When I was designing the parameters for my speculative mobile library, one of my primary concerns was ease of access. In this age of instant gratification, we are more likely to engage in activities that require the minimum required physical effort. While I have been fortunate to live within a short driving or walking distance of the nearest public library, not everyone is so lucky to have the transportation necessary to obtain reading materials and other resources that libraries provide.
As it turns out, ease of access and mobility have long been concerns of humans hoping to educate themselves through the process of reading. According to this article I found online, one of the earliest mobile libraries dates back to 1617, making it possibly the first mobile library ever. Nicknamed the “Jacobean Kindle,” the library consists of fifty miniature books housed within a large wooden case that resembles a hollowed-out book. Each book is bound in vellum, with designs drawn on the spines in gold. There is a number or letter drawn onto each spine that correlates with the title of the book as written in the illuminated table of contents on the inside cover of the wooden case. According to the table of contents, the mobile library consisted of books in history, poetry, theology, and philosophy. Over a period of five years, a total of four of these mobile libraries were created.
I don’t know much about what libraries looked like in Britain long ago, but it would be interesting to note what other kinds of mobile libraries existed in the subsequent years, as well as the differences between libraries meant for public consumption and private use. Would a mobile library such as this one have helped to encourage reading as a communal activity? My guess is yes, seeing as literacy rates were likely low at this time, and silent reading, as we have learned, is a relatively recent phenomenon.