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An important figure in the establishment of free libraries in the United Kingdom, Edward Edwards (1812-1886) wrote this study, first published in 1869, as a handbook intended for promoters and managers of free town libraries. The book outlines the formation and workings of public libraries, beginning with British examples and proceeding to compare the British experience with libraries abroad, especially in America. Edwards presents strong evidence of the increasing number, and improving management, of libraries at this time, and also stresses the strikingly diverse circumstances under which libraries in the United Kingdom and abroad were established. The volume is an important historical document in library studies, and a testimony to Edwards' commitment and contribution to the free library movement which have been an inspiration to later generations of professional librarians.