The renewal of interest in the history of literary property, of which this volume is evidence, has compelled us to redefine some of the most basic concepts of literary history. We now know that what we call “literature” must have been read very differently after authors began to consider their works as a kind of property, and after that redefinition of literary work was ratified by the institution of copyright law. In this chapter I would like to consider another sense in which literature might circulate as a kind of property. This secondary sense of literary property refers to the peculiar way in which one’s education entitles one to “possess” literature itself, and particularly the literature of one’s own country. Such possession is in an obvious way contingent upon the fact of literacy, but literacy is a very complex fact. The eighteenth century, for example, ushered in a momentous transition in the history of literacy, the transition from a school system primarily designed to produce literacy in the classical languages, to one designed to produce a largely vernacular literacy. The success of this transition was dependent upon a revaluation of the cultural property embodied in the works of vernacular literature, a celebration of their very accessibility to the “common reader.” I will argue in this chapter that vernacular literacy is marked by a certain paradox, perhaps even a contradiction. For the vernacular canon is at once conceived to be the property of everyone in the nation, “common” property, while it remains the case that literacy itself is by no means a universal possession.