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Historic Newspapers and Publications

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 11:04 am
by stokie100
Hi All,

I have an interest in collecting old newspapers (pre 1850's print dates) and Natural History books. My main interest is in publications containing illustrations (normally etchings/engraving prints).

If I were to reproduce and sell these original etchings (scanning, maybe hand colouring at times, and then printing and framing) would this be in breach of copyright law? The natural history books all have publishers and illustrator names (normally dating from an era around 1750 - 1850) and most of the newspaper prints do not have a credited artist associated.

Thanks in advance for your assistance with my query.


Re: Historic Newspapers and Publications

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 3:17 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Sophie,

You seem to have posted two very similar questions so I wil try to answer this one, and hope that my answer covers both.

Anything published before 1850 is undobtedly in the public domain now and so you can freely copy and re-publish any illustration or prints of engravings that come have from that period. The only items where copyright could be a problem even after all this time, is where the original was never published, for instance something which comes from a private collection which was never exhibited or printed. However given the sources you have described, that won't apply in your case.

As a matter of background interest, up until 1852 copyright was mainly concerned with literary works and the books in which they were printed. In 1852 a new Act of Parliament widened protection to include the fine arts, dramatic works and musical works for the first time, following the conclusion of a treaty on the subject with France. Prior to that time only the book in which a print of an engraving might have been included would have received any protection. The term of protection for copyright works was either the lifetime of the author plus seven years, or 42 years from the date of publication, whichever was the longer. This means that anything published before 1850 would have fallen out of copyright by 1892 at the latest, and thus long before the first of our 'modern' copyght Acts, that of 1911, came into force. There were some other formalities, such as the registering of works, which had to be completed, but they need not concern us here.

Re: Historic Newspapers and Publications

Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:58 am
by stokie100
Hi Andy,

Thanks so much for the detailed and informative reply.

I had posted two posts by accident because I thought the first one was not recorded before being sent to moderators. Apologies.

Many thanks