HC Deb 06 April 1818 vol 37 cc1190-3
Mr. J. Smith

presented a Petition from Messrs. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, booksellers and co-partners; setting forth,

"That the Petitioners are publishers of books and purchasers of copy-right, and since the passing of the act of parliament in July 1814, which enjoined the delivery of eleven copies of all books published after that time to the eleven libraries named therein, the petitioners have delivered to the said eleven libraries, on their demand, in pursuance of the said act, books which have actually cost to the petitioners the sum of 3,000l., or nearly so, and of part of which books very limited impressions were printed, in some cases only 100, in others only 250, the copy-right whereof was of no advantage to the petitioners; in this statement they do not include books, the publication whereof is managed by other booksellers, and in which they have considerable shares; from the great burthen of the delivery, the petitioners have declined the publication of some expensive works, and especially a work of the Nondescript Plants collected by the celebrated baron Humbolt, during his travels in South America, and which they declined solely from the necessity they should have been under of delivering the said eleven copies without any remuneration; the petitioners feel this delivery to be the greater grievance, because they, like the other publishers of works, have to give many presentation copies to the friends of authors who may have assisted them with the loan of books and use of manuscripts, or by communicating important information or assistance; they are also, by the clause of a previous act made with reference to libels, compelled to deposit one copy with the printer of the work; the delivery of these eleven copies become now a serious object of every publisher's calculation, and will prevent the appearance of many valuable works; when the act that imposed the delivery passed, the petitioners were informed and fully expected that the said libraries would only demand the copies of such works as would be actually useful to them, and that it would not be harshly acted upon; but they have found to their surprise and most serious injury, that all the said libraries, with the exception of two only as to novels and music, have made a sweeping demand of all books published, whether reprints only, or original works, and whether written for children or females, and without any consideration whether the same work was in their library or not; the petitioners particularly instance here the new edition of Dr. Johnson's dictionary, with the additions and improvements of the rev. Henry John Todd, which is published in eleven parts, at the price of eleven gui- neas; although Mr. Todd, with a feeling which the petitioners could only applaud, presented a copy of the work himself to Sion college library, yet the managers of the said library, after receiving this copy, demanded, and not withstanding the petitioners remonstrances, insisted on having another copy of the said work delivered to them in pursuance of the said act; thus compelling from the petitioners a second copy of the said work, though the full purpose of the said act had been in truth previously fulfilled by the said voluntary gift of its reverend editor; the petitioners, by the permission of the House, state that the present duty on the paper generally used in printing amounts nearly to 25 per cent which the petitioners pay on all the works they publish, and which makes it a great object of our national finances, that the publisher of books should not be by any cause discouraged; but the English universities who print books have not only the superior advantage of a perpetual copy-right, but have also a remission of the said duty on paper for all the books they print; this exemption from duty enables them to undersell all the regular booksellers in the public market in the books they print, which others also have the power to publish; the petitioners have lately, in conjunction with others of the trade, printed an edition of Scapula's Lexicon at a great expense, which had not been printed before in this country for 150 years; they are now informed that one of the English universities is preparing to oppose them by publishing also an edition of the same book, which the said university, by its exemption from the duty on paper, will be enabled to sell much cheaper than the petitioners can afford; eleven copies of the petitioners edition of this book have also been demanded and delivered; the petitioners believe that the continuance of the said delivery unmitigated, will occasion a gradual diminution in the publication of many valuable and important publications, and daily produce a heavy grievance to individual publishers; they therefore most respectfully pray the House to take these facts into consideration, and to relieve the petitioners and publishers in general from the burthen of delivering the said eleven copies without any remuneration, and they humbly submit to the wisdom of the House, that to require the said libraries to pay one-third of the published price of the books they demand will be a great relief to the petitioners and to literature in general, and will amount to no larger sum than the said libraries may easily raise by a small contribution among their respective members."

The Petition was ordered to lie on the table and to be printed; as was also a petition on the same subject from Messrs. Lackington & Co.