Bainbridge v Briggs

Reg. Lib. A. 1814. fol. 1536.

In 1815, William Bainbridge sued John Briggs for publishing a tutor for the double flageolet that reproduced, without his permission, fingering charts (the “Scale, or Gammut”) and music for his work. Although, as with the Wigley case, he had some early success in arguing his point, by the time the case was concluded (probably in 1818 or 1819), he lost.

The case of Bainbridge v Briggs was not extensively reported at the time and so most of our knowledge of it is from Bainbridge’s subsequent public appeal against the judgement, published in 1819 in an pamphlet and addressed to Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor (the highest Chancery judge). However, one newspaper report on preliminary proceedings, has been found which gives a good incite into the long-winded nature of the litigation and the animosity between the parties.

Additionally, the injunction issued by the Vice–Chancellor to stop Briggs publishing further copies of his tutor before the case was heard was reported in Henry Seton’s 1810 “Forms of Decrees in Equity” (later known as “Seton on Degrees”) and sheds some light on the specific passages with which Bainbridge was concerned.


Law Intelligence, Court of Chancery—Nov. 22 [1816], Bainbridge v. Briggs

This case has long been well known to the public. The plaintiff had made some Improvements (important as he deemed them) in a double flageolet, and had got an injunction from the Court against the defendant for vending these improved flageolets as his own, and also for publishing a book in music so exactly similar to one published by the plaintiff, that even a word misspelt in the former had been inserted in the latter.

This morning the plaintiff addressed his Lordship, and (as we understood from the low tone in which he spoken) complained for an affidavit made before the Lord Mayor, and also that, as the trial directed in this case by his Lordship was to come next Friday (the 29th) various placards had been affixed in the public streets, for the purpose of vilifying him, and of influencing the minds of the Jury who were to be on that trial.

The Lord Chancellor at present thought that affidavit had been very improperly made, and he viewed the posting of such placards as manifesting a contempt of Court. He could not, however, do any thing unless both parties were before him, and he therefore informed the party now present to give notice to his opponent of what he intended to move the Court to do, and his Lordship, on account of the trail being so near at hand, and also to promote the interest of justice between both parties, would, when both were present, at any hour hear what motion might be made, and decide to the best of his judgement for the mutual benefit of both.

Reported by “The Morning Chronicle”, Saturday, November 23rd, 1816, No 14840


Order for Injuction To Restrain Partial Infringement of Copyright

The Vice Chancellor 31st October, 1815:—

This Court doth order that an injunction be awarded to restrain the defendant, his servants, agents, or workmen, from printing, publishing, selling, or otherwise disposing of, such parts of the book in the bill mentioned to have been published by the defendant as hereinafter specified, viz, that part of the said book of the said defendant which is entitled “Scale of Flats and Sharps” &c. and also that part of the book of that said defendant which is entitled “Scale, or Gammut” &c. and also that part of the book of the said defendant, entitled “Exercise I.” until the said defendant shall fully answer the plaintiff’s bill, or this Court make other order to the contrary.

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