Picturing a Love of Reading

The love of reading crosses all boundaries, appealing to people of all ages, races, genders, and walks of life. For hundreds of years, readers have opened books to learn about history or science or to discover new, imaginary worlds. Books have furnished inspiration, excitement, and relaxation. The possibilities are limitless.

Within our collections, I found visual representations of people reading from five hundred years ago on up through the modern day. A lifelong love of books and visual materials put me on the path to my job at the Library of Congress. A similar passion for the written word as well as colorfully illustrated books and graphic novels will draw tens of thousands to the Library of Congress National Book Festival this weekend here in Washington, D.C.

Witness the desire to read over the centuries through the images below, and hopefully be inspired to pick up your next book and if you are in the area, to join us at the festival!

Sibyl reading a book. Chiaroscuro woodcut by Ugo da Carpi, between 1500 and 1530. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18658

Sibyl reading a book. Chiaroscuro woodcut by Ugo da Carpi, between 1500 and 1530. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18658

Dig. Chromolithograph by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, 1909. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.15753

Dig. Chromolithograph by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, 1909. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.15753

Reading a salvage book by one of the Salvage men on the salvage truck of the A.T.S. salvage office. St. Nazaire. Photo by American Library Association, 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a27438

Reading a salvage book by one of the Salvage men on the salvage truck of the A.T.S. salvage office. St. Nazaire. Photo by American Library Association, 1919. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a27438

Washington, D.C. A man in the reading room of a public library. Photo by Esther Bubley, 1943 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d32385

Washington, D.C. A man in the reading room of a public library. Photo by Esther Bubley, 1943 July. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d32385

Girl sitting with legs folded, reading a book. Photo by Eva Watson Schütze, circa 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05999

Girl sitting with legs folded, reading a book. Photo by Eva Watson Schütze, circa 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05999

Blind youngsters display ability before Senate Committee. Washington, D.C. April 9. [...] In the picture, left to right: Frances Wright, 8 years old, reading a braille book; Andrew Birmingham, 10 years old; Dr. John W. Studebaker, U.S. Commissioner of Education; [...] Claude Pepper. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1937 April 9. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.22529

Blind youngsters display ability before Senate Committee. Washington, D.C. April 9. […] In the picture, left to right: Frances Wright, 8 years old, reading a braille book; Andrew Birmingham, 10 years old; Dr. John W. Studebaker, U.S. Commissioner of Education; […] Claude Pepper. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1937 April 9. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.22529

Interior view of library reading room with male and female students sitting at tables, reading, at the Tuskegee Institute. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, circa 1902. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmscd.00084

Interior view of library reading room with male and female students sitting at tables, reading, at the Tuskegee Institute. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, circa 1902. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmscd.00084

Middle River, a small crossroads in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland. FSA (Farm Security Administration) housing project (later administered by the National Housing Agency) for Glenn L. Martin aircraft workers. A children's reading hour. Photo by John Collier, 1943 Aug.? //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d32214

Middle River, a small crossroads in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland. FSA (Farm Security Administration) housing project (later administered by the National Housing Agency) for Glenn L. Martin aircraft workers. A children’s reading hour. Photo by John Collier, 1943 Aug.? //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d32214

Portrait of George R. Agassiz, professor of zoology at Harvard University, reading a book. Drypoint by Frank Weston Benson, 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.02123

Portrait of George R. Agassiz, professor of zoology at Harvard University, reading a book. Drypoint by Frank Weston Benson, 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.02123

Kobikicho arayashiki koiseya ochie. Color woodcut by Utamaro Kitagawa, 1780s, printed later. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.02053

Kobikicho arayashiki koiseya ochie. Color woodcut by Utamaro Kitagawa, 1780s, printed later. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.02053

Books, the best gifts. Poster by Edward Arthur Wilson, 1927. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.43582

Books, the best gifts. Poster by Edward Arthur Wilson, 1927. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.43582

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