Copyright
and the
Early English Book Market
An Algorithmic Study

Introduction

After surveying the state of the art in early modern digital humanities research, this chapter outlines the core databases and analytic methods used in the studies below, then outlines the vision of hypothesis-driven humanities research that motivates the experimental forms of the subsequent chapters.

The Statute of Anne and the Geography of English Printing

Scholars have long believed the Statute of Anne caused the demise of the Stationer's Company and the rise of a fruitful provincial print trade. This chapter tests this hypothesis and several others to ask: How did the rise of statutory copyright law influence the geography of early English printing?

Press Piracy from Tonson v. Baker to Cary v. Kearsley

Eighteenth-century Chancery courts revolutionized modern copyright law when they ruled that derivative literary works could be considered original, copyrightable creations. This chapter asks whether the rise of these fair use rulings helped incentivize the creation of derivative literary publications.

Donaldson v. Beckett and the Cheap Literature Hypothesis

Many researchers argue the introduction of fixed-duration copyright terms following Donaldson v. Beckett (1774) led to surging supplies and dropping prices for classic literary texts. This chapter leverages a database of prices from 30,000 books published before and after Donaldson to test this hypothesis.

Conclusion

To conclude this study, this chapter summarizes the key findings of the foregoing chapters, discusses the ways those findings should influence our understanding of early modern culture, and outlines further opportunities for the use of computational methods in the study of both copyright history and the early book market.