A strange title for a blog post and a strange wording to find on the front board of a book. It turns up on various Albatross books produced in the period around 1950 when the business was casting around, looking for a way to succeed in the very different publishing conditions after the war.
Albatross had been hugely successful before the war, publishing English language paperbacks in Continental Europe, defeating and effectively taking over, the long established Tauchnitz business. But attempts to revive the brand after the war faltered in the face of difficult market conditions and strong competition from British and American paperbacks, including of course Penguin Books.
In 1948 the business seems to have tried a different approach, having a range of titles bound up in a creamy coloured card binding, almost a sort of false vellum, and probably using existing unsold paperback stock. These were then given a standard Albatross dustwrapper , which in the post-war period showed the name of the local sales partner company, varying by country. All of the copies in this style that I have seen, have a dustwrapper from either Norway, Sweden or Denmark although they may have been sold elsewhere as well.
The front and back boards have an intricate blind stamped frame with on the front the title in the middle, the date 1948 in Roman numerals at the top, and the Latin phrase ‘Io Diomedeæ et Amicorum’ at the bottom. It’s not immediately clear what this means and a quick Internet search brings up a description of a similar book and the suggestion that the phrase translates as ‘I like pie’.
That seems hardly likely, and a more promising search result shows a similar phrase ‘Io Grolierii et Amicorum’, used by Jean Grolier de Servières, a famous bibliophile from the sixteenth century. He had his books bound in a range of fine bindings with this phrase as an inscription on the front board. It translates as ‘ For the use of Jean Grolier and his friends’.
So the Albatross binding it seems is some kind of reference or tribute to Jean Grolier. That’s confirmed by the Wikipedia entry on Grolier, which shows illustrations of some of his books, including strapwork designs very similar to the Albatross cover design. That leaves little doubt that this is a ‘Grolier binding’, albeit very much a poor man’s version of it.
But who might have produced such a binding and why? And if Diomedeæ refers to a person, who is it? In the Greek legends, Diomedes was a warrior in the Trojan War and one of the main characters in the Iliad.
The answer though is far simpler. Albatrosses are seabirds in the family Diomedeidae. The Latin name for the Wandering Albatross is Diomedea Exulans. So ‘Io Diomedeæ et Amicorum’ means ‘For the use of The Albatross and his friends’.
It’s unclear how successful or how widely used this binding was, but Albatross was certainly struggling as a business at this time. Over the next few years it tried various different things in order to survive, including other types of hard binding. In 1951 though it came back to Grolier for a rather more luxurious binding. The copy that I have is on Albatross volume 583 – ‘London belongs to me’ by Norman Collins, but it seems to have been used for other volumes as well, including volume 600.
This time the boards have a rather different strapwork design in colour, but still clearly in the Grolier style, with that same phrase at the bottom and with a central arabesque that refers back to the same source (see the image of a Grolier design above). The book has a glassine jacket, printed on the flaps, and an elaborate design of spine, with more arabesques, the albatross symbol and at the base, the name ‘Torriani’.
The Legatoria Torriani was one the largest Italian bookbinders for most of the twentieth century, based in Milan up until 1960. By 1950 the Albatross company was based in Rome and this book was printed in Verona, so Torriani would have been a natural choice of binder. The owners may well have had an interest in the history of bookbinding and Grolier had spent several years in Milan as an aide to the French Court. While there he had met Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Aldine Press and he had used local bookbinders for many of the books in his library.
Whether the suggestion to use Grolier as the inspiration for a series of Albatross bindings came in the first place from Torriani or from Albatross or from elsewhere, we may never know. But the resulting books now provide rather a nice memorial to both Grolier and Albatross.
My last post looked at the incestuous web of relationships between Tauchnitz authors, concentrating first on parents and children, husbands and wives. But there were many other close relationships.
Perhaps the most famous example of siblings as authors was the Brontë sisters and all three were published Tauchnitz authors, although two of them only posthumously. ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë and ‘Agnes Grey’ by Anne Brontë were published in a combined edition of two volumes in 1851, together with a biographical note by Charlotte, her sisters having died in 1848 / 1849. Four of Charlotte’s own novels appeared in the series.
So far as I know this is the only example of three sisters as Tauchnitz authors, but there were at least three other pairs of sisters who achieved that honour. The two Scottish sisters, Dorothea Gerard and Emily Gerard are reasonably easy to identify, as both wrote under their maiden names. They would have been more camouflaged under their married names as Dorothea Longard de Longgarde and Emily de Laszowska – both sisters married officers in the Austro-Hungarian army.
