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The lack of copyright contributed to the technological revolution in 19th century Germany

In the 19th century, the German state experienced strong industrial growth, which was accompanied by a multiple increase in scientific publications and the total number of books published in the country. The unexpected love of the Germans for books made literary critic Wolfgang Menzel in 1836 call Germany "a nation of poets and thinkers."

For example, in 1843, German publishers published about 14,000 new books, most of which were scientific publications. If we take into account the number of the population, it is as much as it is published in our day, in the 21st century. For comparison, about 1000 new works were published in the British Empire that year.

What is the reason for such rapid economic and scientific development? Economic historian Eckhard Höffner (Eckhard Höffner) believes that the whole thing in the absence of copyright.

Great Britain adopted copyright in 1710, and the largest German state of Prussia - only in 1837. At that time, Germany was divided into many lands and many years passed until the new concept became widespread.

Printed press in the 17th century. At that time there was no strict copyright even in England, and printers could plagiarize and print any literature in any quantity. They did including large editions of cheap publications for the mass market ..

Hoffner's economic work is the first serious scientific research in the world of how copyright affects the development of a country over a long period of time. It is based on a direct comparison of two neighboring countries, and the findings have already caused unhealthy vivacity in the academic environment. Until today, it was believed that copyright guarantees the prosperity of the book market. They say that the authors are motivated to write only if they are fully confident in the protection of their rights. History shows that this is not entirely true.

English publishers have tried to extract the maximum benefit from the right to an exclusive edition. They published no more than 750 copies and sold it at maximum prices, the cost of the book often exceeded the weekly salary of an educated worker. Publishers very well earned on this scheme. It is known that so far the first edition of a book in the premium version brings the lion’s share of revenue to the publisher, while the next paperback is sold on the verge of cost. London publishers were limited to the first edition. Buyers of books were wealthy aristocrats, rich and noble, and the books were equated with elements of luxury. In the few libraries, the most valuable volumes were bolted to the shelves in chains to protect against thieves.

In the same years, publishers and plagiarists acted in Germany who could cheaply republish any book without fear of punishment. Book publishers made not only expensive publications for the rich public, but also cheap paperbacks for the mass consumer. As a result, there was a book market, absolutely not similar to the British. Bestsellers and scientific works were published in Germany in huge quantities at extremely low prices, so even in the farthest corners of the country, the poorest people could buy books and make up a small library of “pirated” publications.

The presence of a huge readership stimulated scientists to publish the results of their work. According to Hoffner, this is how a completely new form of knowledge dissemination was born instead of the previously existing system of teaching at school or university or the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student.

Schoolchildren throughout Germany received a lot of the latest scientific treatises in chemistry, mechanics, engineering, optics and steel production. In England, at the same time, the classical education system was maintained, based on literature, philosophy, theology, philology and historiography. Practical science textbooks from Germany were in short supply here.

The difference in the book market in Germany and the UK was so big that it reached curiosities. For example, the German professor of chemistry and pharmacy Sigismund Hermbstedt (Sigismund Hermbstädt) published in 1806 a book on bleaching fabrics. Even in the absence of a copyright, he received a greater fee than the English writer Mary Shelley from her best-selling book, Frankenstein, which is published until today.

Mary Shelley, author of the novel "Frankenstein"

The demand for technical literature in Germany was so great that publishers did not have enough authors and they invited even not too gifted scholars to publish, so that as a result many German professors received additional income from publishing information brochures and reference books on various topics.

According to Hoffner, the lack of copyright and the book publishing boom of the time led to a powerful industrial expansion of the country, the emergence of such industrial magnates in the 19th century as Alfred Krupp (in the late 19th century he owned the largest European enterprise) and Werner von Siemens (founder of Siemens) .

Krupp steel mill in Essen

The market for scientific literature did not collapse even after the widespread introduction of copyright, which occurred in Germany in the 1840s. However, German publishers chose the British way: they inflated prices and reduced the number of publications in paperbacks, to the displeasure of many authors.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/102715/

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