby had been dispersed, and the only public collection of books in Leeds was to be found in the small but valuable library of the Leeds Grammar School.
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