City Readers is an online database project put together by The New York Society Library, which opened in 1754. The project allows you to peruse the books checked out by the library’s former patrons. It’s sort of like the 18th Century version of taking a gander at somebody’s browser history, though admittedly less juicy.
Still, it’s full of fun tidbits. For example, did you know Aaron Burr was partial to Swift and Voltaire, while George Washington never returned the only two books he borrowed?! Let’s just hope he didn’t lie through his wooden teeth about it when the debt notice surfaced…
See what some of the most iconic historical figures of early America checked out from the library here.
When the Library reopened in 1789, it occupied a room in then Federal Hall, just one floor above the chambers of the first American Congresses. Many founding fathers borrowed our books, and their borrowing histories show a wide range of interests: they all checked out books on law, history, geography, travel, and even fiction. Browse their borrowing histories to find out more.