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Mr. Professor Christian talks like a rhetorician upon the rights and privileges of the public libraries and the Universities.
'This inestimable grant to the Universities and public libraries,' he we owe to the wisdom of our ancestors, who thought it the best calculated to promote the interests of religion, morality, law, agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and of elegant literature; in short, of all that can improve, profit, or adorn mankind. If ever a day should come, which heaven avert! when we shall be robbed of this important privilege, the prosperity of the bookseller will be greatly impaired, the whole civilized world will sustain an irreparable loss, and science will for ever droop and mourn.'
All this might be very fine-if it were only true, and to the purpose but the introduction of religion, morality, law, agriculture, manufactures, commerce, elegant literature, the wisdom of our ancestors, and the whole civilized world, reminds us of Sir Philip Sidney's story of the man who told him that the wind was at northwest and by south, because he would be sure to name winds enough. Mr. Christian should confine himself to law in this argument. Religion' has as little to do with it as agriculture; and as for morality' and 'robbery', the less that is said of them the better.
Mr. Professor Christian's restatement of the exploded story that Henry VI. introduced printing into England at his own charge and expense, and his inference that therefore the crown had a more than ordinary pretension to the sole privilege of printing, and his arguments that Henry VIII. granted to Cambridge, and Charles I. to Oxford, the privilege of printing all books, and that the right to these copies was a commutation given them for the extinction of this privilege by the statute of Queen Anne, are contradictory to fact, and have been shewn to be so by Mr. Duppa and Sir Eger+ ton Brydges, we forbear therefore from noticing them again. But when the Law Professor affirms that the Report of the Committee of 1813, which gave the Universities all they demanded, 'was the result of a body of evidence delivered by many of the booksellers not upon their oaths, and when there was no one present on behalf of the Universities, either to cross-examine, to give evidence, or suggest a single observation on their part,' it is incumbent upon us to repeat the words of Sir Egerton Brydges, that this is as ungenerous as it is untrue'-ungenerous, inasmuch as it attempts to impeach the honour of a respectable body of men; and untrue, because more than three-fourths of that Committee were the zealous friends, advocates and representatives of the public libraries, and exerted all their skill and talents in the most minute and painful cross-examination of the witnesses, and in the most anxious watchfulness for their interests.'
But the most amusing part of the Law Professor's conduct is that he takes credit to himself for promoting the interests of literature, and especially for having originally suggested an extension of copyright in favour of authors and their assigns. He is indeed a notable friend to authors, and has treated them as lovingly as Izaac Walton's Piscator instructs his pupil to handle the frog. Put your hook into his mouth, which you may easily do from the middle of April till August, and then the frog's mouth grows up, and he continues so for at least six months without eating, but is sustained, none but He whose name is Wonderful knows how. I say put your hook through his mouth, and out at his gills, and then with a fine needle and silk sew the upper part of his leg with only one stitch to the arming-wire of your hook; and in so doing use him as though you loved him.' But, unlike the frog, the author cannot subsist for six months without eating; and there is also another point of dissimilitude, that as his mouth does not grow up, he is sometimes able to express his sense of the loving usage which he receives. The Cambridge Syndics also have declared, that after what has been done to enlarge the property of authors and booksellers, they cannot but consider the pending application to Parliament as an act of ingratitude. Ingratitude! Let it be observed,' says Sir Egerton, that this extension was what they had no concern, interest, nor pretence of title to withhold; it being a matter, not between the copyright-holders and them, but between the copyright-owners and the public. The extension of copyright was an incidental benefit to a few authors (and but a very few) connected in point of time, and so far occasioned by an unjust and oppressive impost which affects them all. If the Syndics desire to know what is the feeling of the great body of the men of letters in this kingdom towards the Universities in relation to this subject, it has been stated in Mr. Richard Taylor's evidence: "Having been in the habits of very frequent intercourse," he says, "with literary men and men of science, I have always heard them express great dissatisfaction at the obligation to give this number of copies; and I believe that the disgust occasioned by what they consider an act of rapacity on the part of the Universities discourages them from carrying into effect many literary projects which would be highly beneficial, as far as I can judge, to literature: but by which, even if they had the assistance which would be derived from these libraries all purchasing copies, they would be likely to gain little or nothing."
The Cambridge Syndics also speak of the attempt at amending the Bill of 1814, as an act of bad faith on the part of the authors and booksellers, implying that the bill was passed with their cordial assent and concurrence. How stands the fact? The booksellers
proposed twenty modifications for the consideration of the former Committee, and of those twenty only three were granted. The bill was not passed with their assent and concurrence; it was forced upon them, contrary to their representations and petitions, and in spite of all the resistance which it was in their power to make. They exerted their utmost efforts to prevent the oppressive intention from being carried into a law, and when those efforts were in vain, and the law had passed, they did as was their duty to do, they obeyed-and made new efforts, which have not, we trust, been in vain, to convince the legislature of the injustice and impolicy of their enactment. While the bill was pending, they were told,' says Sir Egerton, that the public bodies would exercise their claims mildly and liberally; that they would take lists, and only call for such books as they absolutely wanted; that their main object was to establish their right, but trust them, and it should be seen how they would use the power. See, indeed, how they use it!' and Sir Egerton states the portentous fact, that the libraries have indiscriminately demanded every book which has been published, with an honourable exception of the Advocate's Library and Trinity College, Dublin, both which have declined receiving either music or novels. The other libraries have exercised their right to the very rigour of the law, and beyond it: (as we shall presently prove:)—they have exacted every thing; ribaldry and nonsense, sedition and blasphemy, filth and froth, the scum of the press, the lees and the offal-they have taken it all!