Irish sisters Agnes and Mary Sweetman are less easy to recognise. Agnes wrote a series of novels with her husband as Agnes and Egerton Castle, while her sister had a single novel published by Tauchnitz, writing as M.E. Francis. It’s not obvious either that Amy Lothrop and Elizabeth Wetherell are sisters, although there are perhaps clues in their jointly authored novel ‘Say and Seal’ (vols. 498/9). On the title page they are described only as the author of ‘Wide, wide world’ and the author of ‘Dollars and cents’. But the preface is signed by both using their pseudonyms, which they admit are their ancestors’ names rather than their own, and describe as a pair of gloves worn to shake hands with the public. Their real names were in fact Anna Warner and Susan Warner. Susan, writing as Elizabeth Wetherell, had four other books published by Tauchnitz as well.
Brothers are less of a problem to identify and examples include Edward and Henry Bulwer Lytton, Wilkie Collins and Charles Allston Collins, Charles and Henry Kingsley, E.F. Benson and Robert Hugh Benson. Brother / sister combinations include Marie Corelli and her half-brother Eric Mackay, and Hilaire Belloc and his sister Marie Belloc-Lowndes.
There are quite a few uncles and aunts. Sheridan Le Fanu, for instance, author of two Tauchnitz novels, was the uncle of Rhoda Broughton, who had a much longer list. John Addington Symonds was the uncle of ‘George Paston’, the pen name for Emily Morse Symonds, and Mary Cholmondeley was the aunt of Stella Benson. George Otto Trevelyan was not only the nephew of Lord Macaulay, but also edited ‘The life and letters’ of his uncle. Both men were historians, MPs and Government ministers.
The most complicated example of uncles and aunts comes from the remarkable Arnold family and spans three generations. In one sense it starts with another even earlier generation, as Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, was not a Tauchnitz author, but a Tauchnitz character, featuring in ‘Tom Brown’s schooldays’ written by Thomas Hughes. His son, the poet Matthew Arnold, went on to have two books of essays published by Tauchnitz, and was the uncle of Mary Augusta Ward, writing as Mrs. Humphry Ward, who had many more to her name. She in turn was the aunt of Aldous Huxley, who contributed several more volumes to the family library of Tauchnitz Editions.
On then to grandchildren, of whom I can find three examples. Daphne du Maurier was the granddaughter of George du Maurier, Caroline Norton was the granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Christabel Coleridge was the granddaughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Christabel was also more distantly related to Mary E. Coleridge, who was the great-grandniece of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as to Charlotte Yonge. Yonge started an essay society for young women, called the Goslings, of which Christabel and other members of the Coleridge family were part, and which also included Mary Augusta Ward (see above).
We’re starting to get into more distant relationships now, which brings us on to Margaret Oliphant and Laurence Oliphant. They certainly both came from the same family of Scottish landed gentry, and are often described as cousins, but I think that may be distant cousins rather than first cousins. Margaret’s mother was an Oliphant and she was given Oliphant as a middle name, but then went on to marry her cousin and acquired Oliphant as a surname as well. With a naturally heightened sense of family history she then wrote a long memoir of the life of Laurence Oliphant and his wife, Alice Oliphant, also published by Tauchnitz.
In a similar category is Rose Macaulay, who was from the same family, the Macaulays of Lewis as Lord Macaulay, mentioned above, although the relationship was quite distant. And then there is Dinah Craik and the other Craiks. Dinah, the most prolific Craik author, acquired the name by marrying a nephew of George Lillie Craik, who became a Tauchnitz author only after his death. His ‘Manual of English Literature and of the history of the English Language’ was published by Tauchnitz in 1874, by which time both Dinah and his daughter Georgiana Craik were established Tauchnitz authors.
Other more distantly related Tauchnitz authors include Washington Irving and his grand-niece Julia Cruger (writing as Julien Gordon), Lloyd Osbourne, who was the stepson of Robert Louis Stevenson and E.W. Hornung and Arthur Conan Doyle, who were brothers-in-law. E.OE Somerville and Violet Martin (as Martin Ross) jointly authored several novels and were second cousins. They were also more distantly related to Maria Edgeworth, who had a single volume published in the Tauchnitz ‘Series for the Young’. Mortimer Collins, author of two novels published by Tauchnitz in the 1870s, was the step-father of the wife of Tighe Hopkins, who followed him as a Tauchnitz author some twenty-five years later.
