Diderot's Letter on the book trade, Paris (1763)

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France : Mss. Fr. (Naf) 24232 n°3

Citation:
Diderot's Letter on the book trade, Paris (1763), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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            Chapter 1 Page 45 of 45 total



Let no tacit permissions be refused; let the true trader enjoy these tacit permissions as
surely and peacefully as if they were privileges; let these permissions be subject to the
regulations; if pedlars are not done away with, at least let them be affiliated to the
booksellers’ guild; let anything be done that is deemed appropriate, but do not let the
true trader be restricted to a small area which limits and ruins his daily trade; let him
be permitted to set up trade where he likes; let the man of letters and the society man no
longer be compelled by convenience to obtain books from disreputable characters, or
constrained to travel a long way to find the books they desire. In this way, the public will
be served, and the pedlar, whatever status is granted to him, will be more closely guided
and less tempted to break the law. The emigration I propose would not empty the University
quarter of all booksellers. We can be confident that business interests will ensure this does
not happen. A bookseller who has limited his trade to classical works in Greek and Latin will
never stray far from the college gates. For this reason, the University has not opposed this
dispersion, and did not stipulate anything concerning it in the ruling of 10 September 1725.
      Booksellers will set up business in a place of their choice; as for the thirty-six
printers who would suffice for supplying the scholars on the hill, they will stay in the
original precinct; and by this means we shall have provided for the interests of religion,
government and morals, for the freedom of trade, for the support of the book trade, which
needs it now more than ever, for general convenience and for the good of letters.
      If booksellers request that the king be pleased to permit them to trade across the river
and to disregard the rulings and regulations which prevent this, this request should be granted.
      If they request that pedlars and other people without quality be banned from interfering
in their trade and from setting up their business in royal houses and other privileged places,
if they request expenses, damages, even extraordinary legal proceedings, information, enquiries,
penalties in accordance with the regulations, confiscations or any other measures, such requests
should be granted.
      If they request that it be forbidden for any foreign bookseller to have a warehouse and a
shop, or even to approach anyone other than true booksellers in order to sell their wares, and
that this ban should carry the penalties described above, such requests should also be granted.
All these constraints repel me perhaps even more than they do you; but you must either procure
the total freedom of their trade, the dissolution of all guilds, the suppression of the taxes
you extract from them, and the settling of the debts they have incurred in meeting your
requirements, or you must enable them to enjoy fully the rights you sell to them. If you do not
do this, I repeat, you will resemble a trader who keeps a thief at his door to steal from you the
merchandise you just bought from him; you will have gathered citizens together in a body under
the pretext of serving their best interests, only to crush them all the more definitively.

    


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