Under the terms of the 1710 Copyright Act, nine named libraries, including those of the four Scottish universities, were entitled to receive a copy of each book published in Britain. The warehouse-keeper of the Company of Stationers had the job of distributing these copies to the libraries, but the onus was on the libraries to ask for the books. The University of St Andrews employed a London agent to demand the books due to its library, and a series of Stationers’ Hall Registers was created, recording both the books received as well as lists of works entered at Stationers’ Hall and used by the University in managing its privilege.
In 1826 a Royal Commission recommended that six of the named libraries should surrender their copyright privilege in favour of an annual financial grant, and this came into force with the new Copyright Act of August 20, 1836. An annual allowance was fixed separately for each institution, the sum for St Andrews being set at £630. The money was intended, at least at first, for the purchase of books.
The five volumes which list “books received” by St Andrews between 1710 and 1820 are digitised and may be consulted here :
Full details of the collection are available in the online Archive Catalogue.