I am sure there are other relationships that I’ve missed and in the end it almost feels that it would have been easier to list the Tauchnitz authors who weren’t related to any other authors. But there’s still one relationship that I feel should have been there, but wasn’t. F. Frankfort Moore, an Irish writer with more than twenty Tauchnitz novels to his name, was the brother-in-law of Bram Stoker. The two men were married to Alice and Florence Balcombe, two of six sisters from Dublin. Sadly none of Bram Stoker’s works, most famously ‘Dracula’, were included in the Tauchnitz series. And in another intriguing ‘might have been’ relationship, one of Florence Balcombe’s former suitors had been Oscar Wilde, of course a Tauchnitz author.
The story of the relationships between Tauchnitz and Hitler’s Third Reich is a fascinating one, covered in some detail in Michele Troy’s 2017 book ‘Strange Bird. The Albatross Press and the Third Reich’. The rise to power of the Nazi party in Germany largely coincided with the collapse of Tauchnitz into the arms of its much more modern rival, Albatross. From 1934 until the outbreak of war, the two firms were run together under conditions that were extraordinarily challenging.
For almost a century, Tauchnitz had successfully spread both the English language and Anglo-American culture across Europe. Under Albatross control, and even with a Nazi Government in Germany that was publicly hostile to much of the literature that Tauchnitz and Albatross were publishing, they continued to do so. Michele Troy’s book shows how the Government’s need for foreign currency earnings often trumped ideological concerns.
Books by Jewish authors such as Louis Golding and G.B. Stern and by banned writers like D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley, were printed in Leipzig and exported across Europe throughout the 1930s. Editorial control of the combined business was based in Paris and the more controversial books appeared in the Albatross series rather than Tauchnitz, but production of both series was carried out in Germany by the Tauchnitz owners, Brandstetter. Yes, there was an element of self-censorship and certain books could not be sold within Germany itself, but still it is surprising what they managed to achieve.
Astonishingly, even after the outbreak of war in 1939, both Albatross and Tauchnitz were able to continue selling English Literature in continental Europe, although the flow of new titles inevitably dried up. Even after the entry of German troops into Paris in June 1940, and the appointment of a Nazi custodian of the Albatross business, sales continued and the business continued to make a profit.
But the Nazis also had another purpose in mind for Tauchnitz. What it had previously done for English, they reasoned, it could now do for the German language and culture.
The result was a series of German language novels under the heading of ‘Der Deutsche Tauchnitz’. Instead of the usual notice saying that copies were ‘ not to be introduced into the British Empire’, these books now say ‘Nur zum Verkauf ausserhalb des Grossdeutschen Reiches’, or ‘only for sale outside the Greater German Empire’. They were not sold in Germany or the areas annexed into Greater Germany, including Austria, the Sudetenland and Alsace / Lorraine. But they were for sale in Belgium, Holland, France and other areas where the Nazis wanted to spread a Germanic culture.
In this context it’s worth remembering that the Tauchnitz editions in English were not launched by the British, or even by a Briton, in order to spread British culture. They were launched by a German to meet an existing market demand. Tauchnitz Editions in German though were very definitely launched by the Germans to spread German culture. Der Deutsche Tauchnitz was not a product launched to meet market demand. It was a product seeking a market.
That was not easy in wartime Europe. If there had been a natural market for German novels in France or the Netherlands, Tauchnitz might have been amongst the first to launch one, much earlier. The market for English language novels in peacetime had depended on British and American travellers in Europe, as well as on the significant number of speakers of English as a second language. But in wartime there was no demand from tourists and the number of people with German as a second language good enough to read novels, was probably lower than for English. So even without taking into account the natural resentment that many people would have had towards the occupiers, it’s apparent that the task would not have been easy.
The one natural market they did have was amongst the occupiers themselves. German soldiers in the occupied territories may have bought a relatively high proportion of the books that were sold. Certainly by one route or another, many of the copies found today are back in Germany. But that was not the point of these books. It was the local populations that were their target.
