R.L. Stevenson Copyright Stamps

R.L. Stevenson lived from 1850 to 1894.  He was a prolific and popular author, and had a variety of arrangements with his publishers for the collection of his royalties.

After his death, the rights passed to his widow Fanny and after her death in 1914, to his stepson Lloyd Osborne.

By 1916 Osborne was experiencing some difficulties in collecting royalties due, and in 1920 he wrote to the Society of Authors, Playrights and Composers asking their help.

The 1912 General Regulations allowed for the collection of copyright on published works (usually Mechanical Music such as records and piano rolls) by the means of stamps (see here).  The Society had been active on its composer members' behalf since 1912 in the collection of royalties due through this means.

The Stevenson copyright stamps were produced and issued by the Society, commencing in 1925, and continued until 1944.

In this time it is estimated that around 1 million of various values were issued.  Values ranged from 3/10d up to 1s6d and represented 10% of the retail price, as per the UK Copyright Act of 1911.

Other values were issued for Canada (in cents) and India (in annas).  Special volumes not for general sale (review, educational, library presentation) had stamps marked Presentation, and no royalties were payable.

The printers (Harrisons & Sons Ltd) held a base stock of blank and common values, and overprinted with the appropriate value on demand as necessary.  Supply was prompt, with despatch normally next day, or if a special value had to be printed, within one week.  The stamps were affixed at either the top or bottom inside the back (rarely the front) cover.  The Society's Collection Bureau charged a 15% fee for their services.

By 1943, the Society was allowing publishers who wished, to pay in cash because of the difficulties of the time, and the near approach of the copyright expiry date (50 years after the author's death at that time - 1944).

Osborne was very pleased with the scheme, writing "When I reflect on the great value my membership would have been to me in the past, I regret exceedingly I had not joined sooner".

Below are some sample stamps (x2) representing books priced from 1/- to 7/6.

No other Author's stamps have been sighted by this writer, although he has heard claims of the existence of a stamp for Anna Sewell from some special editions of Black Beauty.


British Library Manuscripts - Society of Authors, Playrights & Composers archives 63331
Copyright Stamps - R.L. Stevenson 1924-1944, J.W. Brodie, Cinderella Philatelist, 25/3, January 1985.
R.L. Stevenson Copyright Stamps - an update, Adam Miller, Cinderella Philatelist, 36/2, April 1996.

Adam Miller, (c) 2002