Commentary on the Booksellers' Bill (1737)

Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer (Editor), Lionel Bently (Editor)

Research output: Other contribution


This Bill marks the first occasion on which the British legislature proposed to confer upon authors a lifetime interest in their literary works (with an additional eleven year post-mortem term vesting in their estates), as well as limited rights of translation and abridgement. In addition the draft legislation proposed to render null and void any contract purporting to assign an author's rights to another for a period of longer than ten years.
The commentary describes the background to the Bill, and in particular the attempts of the London book trade to secure more extensive legislative protection in both 1735 and 1737. It argues that the 1737 Bill is significant precisely because it was never made into law, and because it did not suit the best interests of the metropolitan booksellers. Instead, the book trade increasingly turned to the courts to further secure their commercial interests, giving rise to what is commonly referred to as the ‘battle of the booksellers' throughout the next 40 years.
Original languageEnglish
TypeScholarly Commentary
Media of outputOnline
PublisherUniversity of Cambridge
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Please cite as: Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on the Booksellers' Bill (1737)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


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