Physically the books look very like the pre-war Tauchnitz volumes in English. They have the same brightly coloured covers, colour-coded by genre, and they use the same circular symbol with a small crown over a ‘T’ that had been introduced shortly before the war. For the early editions there are dustwrappers in the same design as the book and the dustwrapper flaps have a short description of the book in English, German and French at the front and an explanation of the colour scheme at the back. Later on, these descriptions move to the inside of the covers, and the explanation of the colour scheme is dropped in favour of additional languages.
One small design change is to abandon the uniformity of style for the book titles on the front cover. Instead there is a profusion of different styles of lettering, giving each title some individuality within the constraints of an otherwise standard series design.
There is no price on the books themselves, or on the lists of titles inside, but the price quoted in ‘A strange bird’ is the equivalent of 1.2 Deutschmarks, which compares with a price of 2 DM for the pre-war Tauchnitz Editions in English. Start-up costs had been covered by the German Propaganda Ministry and Foreign Office, so that the books may have been sold more or less on a marginal cost basis. They may also have had quite long print runs to keep costs low, but with disappointing sales that led to a build-up of unsold stocks.
The series launched in April 1941 and had extended to 18 titles by the end of the year. Volume number 1 was ‘Effi Briest’ by Theodor Fontane, a classic German novel from a 19th century author, although not really typical of the rest of the series. Most of the books were by more modern authors and probably rather lighter, although there were a few other classics including Goethe’s ‘Faust’ and Wilhelm Hauff’s fairy tales. There are no dominant authors – in fact other than Goethe with two, no author seems to have more than one title published in the series. Readers were invited though to nominate their own suggestions for the series, using cards inserted in some of the books.
21 titles appeared in 1942, taking the series on to volume 139, although after volume 130 the dustwrappers were dropped, as they had been on paperbacks in Britain a year or two earlier. Wartime conditions were perhaps starting to bite and the quality of paper used began to deteriorate, although these are still relatively lavishly produced books in comparison with British paperbacks from the same era. Another twenty or so new titles were added in 1943 so that by early 1944 the series had reached volume 166.
Volume 164 was advertised in the list of titles as ‘Petja’ by Marissa von der Osten, although I have never seen a copy and I suspect it was never published. From here on, and not surprisingly given the progress of the war, things start to go rather downhill. I have seen no evidence of books numbered 167, 168, 169, 171 or 173 and I have been unable to find a copy of volume 174, which is advertised as Adalbert Stifter’s ‘Erzählungen’. Again it may well have never been published.
That leaves volumes 170, 172, 175 and 176 which certainly do exist, for a total of 69 confirmed volumes over a three year period from 1941 to 1944. On some of the later volumes though, I have seen examples where the phrase forbidding sales within the German Reich has been blacked out, presumably because access to other markets had been lost and copies had been repatriated to Germany towards the end, or after the end of the war.
Overall it seems unlikely that the series was a success in terms of its objective to spread German culture. It was not the only attempt though. Alongside the German language series, Tauchnitz also launched a series of French translations of German novels, including some of the same titles. I’ll come back to that another time.
Cecil John Street, the author behind the two pseudonyms of John Rhode and Miles Burton, was certainly prolific. Over a 35 year career writing detective novels from roughly 1925 to 1960, he wrote more or less continually at the rate of something like 4 books a year, to end with not far short of 150 novels to his name, or rather to his pseudonyms.
He was at the peak of his popularity in the 1930s and 1940s and I’ve written before about his books published in Services Editions for servicemen in the Second World War. They appeared as part of the long series of Services Editions from Collins White Circle, the books having been originally published in the Collins Crime Club series.
Collins also had a close connection with Albatross Books, the European publisher of English Language novels launched in 1932, to rival the long-established Tauchnitz business. Ian and William Collins were on the board of Albatross and were instrumental in the launch a year later of the Albatross Crime Club. All the titles for this series came from the Collins Crime Club and the books were initially printed for Albatross by Collins in Scotland.
John Rhode featured early in the series, with ‘The motor rally mystery’, a new Dr. Priestley novel, included in the first batch of titles. Numbering for the Crime Club titles started from 101 and ‘The motor rally mystery’ is number 105. ‘The Claverton mystery’ was not far behind at number 114, later in 1933, and ‘The Robthorne mystery’ at number 122, early in 1934.
