Alexander on Publishing Peter Pindar: Production, Profits, and Piracy in Georgian Satire

James R. Alexander, University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, has published Publishing Peter Pindar: Production, Profits and Piracy in Georgian Satire at 112 Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 149 (2018). As the scurrilous poet ‘Peter Pindar,’ John Wolcot was the most provocative English political satirist in the late 18th century. His smirkingly disrespectful lampooning of the King and his ministers brought widespread popularity and profits, but perilously close to prosecution for seditious libel in the mid-1790s in a period of patriotic zeal when the Pitt government was pressing indictments against dissenting and reformist writers. So Wolcot’s claim of copyright infringement against his own publisher seemed both miscalculated, as it raised the common law assumption that prospectively libelous and therefore criminal works were a threat to public order and therefore ineligible for court protection under copyright. While at the time perhaps an…

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