Copyright law, contract disputes, and just a little bit of public intoxication

The Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials contains many different types of source material for the study of 18th-century publishing history in France, from book prospectuses and booksellers’ catalogs to laws and legal opinions related to the activities of the book trade.  The third series of this collection is comprised of 25 lawsuits and legal opinions involving publishers, booksellers, and others involved in the French book trade.

Most of the documents address copyright disputes between publishers or booksellers.  In Mémoire pour le sieur Pillot, libraire juré de l’Université de Paris, contre le sieur Le Boucher, aussi libraire en la même université (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 24), for example, bookseller Jean-Pierre Pillot brings a lawsuit against his brother-in-law Louis Le Boucher after their joint bookselling arrangement dissolved, alleging that Le Boucher took over the copyright of materials which rightly belong to Pillot.

Devillelles and Balze bring a similar suit against printer Jean-Joseph Niel on behalf of their client Joachim Leblanc in Question a décider pour le sieur Joachim Leblanc, contre le sieur Jean-Joseph Niel, son imprimeur (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 13) regarding a contract dispute over the publication of the Courrier of Avignon.  Typical in this series are lawsuits between publishers or booksellers in which one party alleges that the other has published a pirated edition of a book to which the former holds the exclusive copyright.  Premier mémoire et consultations pour le citoyen Leroy, imprimeur-libraire à Lyon, propriétaire d’une édition du Cours d’agriculture, par Rozier (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 16) and Question de propriété littéraire (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 12) illustrate one such example, in which booksellers Antoine Jeudy Du Gour of Paris and Amable and Michel Le Roy of Lyon dispute who has the right to publish the abbot François Rozier’s Cours complet d’agriculture, théorique, pratique, économique, et de médecine rurale et vétérinaire.

One particularly infamous copyright trial of the early 19th century was the “affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise,” in which publisher Bossange, Masson et Besson accused booksellers Nicolas Moutardier and François-Augustin Leclère of pirating the fifth edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, to which the plaintiff held the copyright.  Bossange, Masson et Besson provide evidence of the defendants’ crime of contrefaçon in Réponse au mémoire des cens. Moutardier et Leclere, contrefacteurs de l’édition du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise, acquise de la Convention par les libraires Smits et compagnie, contre les libraires Bossange, Masson et Besson, acquéreurs de la susdite édition (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 22).

Delafleutrie debates in Discours prononcé par le citoyen Delafleutrie, substitut du commissaire du gouvernement près le Tribunal criminel, à l’audience du 15 frimaire, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 8) and Second discours prononcé par le cen. Delafleutrie, substitut du commissaire du gouvernement près le Tribunal criminel, à l’audience du 24 frimaire, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 9) whether the French government actually holds the copyright for the dictionary, considering that the Académie française works in service of the government.  Finally, legal scholar Emmanuel Brosselard offers his opinion of the trial in Observations sur le jugement du Tribunal criminel du département de la Seine, dans l’affaire du Dictionnaire de l’Académie françoise (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 4), agreeing with the judgment of the Tribunal criminel of the Seine department that Moutardier and Leclère are guilty of copyright infringement.

In addition to such disputes between publishers or booksellers are contract disputes between authors and publishers.  One such notable example is Mémoire pour le sr Augustin-Martin Lottin, l’aîné, libraire & imprimeur de M. le duc de Berry, intervenant & demandeur, contre M. l’evêque de Noyon, le chapitre de Noyon, & le sr Cuquigny, chanoine, défendeurs (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 17).  Bookseller Augustin-Martin Lottin seeks damages from the bishop and other religious officials of Noyon for the loss of income he sustained from the suspension of the printing of a new Breviary for Noyon.

More intriguing is a 1764 legal dispute between engraver and type founder Pierre François Loiseau and printer Christophe Ballard, outlined in Mémoire pour le sieur Loyseau, graveur & fondeur de caractères d’imprimerie, contre le sieur Ballard, imprimeur du roi, & noteur de la chapelle de Sa Majesté (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 18).  A frustrated Loiseau is incensed that Ballard, who has a long standing, royally sanctioned patent on musical type characters, has accused the former of copying the latter’s characters.  Loiseau includes in his defense a rather tartly worded affidavit signed by several masters of music in praise of Loiseau’s superior music printing, stating, “la musique dudit sr Loyseau imitant parfaitement les plus beaux manuscrits de musique, & étant aussi belle que celle gravée au burin, dont jusquà present nous avons été obligés de nous servir, le public s’étant dégouté depuis longtems de la musique du sieur Ballard, & nous pensons que la musique dudit sieur Loyseau doit d’autant plus mériter la protection des magistrats” (p. 4).

Last is a legal document covering a topic that is considerably less dry than those dealing with 18th-century copyright law: public intoxication.  While this document has nothing to do with publishing, printing, or any other aspect of the book trade, it places a master bookbinder in a starring role.   Sentence rendue en la Chambre criminelle du Châtelet de Paris, qui condamne Guillaume Maillet, maître relieur, à être blâmé, pour, étant ivre, avoir troublé par des grimaces et gestes indécens l’office divin, le jour de Pâques, dans l’église paroissiale de Saint Hilaire, avoir usé de violence envers le suisse de ladite paroisse, qui vouloit le faire sortir, avoir renversé ledit suisse & lui avoir occasioné la fracture de la rotule, de laquelle fracture ledit suisse restera estropié (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 3 no. 23) fines master bookbinder Guillaume Maillet 600 livres in damages to doorman Claude Dunan, who sustained a fractured patella as he tried to eject a drunk and brawling Maillet from Easter Mass at the parish church of Saint Hilaire.  Apparently, his hand skills extended beyond the bookbinder’s bench.

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