The first two titles would originally have had a transparent dustwrapper, as on The Claverton Mystery above, although few of these survive and those that do are usually torn and tattered. Later issues had a paper dustwrapper in the same design as the book. Most of the early books in the series are not too difficult to find now, although the Rhode and Burton books seem to be a bit harder, and certainly more expensive than most other books in the series. I don’t think any of the books were reprinted, so all copies are first printings.
Each of the first three books was published in Albatross only very shortly after first hardback publication in the UK and long before any of them appeared in UK paperback editions. After that though, a gap was allowed to build up between first publication in the UK and publication in the Albatross series. So ‘Shot at dawn’, first published in the UK in 1934, didn’t appear in Albatross (as volume 136) until 1935. By the end of that year, with the Crime Club series having reached 45 volumes, there were still only four titles by John Rhode and none by Miles Burton.
That was to change though, as a rush of new titles started to appear in 1936. ‘Hendon’s first case’, another Rhode novel, came first as volume 148 of the series, followed by ‘The milk churn murder’, the first Burton title, as volume 150. From then on a pattern was established of issuing Rhode and Burton titles alternately. ‘Mystery at Olympia’ by Rhode appeared as volume 154 and ‘Death in the tunnel’ by Burton as volume 155, both still in 1936. Then in 1937, ‘Death at breakfast’ by Rhode as volume 161, ‘Murder of a chemist’ by Burton as volume 163, ‘In face of the verdict’ by Rhode as 167, ‘Where is Barbara Prentice?’ by Burton as 178 and ‘Death in the Hopfields’ by Rhode as 186.
Then, as far as I can tell, there was a bit of a pause, accompanied by a change of printer and a change in the numbering system. Volume numbers from 188 to 200 seem never to have been used, and all future Albatross Crime Club titles are numbered in the 400s and mixed in with Albatross Mystery Club titles. The Mystery Club had been launched in 1937 for books that didn’t fit into the Collins definition of what a Crime novel should be, with numbers starting at 401.
Numbers 401 to 409 are all Mystery Club titles published in 1937 and printed in Scotland. But from 410 onwards, Crime Club and Mystery Club titles alternate in a more or less regular pattern, and all are printed in Germany, starting in May 1938. In June ‘Death at the Club’ by Miles Burton appeared as volume 414 and then in September ‘Death on the Board’ by Rhode as volume 422. Volume 436 in April 1939 was ‘Murder in Crown Passage’ by Burton and finally, volume 440 was ‘Proceed with caution’ by Rhode. These later titles seem more difficult to find now, although I’m not clear whether this is because of lower print numbers or because of disruption caused by the war that was about to break out.
Certainly the war ended the series in late 1939 and the final tally of 11 John Rhode titles and 6 from Miles Burton gives a total of 17 books for Cecil Street, just ahead of Agatha Christie and more than for any other author in the Albatross Crime Club series.
The recent collapse of the Thomas Cook travel firm brings to an end a history of over 175 years, since the original Thomas Cook (1808 – 1892) founded the firm in 1841. In some ways and at some times in the past, Thomas Cook was not just a travel firm, it was the travel firm – the firm responsible for organising and popularising the idea of travel in the second half of the 19th century.
Many of the travellers in 19th century Europe, particularly the British, would have booked their travel with Thomas Cook. Many of them were also of course customers of Tauchnitz, the dominant publisher of English language books in continental Europe at the time. Bernhard Tauchnitz had founded his publishing firm in 1837, but it was in 1841, the same year that Thomas Cook set out in business, that he launched the ‘Collection of British Authors’, the series that was to make his fortune.
So it was fitting that when Thomas Cook (the firm) commissioned W. Fraser Rae to write a 50th anniversary history in 1891, the resulting book, ‘The business of travel’, should also appear in the Tauchnitz series. Corporate histories are not always easy to read or popular to sell, but if anyone was going to be interested in this one, it was likely to be travellers, particularly those whose travel had been arranged by the firm.
‘The business of travel’ appeared as volume 2802 of the Tauchnitz series in January 1892, with an additional introductory chapter written by the author for the Tauchnitz Edition. This chapter, like the rest of the book, lavishes praise on John Mason Cook, the then head of the firm, and rather brushes over the contribution of Thomas Cook, his father. Thomas Cook was at that point still alive, although he died later in 1892. There had been a big argument between father and son, which had led to the founder retiring from the business in 1878. Rae, the author of the history, clearly knew on which side his bread was buttered.
