Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Tonra, Justin
ASECS: Annual Meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
“"The Common Property of All Mankind": The Politics of Reprinting In Ireland and America.”
San Antonio, USA
Conference Paper
Optional Fields
In 1800 the Acts of Union made Ireland a part of Great Britain, and the extension of British Copyright Law to Ireland the following year resulted in the annihilation of the Dublin book trade, whose reprinting of British authors had resulted in a flourishing industry in the second half of the eighteenth century. Around the time of the Union, more than sixty print-trade professionals left Dublin and emigrated to the United States, where they resumed their professions and contributed significantly to the development of the trade in unauthorised reprints of British books.   This paper will characterise reprinting as an institution that is socially and ideologically constructed in both Ireland and the United States as an embodiment of republican ideals, and a bulwark against the proprietorial and monopolistic attitudes inherent in the British system of copyright ownership. It will show how immigrant Irish print professionals contributed to the development of the American reprinting industry and an ideology based on the widespread dissemination of useful information which sustained it.   The paper will show how the radical ideological background of United Irishmen in the American print trade was quickly assimilated into Jeffersonian Republicanism, and manifested itself in anti-copyright practice and rhetoric. Politically moderate publishers such as Mathew Carey are shown to be equally fervent in their opposition to International Copyright, despite frequently paying British publishers and authors in order to secure first publication rights in America.   The example of a petition to Congress by a group of British authors in 1837 will also be used to illustrate the terms of authors’ objections to unauthorized reprinting, and how these were answered and rejected by American reprinters.   Within the evidence of this wholly unique transfer of one nation’s print trade to another, we can see resistance to copyright on social and political grounds, and the transnational significance that reprinting books assumes in colonial and postcolonial locations.
Publication Themes