Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright - cover image


Ronan Deazley; Martin Kretschmer; Lionel Bently; Contributors are free to re-publish their contributions in whatever other ways they choose.

Published On





  • English

Print Length

454 pages (xiii +441)


Paperback156 x 23 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.91" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 25 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1" x 9.21")


Paperback1389g (49.00oz)
Hardback1781g (62.82oz)



OCLC Number





  • LNRC
  • HBTB


  • LAW050010


  • K1440


  • Law
  • aesthetics
  • cultural studies
  • John Milton
  • legal history
  • copyright history
  • copyright law
  • creative commons
  • patent
  • intellectual property
  • public domain
  • book history
  • censorship
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Privilege and Property

Essays on the History of Copyright

  • Ronan Deazley (editor)
  • Martin Kretschmer (editor)
  • Lionel Bently (editor)
What can and can’t be copied is a matter of law, but also of aesthetics, culture, and economics. The act of copying, and the creation and transaction of rights relating to it, evokes fundamental notions of communication and censorship, of authorship and ownership—of privilege and property. This volume conceives a new history of copyright law that has its roots in a wide range of norms and practices. The essays reach back to the very material world of craftsmanship and mechanical inventions of Renaissance Italy where, in 1469, the German master printer Johannes of Speyer obtained a five-year exclusive privilege to print in Venice and its dominions. Along the intellectual journey that follows, we encounter John Milton who, in 1644 accused the English parliament of having been deceived by the ‘fraud of some old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookselling’ (i.e. the London Stationers’ Company). Later revisionary essays investigate the regulation of the printing press in the North American colonies as a provincial and somewhat crude version of European precedents, and how, in the revolutionary France of 1789, the subtle balance that the royal decrees had established between the interests of the author, the bookseller, and the public, was shattered by the abolition of the privilege system. Some of the essays also address the specific evolution of rights associated with the visual and performing arts. The volume is a companion to the digital archive Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Privilege and Property is recommended in the Times Higher Education Textbook Guide (November, 2010).

Additional Resources

[website]Copyrights and Wrongs: The Impact of Copyright on the Arts and Authorship in the Digital Area

Listen again to an event hosted by the British Academy at the Royal Society (27 October 2010) about Creativity and Copyright. Privilege and Property contributor William St Clair is part of the panel discussion.

[blog]The value chain strikes back: Google and the history of copyright

William St Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period is linked, in an online publishing blog, to the current copyright debates and Google's attempted takeover.

[website]Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Privilege and Property is a companion to the digital archive Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).


From Gunpowder to Print: The Common Origins of Copyright and Patent

(pp. 21–50)
  • Joanna Kostylo

‘A Mongrel of Early Modern Copyright’: Scotland in European Perspective

(pp. 51–65)
  • Alastair J. Mann

The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright: Areopagitica, the Stationers’ Company, and the Statute of Anne

(pp. 67–88)
  • Mark Rose

Early American Printing Privileges. The Ambivalent Origins of Authors’ Copyright in America

(pp. 89–114)
  • Oren Bracha

Author and Work in the French Print Privileges System: Some Milestones

(pp. 115–136)
  • Laurent Pfister

A Venetian Experiment on Perpetual Copyright

(pp. 137–155)
  • Maurizio Borghi

Copyright Formalities and the Reasons for their Decline in Nineteenth Century Europe

(pp. 157–206)
  • Stef Gompel

The Berlin Publisher Friedrich Nicolai and the Reprinting Sections of the Prussian Statute Book of 1794

(pp. 207–240)
  • Friedemann Kawohl

Nineteenth Century Controversies Relating to the Protection of Artistic Property in France

(pp. 241–255)
  • Frédéric Rideau

Maps, Views and Ornament: Visualising Property in Art and Law: The Case of Pre-modern France

(pp. 255–288)
  • Katie Scott

Breaking the Mould? The Radical Nature of the Fine Arts Copyright Bill 1862

(pp. 289–320)
  • Ronan Deazley

‘Neither Bolt nor Chain, Iron Safe nor Private Watchman, Can Prevent the Theft of Words’: The Birth of the Performing Right in Britain

(pp. 321–346)
  • Isabella Alexander

The Return of the Commons – Copyright History as a Common Source

(pp. 347–357)
  • Karl-Nikolaus Peifer

The Significance of Copyright History for Publishing History and Historians

(pp. 359–367)
  • John Feather

Metaphors of Intellectual Property

(pp. 369–395)
  • William St Clair

Introduction The History of Copyright History: Notes from an Emerging Discipline

(pp. 1–20)
  • Lionel Bently
  • Martin Kretschmer
  • Ronan Deazley


Ronan Deazley

Professor of Law at University of Glasgow

Martin Kretschmer


Lionel Bently

Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law at University of Cambridge