The case of Cornelius Bee

These snippets come from a legal case brought about by one Cornelius Bee, printer. There are several reasons I find this case interesting; firstly it reveals intriguing detail about the way in which law was practiced in the mid 17th century. Secondly, it sheds light on the costs involved in the printing industry; the sums Mr Bee discusses are simply enormous for this period, which presumably explains why he brought his case against Mr Poole (a rough estimate would suggest £1000 in 1660 would be worth about £76,000 today). Thirdly, the case highlights the destruction wreaked by the Fireof Lndon  in 1666, and the subsequent implications for businessmen like Mr Bee.

The CRITICI SACRI, being a Collection of divers Eminent Authors, all or the major part of which were out of print, Cornelius Bee and his Partners, by the Advice of divers Learned Divines, did undertake the Printing of them: which Great Work was carrying on (though with as much expedition as possible) about six years, and completed in Nine Volumes in Folio, An.1660. The Authors which were before sold for Fifty or Sixty pounds severally, being so collected and printed verbatim, the Price was reduc’d to Thirteen pounds ten Shillings. The Charges of which said Work in Nine Volumes, by buying several Manuscripts, and preparing and methodizing the Copy fit for the Press, amounted to about a Thousand pounds, besides Paper and Printing.

Upon Consideration whereof the KING’s Majesty, upon the Petition of the said Cornelius Bee, was graciously pleased to grant to him and his Assigns his Royal Privilege in Anno 1660, for the space of Fourteen years from thence next ensuing; thereby prohibiting all and every person and persons to reprint the said Work, or any part of parcell thereof, within his MAJESTIE’s Dominions, during the said Term, without the Leave and Consent of the said Cornelius Bee.

One Mr Matthew Pool hath (in the said Cornelius Bee‘s Absence in Holland, without his Leave and Consent) undertaken a Work which he calls A Synopsis of the Critical and other Commentators upon the Bible: in pursuance of which Design he hath nominated several Voluminous Commentators, and amongst them the said CRITICKS, of which especially he intended to make an Epitome with the rest. The dealing with which Voluminous Authors the said Cornelius Bee and his Partners shall not at all look upon themselves as concerned in, provided he forbear the Injustice of taking anything out of the said CRITICI SACRI in Nine Volumes, which they have printed at so vast a Charge. Which nevertheless if he shall pursue to do (besides infringing the Right that the said Cornelius Bee hath in them by his MAJESTIE’s said Privilege and said Acts of Parliament) he will hazard making the said Books unsaleable, and so much as in him lies, contribute to the Ruine of the said Cornelius Bee and his Partners: too many men considering what they shall save by the smallness of the Price, rather than what they shall gain by the Goodness of the Book.

To these Considerations the said Cornelius Bee and his Partners are forced to joyn this necessary Addition, viz. That in the late sad and dismal Fire in September 1666 there were burnt and consumed above Thirteen Hundred of the said CRITICI SACRI, which, if reckoned but barely as they cost, amount to Twelve or thirteen Thousand pounds; of which Loss the said Cornelius Bee sustains the one half, and his said Partners the other half. (Besides divers other Books belonging to the said Cornelius Bee that were also then burnt and consumed, to the value of Four Thousand pounds, all which lay at his Warehouse in SionCollege near Cripplegate).

Now the said Cornelius Bee doth intend and hath designed to re-print the said CRITICKS in far better Method than this already done, and hopes and is verily persuaded that no person whatsoever, that’s swayed by Reason, Conscience or Justice, will endeavour to abridge him of or obstruct him in that lawful and laudable way of Advantage.

So that the said Cornelius Bee and his Partners do in reason and common Justice expect that the said Mr Poole should desist from that part of his Design wherein the aforesaid Nine Volumes are concern’d, and likewise leave the Epitomizing or other digesting of the said CRITICI SACRI to the said Cornelius Bee‘s own discretion and disposal, seeing it evidently appears that they are absolutely his own proper Right and Propertie.

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