Selected Special Collections
Early Copyright Records Collection
U. S. copyright registers and accession records, 1790-1870.
A congressional act signed into law on July 8, 1870, authorized by the Librarian of Congress "to perform all acts and duties required by the law touching copyrights and stipulated that all copyright records and deposits be transferred to the Library of Congress. Before 1870, authors and publishers registered their claims to statutory copyright with the clerks of the U. S. District Court for the jurisdiction in which they resided. The 615 volumes of early records in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division consists largely of the District Court registers from the years 1790 to 1870. Although varying in completeness, the record books often contain indexes by claimant or claimant and title and, particularly after January 1, 1803, include specimens of commercial labels and prints that were submitted for copyright registration. The collection also contains records of the Department of State (17960-1842), the federal body that until the mid-nineteenth century was responsible for deposit copies received as legal evidence. From the Patent Office, which took over the copyright activities of the Department of State in 1859, there are records compiled before August 1870. Other documents include the accession registers of the Library of Congress listing the deposit copies secured for government library use during the mid-nineteenth century. The records are available on microfilm in the Copyright Office. One of the most interesting features of the collection for the bibliographer is the group of 44, 032 title pages (1790-1870) which were deposited by authors and publishers as evidence of intention to publish. Some title pages document works that were substantially altered before publication or were never printed.