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Eloy d'Amerval's privilege (1507)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)
Identifier: f_1507


Commentary on the privilege granted to Eloy d'Amerval, for his poem Le Livre de la deablerie
Frédéric Rideau
Faculty of Law, University of Poitiers, France


Please cite as:
Rideau, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Eloy d'Amerval's privilege (1507)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. First privileges granted to authors

4. Some specific rationales for authors' privileges ?

5. References


1. Full title
Privilege granted to Eloy d'Amerval, for his poem Le Livre de la deablerie


2. Abstract
Book trade privileges in Europe are usually understood to have been granted primarily to booksellers or printers. They could be obtained from the royal administration for a limited term to protect the work and cover for the financial investment and risks involved in the publication of books at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Authors were also among the first protagonists of this new market. These first favours granted on their behalf would seem to illustrate the particular credit which some writers, such as Eloy d'Amerval, enjoyed within the political and courtly spheres. However, though it is true that authors could indeed protect some specific interests by means of these exclusive rights, it nevertheless appears that the economic rationales expressed in their requests, and within the text of the actual privileges, were very similar to those invoked by printers and booksellers.


3. First privileges granted to authors
Very little information exists on Eloy d'Amerval's life. A musician and poet, he obtained in his own name a privilege for his long poem Le Livre de la deablerie, in which he gives us a description of the society he lives in, through a dialogue between Lucifer and Satan. In spite of his modest literary production, he was probably known personally to the king as a magister puerorum (effectively a choirmaster) at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Orléans,[1] and thus formed part of that group of authors which was well integrated into the network of aristocratic patronage.[2] More generally, Eloy d'Amerval probably benefited from the proximity of the Court, which at the time was based in the Château de Blois, near Orleans. The Livre de la deablerie met with a certain success, as is shown by the several editions it went through - first with Eloy's publisher and bookseller, Michel Le Noir, and then, a little later, with the Parisian bookseller Alain Lotrian.[3] Taking into account the rather favorable social position of Eloy d' Amerval, which enabled him to successfully request favours from the king's administration, his first bookseller, Michel Le Noir, may very well have encouraged him to apply for a privilege on his behalf.[4] The fact remains that the privilege granted to Eloy d' Amerval was one of the first (and in this perspective one of the most known), if not the first of them all, granted by the central administration of Louis XII for a specific book, to the benefit of authors or booksellers.


The reasons underlying the privileges granted to authors were the same ones as for the booksellers.[5] Eloy d' Amerval, in his request, indeed put forward, like Galliot Du Pré a few years later, that "ayant employé et vaqué grande espace de temps frayé et despendu grant partie de sa substance", he hoped to be worthy of obtaining the "grace and liberalité" to print the work solely and exclusively, in order that he might "recouvrer et retirer partie de ce qu'il luy a cousté faire".[6] The author's specific contribution, that is the creation of the work, was probably encompassed in his request, but more importantly, the comparison with the privilege granted to Galliot Du Pré remains entirely legitimate in economic terms.[7] It was indeed in both cases a question of compensation, a reward for the work and effort expended, and for the investments required to produce the book. At the same time the application for exclusive rights was also, as with the privilege granted to Galliot Du Pré, strengthened by invoking the benefit which the public would draw from it: the "desire de le voier et d'y prouffiter".[8]


