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Record revealed

Copyright registration form for Bram Stoker’s Dracula

The Irish author completed this form to register his ownership of a play titled Dracula; or the Un-Dead, a dramatic adaptation of his seminal novel. This would later have consequences for a classic film.

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An official form printed in red ink and filled in with black handwriting.

The copyright registration form in full.

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Two columns of the form, filled in with the same information.

Close-up view showing Bram Stoker as the author and ‘proprietor of the sole liberty of representation or performance’ living at 18 St. Leonard’s Terrace, Chelsea, London, S.W.

Why this record matters

Date: 19 May 1897

Catalogue reference: COPY 1/1108

This form shows that Dracula; or the Un-Dead was performed at the Lyceum Theatre (where Bram Stoker worked as a manager) on Tuesday 18 May 1897. The registration form was completed the following day, and the novel Dracula was published a week later, on Wednesday 26 May.

At this time, authors would put on a ‘copyright performance’ as a way of establishing their intellectual property rights over their creative work. The quality of the production was not important and the audiences were invited rather than being made up of genuine members of the public.

In 1922, German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau produced his film Nosferatu which was based on the Dracula story. Stoker’s widow, Florence, successfully sued Murnau for copyright infringement and the German courts ordered that all copies of the film should be destroyed. However, a few survived and the film is now considered a classic.