The changing value of Shakespeare

Auction values for the publishing rights to Collected Works of William Shakespeare:

1709: "a small fraction of" 200 pounds

1734: "less than" 675 pounds

1741: 1,630 pounds

1765: 3,462 pounds

1774, End of perpetual monopoly copyright: Nil

That is from William St. Clair’s recent The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period.  Many books deal with the rise of print culture and the commercial revolution, but in terms of thoroughness and data work, this marvelous work is a clear number one.  Here is more on the book.  I am learning just how much early British copyright law kept the price of literature high, and kept books out of public hands.


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