[Note: This is the first of a three-part post. The story will continue next Tuesday.]
A close look at our copy of the first two volumes of Jeremy Belknap's three-volume The History of New-Hampshire reveals former ownership marks that, with a bit of research, uncovers an interesting story about who owned these books before they eventually came in to our collection. The book is marked with both an ink property stamp as well as a paper label. Today, and next week we'll focus on the story behind the ink stamp. Two weeks from now we'll look at the paper label.
The ink stamp clearly shows that this book was owned by Phillips Circulating Library (volume II is shown here, and volume I contains the same mark). While the idea of for-profit libraries may sound odd today, circulating libraries - as such for-profit libraries were commonly called in the early 19th century - were partly able to thrive due to a lack of free, public libraries in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. The first half of the nineteenth century was the heyday of the circulating library in America - a period during which circulating libraries in America were established in both large cities and small villages. Circulating libraries were almost always run in conjunction with another business, usually a bookshop. While circulating libraries were most often run by men out of their bookshops, many examples of women-run circulating libraries also exist, some in conjunction with bookshops and others out of businesses that were more likely to serve a predominantly female clientele, such as millinery shops, music stores, and fabric shops. Our story includes a female proprietor of a circulating library, which we'll address in more detail next week.
Because circulating libraries were for-profit businesses, they left many traces of their existence through advertisements. Using America's Historical Newspapers, a subcription-based searchable database of early American newspapers, I was able to trace some of the history of Phillips Circulating Library over approximately 20 years.
Next Tuesday: A brief history of Phillips Circulating Library
Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. 
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784
----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. 
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791
Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund