“If ever I can afford to buy books”—. In this familiar strain the minister of the little parish of Stitchel wrote in his diary for 8 April, 1775. To the end of his life George Ridpath never was able to achieve his heart's desire—not on £80 a year. Yet this Scots parson (as it turned out) was infinitely more fortunate than most of his colleagues. For in 1751, only three miles away at Kelso, was organized the first non‐profit subscription library in Scotland. Nine years after Ridpath was presented to his living in 1742 the new era opened to him, when twenty gentlemen pledged £10 each to establish the new institution. From that moment until his death in 1772 his life was intimately dependent upon that library. How many books Ridpath borrowed during the first four years of this library's long history we can only guess: we must wait for the beginning of his diary in 1755 to follow the extraordinary chronicle, one of the most impressive reading records ever assembled.
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