Although the Tauchnitz bibliography shows only one edition of Rae’s volume, a paperback copy of the book dated 1928 on the wrapper is recorded, and the hardback copy in my own collection may be even later, judging by the binding. So it seems it must have sold reasonably well over an extended period, almost until the firm’s centenary was approaching.
By the time that centenary came in 1941, the firm would have been in no mood to celebrate it, and even less likely to ask Tauchnitz to publish a history. But after the war there were various attempts to revive the Tauchnitz brand, including a series of 40 titles published from Stuttgart as numbers 101 to 140 of the ‘New Series’. Volume 127, published in 1953, was ‘The Thomas Cook Story’ by John Pudney, a book that had been published in the UK by Michael Joseph in the same year, although not commissioned by Thomas Cook. It appeared both in paperback and in hardback versions.
The Tauchnitz Stuttgart Editions were not a great success. Post-war market conditions were very different from those that had existed before the war. Amongst other things, the rise of Penguin had brought in a formidable new competitor, so the series was short-lived and sales were almost certainly disappointing. The books continued to be sold for several years after the flow of new titles stopped, presumably to dispose of a substantial level of unsold stock. ‘The Thomas Cook story’ is one of the few titles in this series that I have seen with a dustwrapper on the hardback edition, so it may be that it was added later to freshen up old stock.
In the search for a profitable market in the 1950s, Tauchnitz also looked again at the idea of publishing German translations of foreign books. John Pudney’s book was one of five books translated into German and appearing under the series title of ‘Der Deutsche Tauchnitz’. Rather unfortunately this was the same title that had been used for a series of German novels published under Nazi control during the war, for sale outside Germany, although there was really no connection between the two ventures.
The translation appeared in 1955 under the title ‘Alles inbegriffen’, meaning ‘everything included’ or ‘all-inclusive’. So far as I know it was published only in hardback and sported a brightly coloured dustwrapper. Again, given that the series ran to only five volumes, it seems unlikely that it was a best-seller.
The market for English language publishing in Continental Europe existed well before Tauchnitz came along in 1842. It was dominated by two large French publishers, Galignani and Baudry, both of which published the latest English novels without any authorisation or any payment to the author. But there was also a German publisher, Frederick Fleischer of Leipzig with an interest in the market.
Fleischer’s niche seems to have been publishing series of books by particular authors, starting with Edward Lytton Bulwer (later Bulwer-Lytton) in 1834. Bulwer was only 31 at the time, perhaps a bit young for a ‘Complete Works’, but he was at the height of his popularity with already several novels to his name. Fleischer launched the series with ‘Pelham’ (later to be the first novel in the Tauchnitz series as well) and followed up with another five volumes of the series in that first year.
By the end of 1935 Fleischer had more or less caught up with Bulwer Lytton’s published output to date and celebrated with his portrait and signature as a frontispiece to volume 10. This might well have reinforced the impression that the series had his authorisation, which it certainly didn’t.
The publisher would now have to wait for new works – not for long as Bulwer was a prolific writer, but in the meantime it was time to launch a new author. Fleischer now settled on Frederick Marryat, another popular and prolific novelist and particularly a writer of sea stories. He too was given the honour of a ‘complete works’ series, although not the honour of any payment.
Eight novels by Marryat were published in 1836 and three more in 1837 and 1838, taking the series to eleven volumes, while the Bulwer Lytton series gradually extended to 15 volumes over the same period.
But by 1838 there was a new literary star on the horizon. The Pickwick Papers, serialised in the UK in 1836/7 and published in book form at the end of 1837, had been a huge success. Charles Dickens was now the author everyone wanted to read and Fleischer was not going to disappoint them. The Pickwick Papers appeared as the first two volumes of a new Complete Works of Charles Dickens in early 1839.
The suggestion of a ‘Complete Works’ of Dickens in 1839 was even more odd than it had been for Bulwer five years earlier. Dickens was barely 27 years old and had just two or three published works to his name. ‘Sketches by Boz’ had appeared in 1836 and ‘Oliver Twist’ appeared in book form in April 1839.
But Fleischer was far from alone in seeing the potential of Dickens. Both Baudry and Galignani had already published pirate editions of Pickwick in English in 1838 (with Galignani probably the first). J.J. Weber had also published a German translations in parts in 1837/8 and 1839 saw a second translation from Vieweg & Sohn of Braunschweig.