Eloy d' Amerval thus obtained an exclusive protection on his book for a limited duration of two years, covering the whole kingdom of France. However, even though he had obtained his privilege in his own name, he was not really in a position to control its exercise: the corporatist regulations were already prohibiting a personal and direct exploitation and, in particular, that the author should try to sell his own works. On the other hand, he kept at least, from the privilege, the option of entrusting the publication of his manuscript to "tel imprimeur ou libraire que bon lui semblera" ("such a printer or bookseller whom he considers appropriate"). In fact, it is probable that he conceded a substantial part of his rights to the bookseller Le Noir, thus delegating the financial risk arising from the publication, but also the prospect of obtaining all the benefits from it. Although the contractual agreements between authors and booksellers were not always very clear, during the sixteenth century we can still find some privileged authors who wanted to be particularly active in the whole process of publication of their works - for example, Jean Lemaire (in 1509 and 1511), or François de Billon. The former indeed took upon himself all the expenses of his edition.[9] Similarly, for his Fort inexpugnable de l'honneur du sexe féminin, Billon chose in 1555 a certain Pierre Gaultier as his printer, authorizing him to proceed - though Billon had to provide him with the corrections, and the "caractaire [et] fonderye" ("types and moulds") - with the printing of the aforesaid work.[10] Assuming, on Lemaire's behalf, responsibility for the risks of the edition, Billon soon became anxious about possible counterfeits, and decided to apply for a privilege from Henri II, which he obtained for a term of ten years.[11] As with its printing, the work was sold by an intermediary, namely by Jean Dallier, a bookseller in Paris. This being said, authors who assumed all the financial risks of the publication of their works (i.e. by appointing and authorizing a printer to publish a work on their behalf) remained exceptional among the writers who obtained directly the protection of the king.[12]


4. Some specific rationales for authors' privileges ?
Concerning the motives which encouraged authors to secure royal protection, it has also been put forward that the attribution of these first exclusive favours, was linked mainly to the singularity of their interests.[13] The decisions of Le Cop and La Vigne, often quoted in this perspective, would indeed have constituted a first legal awakening to this specificity, and thus represent an acknowledgment of the particular bond linking the author with his creation. In the first case, the Parlement of Paris, in a decision of 5 March, 1504, prohibited, under a penalty of imprisonment, the bookseller Jean Boissier from continuing the sale of copies of Guillaume Le Cop's almanacs without the author signing them beforehand. It seemed, in fact, that Le Cop main's concern was to retain control over the publication of his work.[14] In the second case, André La Vigne was empowered by the Parlement, on 3 June, 1504, to have his works printed and sold with the exclusion of other booksellers or printers from doing so.[15] In short, these were privileges avant la lettre, granted first and foremost to the author.[16] Moreover, even after the formal institution and proliferation of book trade privileges, such as the one obtained by Eloy d'Amerval, some authors, like Clément Marot, decided to seek the royal favour to protect their particular interests more effectively. Marot decided, in the 1530s, to publish his complete works, and obtained for this a privilege from Francis I that prohibited all booksellers and printers from publishing his works, "if they haven't been revised, corrected and amended by [Marot] himself and if he hasn't given you copies signed by his own hand, together with the permission to put them into print in the form that he considers appropriate."[17]


As in the case of the printing of Seneca's works, and the famous pleading of the lawyer Marion in March 1586 (f_1586), the judgments delivered by the Parlement in favour of La Vigne and Le Cop appear to have been rather isolated, even if it cannot be denied that the privileges or protections thus requested could serve various types of interests, including those supposed to be personal rights ("extrapatrimoniaux"): right of attribution, disclosure of the work, correction of the manuscript, etc. By their very nature - namely, that of a discretionary act - royal grants could indeed potentially respond in a precise way to all legitimate requests (that is, those which the Prince or his delegated institutions "deemed to be justified").[18] In fact, the author is undoubtedly recognized as the first owner of his manuscript, the product of his own work: by "natural equity", as Renouard would later put it,[19] the royal authority had to take in account this reality, as well as that of the bookseller being the transferee of the author's work. It remains nevertheless that in theory the definition of the privilege, repeated by the provincial booksellers even as late as 1774, was not supposed to vary depending on its holder, or even its object: as Furetière already points out at the end of the seventeenth century, the royal protection is essentially "a special private prerogative which a person benefits from with the exclusion of several others, and which he receives through the favour of his Sovereign".[20] In other words, the traditional approach of the privilege, speaking of authors or booksellers, could not entail the specific acknowledgment of a pre-existing right. This primitive conception would, however, be disputed in the eighteenth century by Louis d'Héricourt and the Parisian guild of booksellers, in conjunction with a defence of the author as a proprietor (see f_1725b).


