Education: Where the Borrower Is King

The well-bred Boston Athenaeum marks its 175th year

It began in 1807 as a reading room for Boston merchants who wanted to keep up with American and European literature and periodicals. In a city that considered itself to be the Athens of America, the Boston Athenaeum soon became a privately supported repository of culture, buying the best books published in the U.S. and Europe and collecting works of art as well. The imposing sandstone building at 10½ Beacon Street, designed by Edward Clarke Cabot in 1846, provided sunny halls where Brahmins could read (or...

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