Fleischer followed up with ‘Oliver Twist’ as volume 3, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ as volumes 4 and 5 and ‘Sketches’ as volume 6, so that by the end of 1940 he was up to date with Dickens’ works. Three volumes of ‘Master Humphrey’s Clock’ followed in 1841/2, taking Dickens to 9 volumes, while Bulwer gradually increased to 20 volumes and Marryat to 14.
Then in 1942 the rival Tauchnitz series launched, also in Leipzig, and it was very quickly all over for Fleischer. Even before Tauchnitz in mid-1843 landed the hammer blow of obtaining authorisation from the authors in return for payment, Fleischer had more or less given up. The final volume, ‘The last of the barons’ by Bulwer, appeared in 1843 and Fleischer, one of the last of the pirates, hauled down his Jolly Roger and went back to publishing books in German.
Where I left the story in my last post (US Penguins 1942 – 1945), Ian Ballantine had left the business to help found Bantam Books. For a period, Allen Lane sent Eunice Frost out to New York to work with Kurt Enoch, probably not just to help him out, but to keep an eye on him.
That was only ever a temporary measure – Eunice Frost was too valuable back at Head Office – but Lane had his eye on a longer term solution. He had made contact with Victor Weybright, an American with publishing experience who had been working at the American Embassy in London during the war.
Allen Lane needed someone to act as a balance to Kurt Enoch, whom he no longer fully trusted. Enoch had taken the business a long way away from the founding principles of Penguin, competing head-to-head with Pocket Books, Dell Books and others on their terms, rather than trying to change the market. US Penguins had adopted illustrated covers on US style glossy card and the standard size of other local competitors. And the quality of the list was arguably not consistent with Penguin’s UK positioning either.
But Enoch had a personal stake in the capital of the US business and as he had organised the capital raising, some of the rest was held by his friends and associates. So both Allen Lane and Victor Weybright had to tread carefully at first.
Lane’s policy seems to have been one of constructive ambiguity – sending Weybright out more or less to negotiate his own way into the business. When he arrived, Enoch claimed not to have heard of him and was unwilling to meet him. After a two hour wait outside a closed door, there followed a week of talks mostly conducted through lawyers. The story is told from Weybright’s point of view in his autobiography, although this is highly self-serving and may not be entirely reliable.
But in the end an agreement was reached, which Weybright characterised as ‘absolute parity’ for the two men in terms of status within the organisation. Enoch would concentrate on production and distribution and Weybright on the publishing programme and public relations, an area where he considered Enoch’s abilities extremely limited. Perhaps surprisingly after such a difficult start, they formed an effective partnership that not only stayed together for many years, but was highly successful in a very competitive market. Enoch initially saw Weybright simply as a stooge for Allen Lane, but it was not long before the two of them were united in negotiating a break from Lane and from Penguin Books.
It’s hard to know exactly when Weybright’s influence began to be seen in terms of the series itself. He arrived in August 1945, but probably had little effect on the books published in the following few months. They included notably ‘Trouble in July’ by Erskine Caldwell, an author not approved of by Lane, but who became enormously important for the business over the following years.
Weybright almost certainly though was influential in the major changes that took place from January 1946 and included a significant redesign in the look and feel of the books, as well as the launch of a non-fiction Pelican list. Both were important developments that had long-lasting effects, but I’ll leave discussion of the US Pelican list for another day.
In some ways the re-design was just another step in the gradual transition that had been going on for three to four years already, away from the UK Penguin style and towards fully illustrated covers. It introduced full colour printing and illustrations stretching right across the front cover, and perhaps even more symbolically, it abandoned the colour-coding that had been such a key part of the Penguin brand, in favour of a bizarre system of different shaped symbols to indicate genre. The changes could be seen as the final break with the sober traditions of Penguin in the UK.
But in another way the business was actually moving back towards some of the key Penguin attributes in the UK. In particular the size of the books changed back to the standard UK size, distinguishing them from most other US paperbacks. And although not immediately apparent (perhaps not even to Allen Lane), the nature of the list was changing to one that was maybe more in line with Penguin principles.
A more literary list?
From a list that throughout most of 1944 and 1945 had been dominated by crime novels and relatively light fiction, there were now indications of more serious literature. D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster appeared in the January 1946 list, Virginia Woolf, Jack London, Sherwood Anderson and John Steinbeck over the next few months, and then in July, three plays by Bernard Shaw were issued to mark Shaw’s 90th birthday. Weybright was diplomatically taking some of the best of Penguin’s output from the UK and mixing it with more specifically American titles.
