Rare books collections: Copyright Collection

Copyright Collection

The Copyright Deposit Collection comprises more than 65,000 books in all subjects and genres published in Great Britain between 1710 and 1837, and is one of the larger rare book collections at the University of St Andrews. 

In 1710, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Statute of Anne, which stipulated that a free copy of each book registered at Stationers’ Hall (and therefore eligible for copyright protection) was to be granted to each of nine major research libraries, including the University of St Andrews. In practice, publishers were reluctant to part with their merchandise without compensation, and found various ways of circumventing the legislation. Rather than simply receiving free copies of each book published, the University was required to request specific titles within a certain amount of time following their publication. Consequently, the Copyright Deposit Collection provides a snapshot of both the British publishing industry and the University’s collecting interests in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the University’s difficulty in coaxing books from Stationers’ Hall, the library’s collection of late 18th and early 19th century material is very rich, containing titles not easily obtainable elsewhere.

In 1836, the Copyright Acts were rescinded, and the universities who had been receiving books from Stationers’ Hall were paid instead a sum of money with which to purchase books for their libraries.   

A project funded by SHEFC through the Non Formula Funding of specialist research collections initiative paid for the retrospective conversion of records for approximately 10,000 items from the English Literature section of the Copyright deposit Collections. The areas of Geography, Anthropology, and Recreation have also been fully catalogued. The Lighting the Past team is currently cataloguing the rest of the collection and adding records to the online catalogue.

Classmarks for books in this collection have the prefix s, although this prefix is also shared with another collection of primarily 19th century materials. All the books from this collection currently on the online catalogue can be found here



Ardagh, Philip. “St Andrews University Library and the Copyright Acts” in Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, Vol. III (1948-55). Edinburgh: Printed for the Society, 1957.

Images of the collection