Transcriptions of Pre-1870 US Copyright Records

Until mid-1870, copyright registration duties were handled by the local U.S. District Court of the author or proprietor, while the work itself was deposited with the Department of State (until 1846), Library of Congress (1846-1859, 1865-1870), Smithsonian Institution (concurrently 1846-1859), and Patent Office (1859-1865, 1865-1870 concurrently).  In 1870 all copyright responsibilities were centralized in the Library of Congress.

I’ve been working on a number of projects regarding these oldest federal copyright records, which I hope to discuss more on this blog.  One of these projects has been to assemble all currently existing printed transcriptions of these records.  As each District Court maintained its own records and the pre-1870 records are still organized by Court, these transcriptions have mostly focused on individual states.  The list follows below:

A note on copyright, of sorts, for these sources. Of course the transcriptions of federal records are not protected by copyright, but some of the prefatory material is.  For the four sets of transcriptions I uploaded to the Internet Archive because no scan was otherwise available, I checked the Copyright Card Catalog for all, and could not locate a renewal for either the issue of the periodical they were published in, or the individual article itself.

I’ve adapted this list from Copyright Records and The Bibliographer by G. Thomas Tanselle.

In addition to these, there are a number of lists of works deposited with the various depository institutions identified above.  It’s worth noting that only a small percentage of the works registered for copyright were deposited in the pre-1870 era.

Author: Zvi S. Rosen

Lawyer and sometimes academic. I've written a fair deal about the evolution of intellectual property law into its present form, this blog is a way to share things that don't fit into a full-length article.

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