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For a History of Literary Property: John Wolfe's Reformation

JOSEPH LOEWENSTEIN
English Literary Renaissance
Vol. 18, No. 3 (AUTUMN 1988), pp. 389-412
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43447256
Page Count: 24
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For a History of Literary Property: John Wolfe's Reformation
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Abstract

The career of John Wolfe, Elizabethan printer, and publisher, serves as an index to major transformations in the English book trade. He began surreptitious infringement of printing patents in the late 1570s; when the infringed patentees, influential members of the Stationers' Company, began reprisals, Wolfe became the leader of a large group of the Company's malcontents. Their agitation provoked the company leadership to a crackdown supported by both municipal and royal authorities and led eventually to a consolidation of the Company's powers of self-regulation. This conflict thus confirmed literary property as a commercial problem, a matter of tense social practice, and as the book trade became more heavily capitalized, the issue of literary property became increasingly problematic. Since Wolfe's assault on control and privilege within the book trade brought the question of literary property within the horizon of public experience, it participates significantly in those cultural transformations which we call the English Renaissance.

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