'I am bound to ask,' says Sir Egerton, though some of the public bodies may affect to repel the question indignantly, what do they do with this indiscriminate mixture of expensive and useful works, and contemptible trash? Where do they deposit them? Do they keep them in order? And do they bind them? If they do, would not the funds expended in paying the binder, the house-room, and the librarians for thus dealing with the mass of rubbish, be more generously and more usefully expended in paying some small portion of the price of the valuable works? If they do not, what becomes of the ably alleged colour of their claim that of public use?'
'This evil,' he continues, requires to be a little further elucidated. The Copyright Act, as now put into force, is the most perfect instrument of collecting and disseminating all the mischiefs flowing out of an abuse of the Liberty of the Press, which human ingenuity has ever yet contrived. Thus is brought together, in each of eleven public libraries, dispersed in the three great portions of the Empire, all that is silly and ignorant, all that is seditious, all that is lascivious and obscene, all that is irreligious and atheistical, to attract the curiosity and mislead the judgment and passions of those, for whose cultivation of solid learning and useful knowledge these gratuitous supplies are pretended to be enforced. Nothing short of such a law could have brought many of these contemptible, disgusting, and contagious publications out of the obscu
rity, in which they would otherwise soon have perished. Here they remain registered in Catalogues, preserved on shelves, and protected for posterity, with all the care and trustiness of Public Property.
'How are they to be separated from the valuable matter with which they are intermixed? To whom is such a discretion to be confided? If once they are allowed to make waste of what they do not want, where is it to end? Abuse will creep upon abuse: from waste it will come to gift or sale!
But if every thing be kept, the room, the trouble, and the expense, will soon become overwhelming. Already the libraries begin to complain heavily of the inconvenience. In thirty years the united Catalogues of the books thus claimed by the eleven libraries will amount to ten folio volumes, of 600 pages each, eighty-two articles in a page. The whole number of articles will not be less than half a million !'Summary Statement, pp. 16, 17.
Let us exhibit, also, one or two instances of the manner in which the public libraries have enforced their claim. Among the most costly republications of this age is that of Dugdale's Monasticon. One of the conditions upon which it was published was, that only fifty copies upon large paper should be printed, and 300 upon small, as a guarantee to the subscribers that this book, which they subscribed to bring forward at a high price, might not be depreciated in value by a too great multiplication of copies, and consequent reduction in the value of those copies thus subscribed for.' This whole number of copies was subscribed for fifteen months prior to the enactment of the law, and one part of the work had actually been published; yet, under these circumstances, the large paper copy of the work was claimed by the British Museum; though the case was represented to the Trustees, and though it can hardly be doubted that the Museum possessed the original edition of the work, the claim was repeated and enforced by a letter from the Solicitors of the Museum, hoping that the requisition would be complied with, without recourse to legal proceedings. The proprietors were compelled to purchase a subscriber's copy; they had, however, the satisfaction of being assured, that the Museum did not
*The same publishers further shew the oppressive operation of this act, by proving, that in four works alone, upon the publication of which they are at present engaged, a loss is entailed upon them amounting to no less than £2,198 : 14s.
viz. 11 copies of Sir Wm. Dugdale's Monasticon and History
of St. Paul's
1008 0 0
11 copies of Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great
Britain, with Biographical Memoirs, by E. Lodge, Esq. 630 00 11 copies of the History of the County Palatine and City
283 10 0
of Chester, by George Ormerod, Esq.
277 4 6
£2,198 14 6
wish to drive them to purchase it at an exorbitant price, if it could be avoided. The price of this copy, when the work is completed, will be not less than a hundred and thirty guineas. Mr. Todd presented a copy of his edition of Johnson's Dictionary to Sion College; the college, however, claimed and exacted another under the Mr. Murray's case is thus stated before the Committee:As soon as the act passed, he directed one of his clerks to enter every book that he published, and send the eleven copies when demanded. He acceded to the request of the British Museum, that all periodical works might be delivered to them immediately on their publication, instead of delaying them till the time allowed by the act, which would have rendered those works less interesting when their novelty was gone by. One day, however, he was informed that two gentlemen wished to speak to him. Being engaged, he requested that they would acquaint him with their business; they said that they did not know him, nor he them, but that they wished to speak to him on particular business. Accordingly he went down to them, and was immediately served with a writ. His clerk had been prevented by illness from entering four books; in the sudden access of that illness he had forgotten to commission another person to perform this part of his business, (all this has been stated upon oath ;) and this was the summary method which was resorted to for demanding the books, the delivery of which had been thus delayed! Mr. Baber, of the Museum, justifies this proceeding before the Committee, by saying that Mr. Murray received the general notice of the passing the act very ungraciously; he did not, therefore, think it necessary to give him any further notice upon a fresh occasion, 'the act did not require it, and by his former incivility, he had forfeited it.'
The general notice which Mr. Murray (before a Committee of the House of Commons) is accused of not having received with good grace, was a circular threat of prosecution if the act were not complied with, issued by the Museum as soon as the act passed, and before there had been time to enter a single book. It would not imply any remarkable irascibility in a publisher, if, when he happened, soon after the receival of such a billet-doux, to meet the Keeper of the Printed Books in the Museum, he should have complained that that highly respectable body had not acted very graciously toward the booksellers in issuing such a circular, before any contumacy on their part had been experienced.
This, indeed, was a case of individual ill-humour; but the manner in which all the public libraries have proceeded, by giving a general order for all publications, seems contrary to the spirit of the act. That act substituted for the general delivery which the statute of Anne required, an obligation to deliver only such books as should be de
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