Memorandum on the dispute between the Parisian and the provincial booksellers, Paris (1690s)

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France : Mss. Fr. 22071 n° 177

Memorandum on the dispute between the Parisian and the provincial booksellers, Paris (1690s), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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            Chapter 1 Page 1 of 28 total

                  MEMORANDUM on the dispute which
is going on between the booksellers of Paris and those of
Lyon with regard to privileges and the prolongations
which the King grants for the printing of books.
      Today isn’t the first time that the Council hears
about disputes between booksellers regarding privileges & the
prolongations which one can obtain for editions of
books, and if it has not yet been able to settle these disputes,
it is without doubt because no one thus far has taken the
trouble to explain to it the nature and usage of such privileges.
      First of all, it seems that by this word ‘privilege’ one
should simply understand an individual favour, truly founded
on some merit or other, but which nevertheless still is an
exception from the public right. However, in the book trade it
is quite the opposite. For in addition to the fact that, on the
one hand, this favour takes the place of a reward to
individuals who are risking their possessions [leur bien] and
are making use of their cares and troubles to bring some
fine works [ouvrages] to light, the public thereby receives
and enjoys an advantage which is all the more significant,
given that it would not have been able at all to enjoy the use
of such fine works if it hadn’t been for the risks and expenses,
the care and attention, of these individuals who thus acquire
a right to them and a sort of property which it would be
unjust to begrudge them. In order to fully understand
these truths and to see clearly what privileges actually are,
it is necessary to realize that the book trade comprises
two sorts of books, and that there are also two sorts
of privileges.
      All the books which are printed boil down to two
types, which can be divided into common sorts [sortes communes]
and particular sorts [sortes particulieres].
      The common sorts comprise all the books &
all the books [sic.] written by the Ancients who did not


                        MEMOIRE sur la contestation qui
est entre les libraires de Paris et ceux de
Lyon au sujet des privileges et des continuations
que le Roy accorde pour l'impression des livres.
      Ce n'est pas d'aujourd'hui que le Con[seil] entend parler
des contestations des libraires sur les privilèges & les
continuations que l'on obtient pour les impressions des
livres, et s'il ne les a pas encore terminées c'est sans
doute parce qu'on n'a pas eu soin de lui en bien expliquer
la nature et l'usage.
      Il semble d'abord par ce mot de privilege que l'on ne
doive entendre qu'une grace particuliere fondée veritablement
sur quelque merite, mais qui ne laisse pas d'etre une exception
du droit public. C'est neanmoins tout le contraire dans
la librairie. Car encore que d'un costé cette grace tienne
lieu d'une recompense aux particuliers qui risquent leur
bien et qui emploient leurs soins et leurs peines a mettre
quelques bons ouvrages au jour, le public en recoit &
jouit d'un avantage d'autant plus considerable, qu'il n'auroit
point joui de cet ouvrage sans les risques et les depenses,
les soins et les peines de ces particuliers qui leur en
acquierent un droit et une sorte de propriete que l'on ne
peut leur envier sans injustice. Pour comprendre ces
verités a fond et voir distinctement ce que c'est que les
privileges, il faut savoir que le commerce de la librairie
consiste en deux sortes de livres, et qu'il y a aussi
deux sortes de privileges.
      Tous les livres que l'on imprime se reduisent a deux
especes qui se distinguent en sortes communes et en
sortes particulieres.
      Les sortes communes composent tous les livres &
tous les livres composez par les anciens qui ne s'y sont reservés


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