A blast from the past

With all the kerfuffle at the moment about new laws to protect artists' copyright, I thought this might be of interest.  

We have about 6,000 books in our house.  One of them is The Second Saint Omnibus, by Leslie Charteris, published in 1952.  The Saint was one of the great adventure heroes of last century, and Charteris one of the great writers.  Even people who've not read the books know The Saint from the TV series starring Roger Moore.  In 1952 -- note that date -- Leslie Charteris had this to say in the preface of his book.  

I read a few books every year.  Not so many as I should, I guess; but as many as I have time for...and when I read, I am just as callous about hungry writers as you are.  I, too, rent books from the library.  Or borrow them from friends, if I can.
In spite of these reprehensible economies, quite a few writers have succeeded in making a fair living; and you have been kind enough to let me be one of them.
What the public never seems to have cared about is that, no matter how well he sells, a writer is stuck with one of the most under-privileged professions of modern times; and I am in a mood to take this opportunity of putting my gripe on record.
Let a man build up any other kind of business, and any stock, any goodwill, or any other interest pertaining to it that he does not sell, hypothecate, or give away, is his personal property...and since the idea of personal property was first conceived, this has always seemed an obviously right and just arrangement, except to Communists.
But let a man devote his life to the production of literature, and the laws of copyright give him no such lasting protection...universally it appears to be thought entirely right that after a limited time the fruit of a writer's brain should be taken from him...and thrown into a thing called the "public domain" -- an almost Communistic concept in itself...
For this fantastic discrimination I have to hold you, the public, responsible.  Writers, themselves, will never be a sufficiently large class to attract the benevolent interest of a politician.  And this politician, whom you elect, knows very well that he will never lose any of your votes for continuing to ignore such a well established injustice against an insignificant minority of rogues and vagabonds, which everybody knows writers are, anyway.


Geoff Carter said...

Great post; I wonder how this worked when books were hand copied?

I am very concerned that you know you have 6,000 books!

Gary Corby said...

Count the number of books along one meter of shelf space.

Do this several more times to get a reasonably accurate value for books-per-meter.

Use a tape measure to get the number of meters of shelf space.

Tack on a guess for all the books piled on the floor, on the dining tables, and on the seats of chairs.

6,000 best guess.