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From the Wikipedia article Typesetting

One significant effect of typesetting was that authorship of works could be spotted more easily, making it difficult for copiers who have not gained permission.

This makes no sense to me. If anything, typesetting (as opposed to manually writing with one's hand) causes uniformity -- not uniqueness. Why would using this method make it any easier to "spot the authorship of works"?

What am I missing?

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    That's probably (hopefully?) a bad summary of the source indicated by the footnote. You'd need to track it down to see what it says. Unfortunately Google Books does not give a preview. – Brian Z Jun 19 '20 at 20:45
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    I'd imagine that long ago typesetters had quite individualized fonts, styles, etc. And not all agents aiming to "copy" could arrange any typesetting at all, but could more likely arrange by-hand copying. If we wonder about handwriting... think of forgers (I guess in times past?) – paul garrett Jun 19 '20 at 21:19
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    Quite. What typesetting actually did was transform publishing into an industrial activity (to do it at competitive prices, you had to have expensive equipment), which made copyright feasible to enforce. – T.E.D. Jun 19 '20 at 21:20
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    If an authorized work was published in, say, 11 point Garamond and a non-authorized version in 11 point Times, the difference would be obvious. Theoretically, this would allow the authorized publishers to easily prove copyright and quickly shut down the unauthorized publishers. – Jurp Jun 19 '20 at 22:07
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When a claim on Wikipedia includes a citation, you should always try to locate of copy of the cited work if you are looking for further details about that claim.

In this case, the source cited is The library : an illustrated history, by Stuart Murray. Fortunately for us, this is available to borrow on Archive.org.


The passage you quote is taken directly from the book, although without the supporting explanation:

One significant effect of typesetting was that authorship of works could be spotted more easily, making it difficult for copiers who have not gained permission. Previously, texts were often copied and recopied, without attribution, into other works. This obscured the original authorship. Identical typeset editions, however, bore the author's name and were printed by the thousand - establishing for posterity the original author.

  • (p131)

There were therefore many more copies of a given work in circulation, each of which carried the author's name. This made spotting plagiarism much easier.

  • As you see in comments above, quite few would read Q as 'print piracy', not as wholesale plagiarism. A thing btw, I would also find hard to imagine in numbers. Who did plagiarise an entire work with just putting another name on the thing? (Thinking of a few letters of Paul, but can't really come up with medieval books, so… :) – LаngLаngС Jun 20 '20 at 8:55
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    @LаngLаngС Again, why it is always worth checking the original citation. I don't think Murray is implying the plagiarism of the entire work, but rather simply the copying of large parts of one work into another ("... texts were often copied and recopied, without attribution, into other works."). Of course, it may have happened that an entire work was plagiarised by simply copying and putting another name on the cover, and with so many lost manuscripts we might never know. – sempaiscuba Jun 20 '20 at 9:06
  • @LаngLаngС And, of course, that sort of thing isn't necessarily limited to hand-written manuscripts. I'm reminded of the Tom Lehrer song Lobachevsky. ;-) – sempaiscuba Jun 20 '20 at 9:07
  • Am just highlighting how the question comes across here. And as I tried to hint at: 'into' was perhaps much more common than wholesale, while wholesale also happened. But the main thing is that comments here indicate ppl read the Q as being about 'piracy', thus me suggesting to differentiate that. – LаngLаngС Jun 20 '20 at 9:10

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