This dissertation leverages algorithmic methods and databases of early modern print culture to analyze the ways the creation of statutory copyright law influenced the early English book market.
In short, while book historians and legal scholars have written copious amounts of scholarship on the relationship between early copyright law and the eighteenth-century publishing industry, these studies have tended to focus on a small handful of pivotal writers and legal cases. By harnessing the power of massive bibliographical indexes and millions of pages of digitized print material from the period, this dissertation attempts to outline macroscopic trends in the ways legal changes transformed the book market in the long eighteenth century.
This dissertation’s focus on the relationship between copyright law and the eighteenth-century book market is motivated by the fact that English courts of the period revolutionized copyright law in ways that continue to influence contemporary legal thought. In the late seventeenth century, only members of the London-based Stationers’ Company could publish books or own copyrights. In 1710, the Statute of Anne extended the right to “copy” to all English citizens. Some few decades later in 1741, English Chancery courts created precedent for modern fair use law by ruling that books which derived heavily from others could be found non-infringing in certain cases. Near the end of the century in 1774, English courts legalized a vast public domain of intellectual property by ruling that copyright protections expire a fixed number of years after the initial publication of a work. This study is an attempt to outline the ways these and many other legal changes during the eighteenth century created the dynamic foundation on which the modern book market was built.