Chapter 2: History II: 1774–1854
Two years after the House of Lords handed down their seminal decision in Donaldson v. Becket (1774) (Donaldson),1 reversing Millar v. Taylor (1768) (Millar),2 Capel Lofft, a young barrister attached to Lincolns Inns, published his first, and only, collection of cases (which cases were principally decided in the King’s Bench).3 Among the cases contained within Lofft’s volume is Hawkesworth v. Newbery (1774), concerning an abridgement of Dr Hawkesworth’s Voyages by the defendant. The question for Lord Chancellor Apsley was whether Newbery, in producing his abridged text, had infringed the copyright in the original work. Lofft records the decision as follows: The Lord Chancellor was of opinion that this abridgement of the work was not any violation of the author’s property whereon to ground an injunction. That to constitute a true and proper abridgement of a work the whole must be preserved in its sense: And then the act of abridgement is an act of understanding, employed in carrying a large work into a smaller corpus, and rendering it less expensive, and more convenient both to the time and use of the reader. Which made an abridgement in the nature of a new and meritorious work. That this had been done by Mr. Newbery, whose edition might be read in a fourth part of the time, and all the substance preserved, and conveyed in language as good or better than the original, and in a more agreeable and useful manner. That he had consulted Mr. Justice Blackstone whose...
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