On November 2, 1871, Louisa May Alcott became a member with book borrowing privileges through the Share of Benjamin Willis. The Boston Athenæum began to circulate books in 1827 but only to proprietors who paid an extra five dollar fee on top of their annual assessment. The Library used large ledgers (1827-1872) to record the books members borrowed. The charging books were used before the Library adapted the two card system.

Alcott returned to Boston after traveling abroad in the spring of 1871 and took up residence at 23 Beacon (just across the street from the Athenæum). At this time, Little Men was published in London and Boston and Alcott wrote “Shawl Straps,” an account of her European tour. Come January 1872, Aunt Joe’s Scrap Bag: My Boys was published. Looking at all Alcott  accomplished by the end of 1871 and beginning of 1872, one has to wonder how she had the time to read the nineteen titles she borrowed in less than two months’ time.

Below is a transcription of the book titles that Alcott borrowed, with each individual title linked to the Athena record.

Books Borrowed, Volume 25, B.A. 17  1871, page 57.
Transcription by Alexandra Winzeler

Alcott, Louisa M.

Nov. 21871Received Subscription (Share of Benj. Willis)$1.50 
Nov. 2L. 58Why did he not die?   Nov. 6
Nov. 6.112.47Melville      Good for Nothing Nov. 14
Nov. 6112.36Trollope      Gemma Nov. 14
Nov. 6112.36“ “     Lenora Casaloni  
Nov. 14179.46A “Half” a Million of Money1, 2, 3Nov. 25
Nov. 14112.38Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife  Nov. 17
Nov. 17112.26The faire gospeller   Nov. 25
Nov. 25R. 76Dewey.  Life & Letters of Miss Sedgwick Dec. 4
Dec. 4112.67Sedgwick.  Married or Single1, 2Dec. 20
Dec. 4112.67New England a Tale Dec. 13
Dec. 4J. 32Forsyth.  Novels &Novelists of the 18th Century Dec. 9
Dec. 9112.211Austen  Northanger Abbey etc. Dec. 15
Dec. 15J. 53Francis of Assisi Dec. 20
Dec. 15112.24The Hotel du Petit St. Jean Dec. 20
Dec. 20112.65Bret Harte  Condensed Novels Dec. 22
Dec. 22112.12Tom Pippins’ Wedding Dec. 23
Dec. 23C. 67Forster’s Charles Dickens Dec. 28
Dec. 28V. 84The Fellah Dec. 30
Dec. 30P. 63Holinshed London in 1866 Jan. 1