The Bellamy Library was a series of fictional and non‐fictional books, on political topics of more or less pressing importance to the late‐Victorian movement for social reform, which were reprinted, from 1890 until the early 1900s, by William Reeves, a radical London publisher. It centred on the American novelist Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), an enormously popular state‐socialist utopia that Reeves had successfully pirated in 1889. The Library was an experiment in political education, which assisted the task of social reform by offering autodidact workers and lower‐middle‐class activists an affordable means of schooling themselves, either individually or collectively, in popular radical theory. This article pays close attention to the material conditions of the Bellamy Library's publication, to illuminate how it as consumed and read by the readership that it helped to identify and shape. After an introductory section which characterizes the culture of autodidacticism on the left at the end of the nineteenth century, it divides into three sections. The first outlines William Reeves's career as a publisher, and sketches his place in the diverse movement for radical reform. The second considers the production of the Bellamy Library, and the third looks at its particular mode of consumption. The focus of the article is a detailed discussion of Reeves's editions of Looking Backward , and in particular the cheap, sixpenny edition, which served as an intellectual toolbox for working‐class readers keen to contribute to the radical reconstruction of society. The particular format in which Reeves reproduced Bellamy's novel, this article concludes, traces out the developing inter‐relationship between publisher and radical reading public in the late‐Victorian period.
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