Research Handbook on the History of Copyright Law
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Research Handbook on the History of Copyright Law

Edited by Isabella Alexander and H. Tomás Gómez-Arostegui

There has been an explosion of interest in recent years regarding the origin and of intellectual property law. The study of copyright history, in particular, has grown remarkably in the last twenty years, with a flurry of activity in the last ten. Crucial to this activity has been a burgeoning focus on unpublished primary sources, enabling new and stimulating insights. This Handbook takes stock of the field of copyright history as it stands today, as well as examining potential developments in the future.
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Chapter 5: The Stationers’ Company in England before 1710

Ian Gadd


Among the provisions of the 1710 Statute of Anne was a requirement that ‘the Title to the Copy of such book or books hereafter published shall before such publication be entered in the Register Book of the Company of Stationers in such manner as hath been usual which Register Book shall at all times be kept at the Hall of the said Company’. Mention was also made of the Company’s ‘Clerk’ and ‘Warehouse Keeper’ and their duties under the Act. No further explanation was given about what the Company was or what it did, or indeed where its hall, let alone its clerk and warehouse keeper, were to be found. Yet its ‘Register Book’ was identified as the central, and only, record-keeping mechanism for the rights and activities enshrined by the Act. That the ‘Company of Stationers’ needed no glossing was hardly surprising for a trade and craft body whose membership comprised most, but not all, of London’s printers and booksellers; moreover, any member of the London book trade and many of those active outside London, knew exactly where to find the Company’s headquarters, and adjacent warehouses, just off Ludgate Hill, west of St Paul’s Cathedral. However, neither the Company’s size nor prominence fully explains its presence in this statute, because for all that the Statute of Anne may have appeared to be new, many of its provisions were shaped by how the Company and book trade had developed over the previous two centuries.

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