Reading on the Farm

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Reading on the Farm

Lydia Wevers

Publisher:Victoria University Press

In Reading on the Farm, Lydia Wevers uses the library on Brancepeth Station in the Wairarapa, its staff and users as the ground for an extended reflection on the meaning of books, reading and intellectual life in colonial New Zealand. Drawing on station records, the archive produced by the library, and the books themselves, she offers a compelling interpretation of the social world of books and the cultural significance of reading. The books themselves come to life, in close examination of their borrowing histories, physical condition and marginalia. Human characters include the Beetham family who own Brancepeth, farm workers, Wairarapa Maori, swaggers who seek shelter during the long depression, and most vivid of all the clerk and librarian John Vaughan Miller. This learned and petulant man, with his letters to the newspapers and indiscreet private correspondence, epitomises the class cleavages, social anxieties and uncertainties that were at the heart of both Brancepeth and popular Victorian fiction.

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