Image 2.6 La Lecture du Soir,
engraving for second volume of Le Vie de mon pere by Restif de la
Bretonne, 1779, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (Chartier,
This image clearly shows a family of peasants:
the house is sparsely furnished, they are dressed for the working-class,
and there are children playing on the ground. They have gathered
with their servants for a daily reading from the father. Although
many of the people in the picture are probably illiterate, they
can participate in learning from the book since it is a community
event. This also means that not each person needs to have money
to buy and own the book. Finally, the active posture of the adults
indicates that the reading is fairly serious and discussion oriented.
The engraving is meant to represent Bretonne's family practice
of reading the Bible each evening, but it shows how reading transformed
into a public, intellectual activity including more people than
just the upper-class.