'Pezzana e Consorti' case: supporting documents, Venice (1780)

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'Pezzana e Consorti' case: supporting documents, Venice (1780), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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'Pezzana e Consorti' case (1781): copies of the decrees and rulings issued by the Commissioners of the University of Padua and the Venetian Senate in 1780 which Pezzana and his colleagues petitioned against.

Full title original language:

For three centuries the practice of the authorities in Venice had been to grant privileges of limited duration, usually with the clause that the books were to be sold at 'a fair price' ('giusto prezzo'). By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, Venetian publishing was in a state of crisis because of the proliferation of cheap reprint editions. In order to survive, members of the Guild had to save on production costs, leading to a general decline in the typographical and aesthetic qulity of the once so renowned Venetian editions. This state of affairs so appalled Gasparo Gozzi (the brother of the famous dramatist), who was Superintendent of the Venetian Guild, that he prevailed upon the Riformatori (Commissioners) of the University of Padua (the agency in charge of the book trade in Venice) to pass a law on 30 July 1780, which effectively established a perpetuity of privileges by declaring that the original privilege-holder of a work was always entitled to apply for a renewal of it. This drastic measure, albeit a triumph of corporate protectionism, was not to the liking of several members of the Guild, especially the major publishing houses of Venice, which, by taking part in the lucrative reprinting business, had been able to drive their less powerful colleagues out of the market. Twelve of the major publishers' families, led by the Heirs of Niccolò Pezzana, submitted a very skilfully drafted petition to the Riformatori, laying the blame for the publishing crisis on foreign competition, and lobbying for the old legislation to be restored. The petition of Pezzana & C. was heard by the Riformatori but immediately followed by a counter-petition from those members of the Guild (including the Prior, Marcantonio Manfré) who supported protectionism. On 18 September 1781, the Riformatori decided against Pezzana & Co., but the law of 30 July 1780 would eventually be revoked a few years later anyway, after a ruling of 1 May 1789 which declared that all books whose privileges had expired were public property. The case presents some parallels with Donaldson v. Becket (1774) in which the House of Lords rejected a London publisher's claim of a perpetual common law copyright.

Commentary: No commentaries for this record.

  • Infelise, Mario, 'L'editoria veneziana nel 700' (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1988)

  • Castellani, Carlo, 'I privilegi di stampa e la proprietà letteraria in Venezia: Dalla introduzione della stampa nella città fin verso la fine del secolo XVIII' (Venice: Fratelli Visentini, 1888)

  • Borghi, Maurizio, 'Writing Practices in the Privilege- and Intellectual Property Systems' (2003). Available at SSRN:

  • Berengo, Marino, 'La crisi dell'arte della stampa veneziana alla fine del XVIII secolo', in 'Studi in onore di Armando Sapori', vol.2 (Milan, 1957), 1320-1338

Related documents in this database:
1690s: Memorandum on the dispute between the Parisian and the provincial booksellers
1744: Code de la Librairie
1517: Venetian Decree on Press Affairs
1603: Venetian Decree on Privileges for New Books and Reprints
1781: 'Pezzana e Consorti' case: counter-petition and rulings
1774: Donaldson v. Becket

Author: N/A

Publisher: Pezzana e Consorti

Year: 1780

Location: Venice

Language: Italian

Source: N/A

Persons referred to:
Albrizzi, Angelo
Albrizzi, Giambattista
Bembo, Diodato
Bettinelli, Niccolò
Caroboli, Giacomo
Fenzo, Giuseppe
Fenzo, Modesto
Foscarini, Sebastian
Gradenigo, Bortolo
Manfré, Marcantonio
Marchesini, Davidde
Martinengo, Venceslao
Memo, Anzolo
Novelli, Giambattista
Occhi, Simone
Pasquali, Giambattista
Pezzana, Francesco di Niccolò
Pezzana, Giannantonio
Pezzana, Lorenzo
Pezzana, Niccolò
Pitteri, Francesco
Remondini, Giuseppe
Renier, Paolo
Savioni, Girolamo
Savioni, Pietro
Soranzo, Tomà Mocenigo
Tron, Andrea
Vallaresso, Alvise
Zatta, Antonio
Zino, Carlo

Places referred to:

Cases referred to:
Pezzana e Consorti (1780-81)

Institutions referred to:
Riformatori dello Studio di Padova (Venetian Board of Governors for the University of Padua)
Università di Stampatori e Librai (Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers)
Venetian Senate

Venetian decree establishing perpetuity of privileges (1780)
Venetian decree on privileges (1517)
Venetian decree on privileges for new books and reprints (1603)

Università di Stampatori e Librai (Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers)
barter trade
duration, prolongation of privileges
editions, new
interest groups
perpetual protection
privileges, Venetian
privileges, printing
public domain
public good

Responsible editor: Joanna Kostylo

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