Lastly, the protection of the particular interests of the author in his creation was not formally recognized or secured by any later regulations relating to the duration or the granting of privileges.[21] At the same time, although royal favours were still granted to authors, their ability to shoulder on their own the risks of the edition (that is to say without any retrocession of their rights to the bookseller regarding the exploitation of the work) became almost impossible, for many reasons, as is shown by the case of Luneau de Boisjermain in the eighteenth century (f_1770). In general, the bookseller who agreed to deal with the edition of the work would expect the transfer of the manuscript and the privilege, as a whole.[22] The political association of privileges with censorship goals, and the consecutive lengthening of the protection terms that came about in the seventeenth century, did nothing but confirm the systematic character of this type of arrangements, which dissociated the author even more from the direct control of his patrimonial rights. It did always remain possible for him to negotiate by contract the protection of his own interests, but he could not count on achieving this objective systematically.[23] At most, if an author obtained a privilege in his own name (before the regulations of 1777, that is), this could eventually put him in a better position to negotiate with booksellers for the transfer of his original manuscript.


As recalled by Chevillier in the seventeenth century, or by Séguier in the following century, the granting of these first privileges - temporary and delimited acts, covering eventually the whole kingdom - seemed to be founded, regardless of who their holders were, on a univocal identity of primarily economic factors. The specificity of the author's work, which would eventually lead to a different definition of the royal grant, still remained at the time complicated to distinguish from that carried out by the bookseller. [24] But as already pointed out, the provincial booksellers and their lawyers in particular, even in the eighteenth century, would rely on the same common rationales.


5. References

Armstrong, E. Before Copyright: The French Book-Privilege System 1498-1526 (Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1990)

Charont-Parent, A. "Le monde de l'imprimerie humaniste: Paris", in Histoire de l'édition française, vol. 1 (Paris: Fayard, 1990)

M. Foucault, "Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?", Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie, 64 (July-Sept. 1969)

Manuscrits (Mss. Fr.), Collection Anisson-Duperron (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

Pfister, L. L'auteur, propriétaire de son œuvre? La formation du droit d'auteur du XVIe siècle à la loi de 1957 (Strasbourg: PhD thesis, 1999)

Renouard A.-C., Traité des droits d'auteurs dans la littérature, les sciences et les beaux-arts, vol. 1 (Paris: Jules Renouard & Co., 1838)

Rose, M. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. P., 1993)

[1] Indeed, before he ascended to the throne, Louis XII was Duke of Orléans. Le Livre de la Deablerie was recently republished (in 1991) by Robert Deschaux and Bernard Charrier for the Droz publishing house. See Elisabeth Armstrong, Before Copyright The French Book-Privilege System 1498-1526 (Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1990), 25.

[2] Such an environment was positive for business, in particular when the publications concerned great classics from the Antiquity and their translations: see. A. Charont-Parent, Le monde de l'imprimerie humaniste: Paris, in Histoire de l'édition française, vol. 1 (Paris: Fayard, 1990), 285, who cites the case of Pierre Saliat, secretary of the Cardinal of Châtillon, for his translations of Hérodote, and the subsequent grant of a 6 years privilege.

[3] Armstrong, 25.

[4] ibid. In addition, four years earlier Le Noir had lost a case before the Parlement of Paris for having published a book without the consent of its author (the La Vigne Case, see infra).

[5] For a more detailed study on the juridical nature of these first privileges, soon organised principally for the protection of booksellers and printers, see our commentary on f_1515.

[6] See f_1515.

[7] Although "substance" (substantia) remains a complicated term to analyze, it can be discussed from a patrimonial point of view. Galliot's goal in obtaining a privilege was to reimburse himself for his printing expenses and costs: "estre recompensé de ses peines/coultz/et mises" (f_1515).

[8] The book had to be a work of some interest ("un beau livre" which was "digne de mémoire"), as was the case with Le Livre de la Deablerie.

[9] Armstrong. 80.

[10] Quoted by Charon-Parent, 283.

[11] ibid.

