If an apology were needed for our again approaching the subject of the Patent Office Report distribution, we might refer our readers to the fact that our journal being regarded by inventors as the special advocate and defender of their interests and rights, we are ever watchful and zealous to guard them against such legislative encroachments as the one covered under the resolution reported from the Joint Committee on Printing, and passed by the House of Representatives on the 28th of last month. This resolution provides for the printing of twenty thousand extra copies of the mechanical portion of the Patent Office Report for the year 1857, for the use of the members of the present House of Representatives only, being a reduction of the number printed of the preceding year's report of forty thousand. It is not our purpose at this time to object to this retrenchment movement in the reduction of the number, but simply to protest against the exclusive character of the distribution. We certainly think that the Patent Office, which may be regarded as the source to which all inventors look for information, and which may be said to be in direct communication with inventors, scientific societies, and others interested in these reports, should have been allotted at least one-half the number printed, believing as we do, that they would be more generally and properly distributed than when left exclusively in the hands of Members of Congress. It is a well-known fact that there are thousands of valuable works, including many of the Patent Office Reports of preceding years, now stored away in Washington, and other parts of the country, which were printed by Congress, and allotted to members of both Houses for distribution among those of their constituents likely to be benefited by their possession. Many others have been destroyed or sold for waste paper, or devoted to other comparatively useless purposes. The constituencies of Members of Congress are generally extended over a large space of country, and are included in villages, towns, and localities where the member has no personal acquaintance, and hence it follows that many of the persons for whom documents printed by Congress are specially designed, fail to receive or be benefited by them ; and their limited distribution is almost exclusively confined to the locality in which the member resides. We are sorfy that the extra number of the Report For 1857 was not divided for distribution equally between the members on the one part, and the Commissioner of Patents on the other. We think our readers will agree with us that under such a division a more faithful and equal distribution of them over the country would have taken place than will be effected by confining this task exclusively to Members of Congress, many of whom will distribute but few, except when a special demand is made upon them.
This article was originally published with the title "Patent Office Report for 1857" in Scientific American 13, 36, 285 (May 1858)