June 3, 2003  ·  Lessig

Kevin Kelly writes with the following amazing story:

> Thought you’d enjoy this. I was researching some stuff today and read
> this amazing story in THE INVENTION OF PRINTING IN CHINA, by Thomas
> Carter (1955):
> Carter is describing the very first printed book in the world, the
> DIAMOND SUTRA, a intact copy of which was found in a secret cave
> chamber in Kansu China. The book was published on May 11, 868.
> That’s, what, some 1100 years ago. Here is the key: the very first
> book ever printed had a public domain notice. Here’s what Carter says
> [p. 56]:
> The book consists of six sheets of text and one shorter sheet with
> woodcut, all neatly pasted together so as to form one continuous roll
> sixteen feet long… At the end, printed into the text, is the
> statement that the book was “reverently made for universal free
> distribution by Wang Chieh on behalf of his two parents on the 15th
> of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Hsien-t’ung.”
> Designated Universal Free Distribution from day one.
> Wang Chieh would have signed the petition.