Redwood Library

I’ve wanted to go to the Redwood Library for a long time.   It’s a surviving eighteenth-century subscription library, founded in 1746 by a gift from Abraham Redwood, a Quaker slave owner (he inherited a plantation called ‘Cassada Garden’ in Antigua).   He gave £500 ‘for purchasing a Library of all arts and sciences, whereunto the curious and impatient inquirer, after resolution of doubts, and the bewildered ignorant might freely repair for discovery and demonstration to the one, and true knowledge and satisfaction to the other’.   The language of the gift admirably exemplifies early eighteenth-century free thinking, the quest for knowledge which led the citizens of Newport to greet the arrival of George Berkeley en route to establish a university in Bermuda and themselves to form a Literary and Philosophical Society in 1730.   This was half a century before the foundation of literary and philosophical societies in provincial cities like Manchester (1781), Newcastle (1793), and Hull (1822).

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