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RED Project

The Reading Experience Database (RED), 1450–1945

What sorts of data are we looking for?

We would like to collect as many examples as possible of the reading experiences of British subjects and overseas visitors to Britain from 1450-1945, whoever they were, and pretty much whatever they were reading. RED has no ‘literary’ bias. We are keen to gather evidence of all sorts of reading, not only books but also newspapers, journals, posters, advertisements, magazines, letters, scripts, playbills, tickets, chapbooks and almanacs. We include the compilation of Books of Hours, commonplace books, etc. and the experience of reading aloud. Over time, we believe this collected information will be weighty enough and significant enough to push the study of texts and reading in new directions. It will certainly enable the study of readership to progress beyond the theoretical and speculative.

That said, we have had to keep our parameters manageable and exclude certain types of ‘reading experience’, not because we don’t believe in their value, but because we feel a focussed resource is ultimately more useful. For the moment we do not include library catalogues, professional public readings such as Dickens’s; fictional depictions, illustrations or photographs of reading; the reading of music; theatre or cinema attendance; readings over the radio; or theories of reading. We hope that related projects will some day collect the items we exclude, and in that case cross-referencing with RED will be a top priority.

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