In the 1820s, books were a rare and precious luxury for most Americans. The radical idea of free knowledge access for all ages — aka the public library system — had yet to flower in the United States. Still, there were voracious readers on the frontier — including an impoverished young Abraham Lincoln, notes Doris Kearns Goodwin (TED Talk: Lessons from past presidents). Like Lincoln, most self-educated Americans of the 19th century embraced a vast constellation of topics — including natural history, Christian allegory and all things Shakespeare.
“Get the books, and read and study them. the books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places.” — Abraham Lincoln
Ready to match wits with a 19th-century student? Read on! (You’ll find the answer key at the end.)
1. Choose a, b, c or d:
In John Bunyan’s popular novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which Is to…
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