- Transatlantic Book Trade and Copyright
In 1822, E. T. Scott, a Philadelphia publisher, brought out a 24-page adaptation of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819) called Ivanhoe; or, The Knight Templar: And the Jew's Daughter. An Ancient Tale of English Chivalry. It is a curious document from the archives, one of those artifacts whose preservation feels accidental. Billed as coming "from the celebrated romance of 'Ivanhoe' by the author of 'Tales of My Landlord,' &c., &c.," the chapbook otherwise lists no evidence of the story's origin. A bibliographic search reveals that it was most certainly reprinted from a 24-page juvenile version of Ivanhoe that was published in London by J. Bailey in 1821.1 With only one copy of the 1822 Philadelphia edition available in libraries around the world, the pamphlet's serendipitous survival tells a story of the early nineteenth-century book trade: it speaks to the intertwining of the British and American literary marketplaces and to copyright issues threading through the nineteenth century, and beyond.
This Philadelphia Ivanhoe chapbook challenges the critic because it slips out of traditional categories of literary analysis. It is not an authored book: the only author alluded to on the cover ("by the author of 'Tales of My Landlord'") did not create the text, and the name of the person who wrote it is lost to literary history. The Philadelphia publisher, Edwin T. Scott, is likewise largely unknown in literary history, though a bibliography of Walter Scott's works lists him as one of many US publishers who raced to reprint Scott's novels (Todd and Bowden 323, 511, 542, 565).2 As an artifact, then, Ivanhoe; or, The Knight Templar raises questions that animate the study of the transatlantic book trade and copyright—questions about the [End Page 145] relationships between book and nation, author and nation, publisher and author, original and adaptation, as well as books and readers.
Ivanhoe; or, the Knight Templar represents one of the plethora of transatlantic texts held in US and British archives, many of them forgotten. This evidence of British books in the US literary marketplace surfaces everywhere in the archive of nineteenth-century printed materials. Take, for example, A Catalogue of the Books Belonging to the Library Company of Philadelphia, volume 1, published in 1835, which lists books by Maria Edgeworth published in Boston, London, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington; books by Washington Irving published in London, New York, and Philadelphia; and books by Walter Scott (taking up almost two pages), published in Boston, Edinburgh, London, New York, and Philadelphia. Indeed, print culture provides a detailed record of the extent to which British and American books circulated in each country's literary marketplace. That free circulation, brought about by the lack of an international copyright, led London critic Nassau Senior to comment in 1864 that "A remarkable result of this state of law in both countries is, that the popular literature of America is English, and the popular literature of England is American" (450). For a very long time, this exchange was not fully acknowledged in literary histories, owing to the traditional model for carrying out literary scholarship along national lines and the difficulty of mapping a transatlantic literary culture. Studying the circulation of British books in the US and American books in Britain requires extensive work in the archives and attention to shifting copyright laws that regulated the publishing and reprinting of books. As Joseph Rezek, however, has noted, "British and American publishing were not separate affairs in the early nineteenth century" (London and the Making 25). Absence of international copyright, leading to an active reprint trade and the shared reading publics of Britain and the US, created overlapping literary cultures that become evident through readers' letters, periodical reprinting, booksellers' catalogs, library borrowing records: nineteenth-century archives hold many items like the Ivanhoe text, ones...