Sunday, November 20, 2005

A look on the bookshelf: eighteenth century copyright protection

You've probably heard of the phrase "according to Hoyle" used with relation to card games.

The Hoyle in question was an English writer, born in 1679, and thought to have trained as a barrister. However, in 1741 he was working as a whist tutor, and would sell a booklet on the rules of the game to accompany his instruction. This booklet was so popular that unauthorised ripoffs circulated widely. Consequently in 1742 Hoyle published a booklet entitled A Short Treatise On The Game Of Whist, and copyrighted it.

Later he published the rules of other games, such as backgammon and chess, and in 1750 the first compendium of these was published. Many versions followed, and the earlier editions are now rare and highly desirable.

I'm fortunate enough to have a copy of the fourteenth edition of Mr. Hoyle's Games in my collection. In fact, it's one of my favourite items.

This is because of Mr. Hoyle's continuing problems with copyright infringement. How do we know he had these problems? Take a look at the scans of my book below:

This is the title page:



And this is the reverse of the title page:




The top paragraph says

"Advertisement. This Book having been entered at Stationers-Hall, according to Act of Parliament, whoever shall presume to print or vend a pirated Edition, shall be prosecuted according to Law. The Proprietor has already obtained an Injunction against Nine Persons, for pirating, or selling pirated Editions. No Copies of this Book are genuine, but what are signed by the Author, Edmond Hoyle."

And at the bottom is the signature of the man himself.

It's examples like this which contribute to making book collecting such a rewarding activity. To hold this book is to hold a piece of history. Quite apart from the contents, the book itself is an historical artefact, a connection to centuries past. Unlike purists, I love to acquire books that have the signatures or notes of previous owners, and I often find the features the book has acquired more interesting from a collecting point-of-view than the contents.

1 Comments:

At 1:47 AM, Blogger pokergameszz said...

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