Commentary on:
Encyclopaedia Article on 'The Reprinting of Books' (1740)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: d_1740


Johann Abraham Birnbaum, encyclopaedia article on "The Reprinting of Books" for Zedler's Universal-Lexikon (1740)

Friedemann Kawohl

Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on J. A. Birnbaum's encyclopaedia article on 'The Reprinting of Books' (1740)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. References


1. Full title

Anonymous article by Johann Abraham Birnbaum on "The Reprinting of Books" for Johann Heinrich Zedler's Großes Universal-Lexikon (1740)


2. Abstract

The anonymous article on "The Reprinting of Books" in vol. 23 of Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1751)'s encyclopaedia, the Großes Universal-Lexikon, was mainly based on an earlier book by Johann Abraham Birnbaum (1702-1748) that had also been published anonymously.[1] There is no direct evidence for Birnbaum's authorship of the article, but it does seem very likely given that many editors of the Zedler Universal-Lexikon were based at Leipzig University, where Birnbaum taught as a lecturer in rhetoric.


Birnbaum acknowledges an intellectual property of the author[2] and identifies physical and non-physical aspects of the book. The author's disposal of the manuscript, however, is in Birnbaum‘s view a "complete cession of all rights associated with it which otherwise belong exclusively to the work's author."[3]


Ironically, Zedler‘s 64-volume Universal-Lexikon (the first volume of which was published in Leipzig in 1731) was at first confiscated by the authorities because many of its scholarly articles had evidently been plagiarised from encyclopaedias brought out by other Leipzig publishers.[4] A few years later, to compound the irony, the Universal-Lexikon in its turn would be illegally reprinted, after Zedler's Imperial privilege was revoked in 1737, possibly under pressure of the reprinter himself, Johann Ernst Schultze, a publisher based in the Bavarian town of Hof.[5]


3. References


Books and articles [in alphabetical order]

Gieseke, L., Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht (Baden-Baden: Nomos 1995)

Quedenbaum, G., Der Verleger und Buchhändler Joahnn Heinrich Zedler 1706-1751 (Hildesheim: Olms, 1977)

Raupp, W., article "Zedler", in T. Bautz (ed.), Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlxikon, vol. 26 (2006), 1576-1588. Available online at:


Wittmann, R., Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Munich: Beck, 1999)

[1] Anonymus [Birnbaum, Johann Abraham], Eines aufrichtigen Patrioten unpartheyische Gedancken über einige Quellen und Wirckungen des Verfalls der ietzigen Buch-Handlung, worinnen insonderheit die Betrügereyen der Bücher-Pränumerationen entdeckt, und zugleich erwiesen wird, daß der unbefugte Nachdruck unprivilegirter Bücher ein allen Rechten zuwiederlauffender Diebstahl sey (Schweinfurt: Fischer 1733).

[2]  "No one will deny that what these writers' inventiveness has brought forth and their untiring diligence has put into good order, belongs to them. If it is their property, then they are entitled to use it as a means of subsistence as they wish and as they find suitable to achieve this aim as conveniently as possible." (images of current document, p. 61)

[3] Ibid., p. 62

[4] Werner Raupp, article "Zedler", in Traugott Bautz (ed.), Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, vol. 26 (2006), 1576-1588. Available online at: <>

[5] Gerd Quedenbaum, Der Verleger und Buchhändler Joahnn Heinrich Zedler 1706-1751 (Hildesheim: Olms, 1977).

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