[12] Armstrong, 80: if some authors "undoubtedly financed the edition themselves, and would receive the proceeds from sales of the book, minus any commission which they might owe a bookseller for handling it", it seems that these authors "must however have been a minority of those who obtained privileges".

[13] For a discussion on this, see L. Pfister, L'auteur, propriétaire de son œuvre ? La formation du droit d'auteur du XVIe siècle à la loi de 1957 (Strasbourg : PhD Thesis, 1999). This author acknowledges the "economic approach" ("these économique") analysis which can be accepted regarding "facts and logic" ("au regard des faits et de la logique") but emphasizes, in his presentation, on the "preventive" protection of the specific author's interests. A small paragraph is reserved to the booksellers' active part to the apparition of privileges ("la participation des imprimeurs et libraires à l'apparition des privilèges") (see p. 47).

[14] The indication of the author's name on the copies of his work also probably derived, as in England, from political objectives, in particular during the periods of political and religious tensions, when it was necessary for some books to be identified quickly and efficiently. Cf. article 16 of the 1618 book trade regulations (f_1618) which mentions "d'infinis livres scandaleux, libelles diffamatoires, sans noms d'Autheurs, ni d'Imprimeurs, ny du lieu où ils sont imprimez...". From this perspective, it has been explained that the "auteur-fonction" could have been singularised previously by his criminal liability, that is to say before the recognition of his property rights... (M. Foucault, "Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?", Bulletin de la Société française de philosophie, 64 (July-Sept.) 1969, 73.

[15] On these two cases, we can refer to Pfister, 43 ff; as well as Armstrong, 36, who points to a certain perplexity in the details of the La Vigne case. Indeed, it appears that La Vigne was maybe not the real author of one of the works discussed!

[16] Armstrong, 37. In fact, it was four years after the La Vigne case that we find the first successful application for an exclusive right recognized by the Parlement of Paris to the benefit of the bookseller Eustace de Brie.

[17] Quoted by Pfister, 44. ["si elles n'ont été par luy revues, corrigées et amendées et qu'il ne vois en ait baillez les copies et exemplaires signées de sa main avec permission de les mettre en impression telles qu'il verra et cognoistra ester à faire"]

[18] On this, see our commentary on Galliot Du Pré's privilege (f_1515).

[19] A.-C. Renouard, Traité des droits d'auteurs dans la littérature, les sciences et les beaux-arts, vol. 1 (Paris: Jules Renouard & Co., 1838), 106.

[20] Definition from the provincial booksellers, also mentioned in f_1515 ("requête adressée au Roi et à Nosseigneurs de son Conseil par les libraires et imprimeurs de Lyon et rédigée par l'avocat Flusin" - Mss. Fr. 22073, n°141). ["prérogative ou un avantage accordé par le Souverain à une personne, qui en jouit à l'exclusion des autres et contre le droit commun"]

[21] Concerning the author's property interests ("intérêts patrimoniaux"), it must also be remembered that the economic (and corporatist) nature of privileges was supported by the 1618 or 1723 regulations, the latter still forbidding authors from selling their own works.

[22] The transfer of the whole work (l'oeuvre) in the modern sense. A study of contractual practice shows that the manuscript was transferred "pour toujours". On this, see in particular the Sieur d'Anville's contract with his Parisians booksellers (f_1759).

[23] Even in the eighteenth century we can observe how difficult it was for authors to protect these specific interests when confronting booksellers, as shown, for example, in the 1720s, by the opposition between the sieur d'Ancour and Ribou, or, later, by the relationship between Diderot and Le Breton, etc (on this, see again the Sieur d'Anville contract: f_1759). Mark Rose notices the same situation regarding England in the seventeenth century: no set of regulations allowed the author to protect his own specific interests [Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. P., 1993), 25.]

[24] As E. Armstrong points out in her conclusion, "authors and publishers relied on virtually the same arguments in seeking privileges: they might quote such considerations as public usefulness, but their main plea was always the expenditure of time, skill and money involved in producing the new book and the need to recoup themselves before others were allowed to reprint it" (207). For an evolution of the definition of privileges granted to authors, see the last decrees on the book trade (f_1777a).


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