There were still plenty of lighter novels, and several that were too racy for Allen Lane’s taste. Weybright records that Lane seemed annoyed by the fact that Erskine Caldwell’s ‘God’s Little Acre’ was a runaway success, supporting the business through a difficult time. But the proportion of crime stories certainly went down and there does seem to have been a serious attempt to position the series as rather more up-market and literary. Indeed I’d suggest that the 80 or so books published in 1946 and 1947 stand comparison with almost any run of 80 books appearing in the UK Penguin main series.
In September 1946 Lady Chatterley’s Lover appeared as volume 610 and it was followed in November by E.V. Rieu’s new translation of ‘The Odyssey’ published by Penguin in the UK. Early 1947 saw Henry James and Joseph Conrad added to the list followed by William Faulkner’s ‘Sanctuary’. Lane disapproved of Faulkner, but when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, Weybright must have felt vindicated, as indeed when Lane later fought a court battle to publish Lady Chatterley in the UK.
Of course part of Allen Lane’s disapproval stemmed from the illustrated covers rather than the actual contents of the books. The covers were undoubtedly becoming more colourful and striking (regarded by Weybright as a necessity to compete in the US market), but Lane’s generalised slur on illustrated covers as nothing but ‘bosoms and bottoms’ would not have been a fair description of them, at least in 1946/1947.
Most of the covers were designed by Robert Jonas, often featuring stylised images evoking the spirit of the books rather than specific scenes from them. The Jonas covers are often described as having a distinctive style, but in fact several of the covers by other artists seem to me to be consistent with them, so it may be more of a house style influenced by Jonas rather than just the style of one artist.
Cover designs not by Robert Jonas
When Allen Lane visited New York in April 1947 it became clear that a split with the UK business was inevitable. The terms were negotiated in October of that year and by February 1948 the changes were under way. Penguins were to be re-branded as Signet Books, while Pelicans became Mentor Books – the overall business becoming the New American Library. For a period in early 1948 books were branded as ‘Penguin Signet’ but from August 1948 references to Penguin were dropped and the business was on its own.
Freed of UK constraints, the cover art took another turn. Robert Jonas was for a time Art Director, but from about November 1947 his stylised designs started to give way to a more brash style of which Allen Lane would certainly not have approved. Penguins had come a long way in a relatively short time.
Penguin’s attempt to woo the American market had started in 1939 with the establishment of an office in New York under the twenty-three year old Ian Ballantine, importing Penguins from the UK. It was not a great time though to be shipping books across the Atlantic and by 1941 it was clear that the operation had no future unless books could be produced locally.
A small number of UK books were reprinted in the US, but to extend the operation and move into local publishing, Allen Lane would need a more experienced publisher. He was perhaps lucky to find Kurt Enoch, one of the founders of Albatross Books, and a Jew who had been forced by the Nazis to leave Germany and then subsequently had had to flee for a second time from Paris, after it fell to the German army ( for the full story, see ‘A strange bird’ by Michele Troy).
Enoch had recently arrived in the US, was looking for work, and suggested to Lane that he could raise the capital to launch a local publishing programme. Lane took him on as Vice President responsible for production and design, with Ballantine in charge of distribution / sales. That leaves it a little unclear who was responsible for the core function of choosing and commissioning new titles. Enoch was the one with experience in this area at the time, so presumably took the lead, although Ballantine later went on to become a hugely successful publisher in his own right.
Albatross Books had been in many ways the model for Penguin, so Allen Lane might reasonably have expected to find in Kurt Enoch somebody who shared his ideals and vision for the business. But from the start Enoch seems to have had doubts about key parts of the Penguin brand that had been so successful in the UK.
The parents of American Penguins – rather different from the child
Penguin’s UK launch had been almost an overnight success and had transformed the UK paperback market, with almost all competitors adopting the main elements of the Penguin ‘package’ – size, price, colour coding, dustwrappers and so on, but above all, no cover illustration. The first tentative steps in the US market had not triggered any similar revolution and Enoch seems to have been sceptical that it ever could. Almost from day one, he seems to have had his eye on illustrated covers.
For Allen Lane and others back in Harmondsworth though, this was an article of faith. Before Penguin’s UK launch, there had been plenty of people saying that non-illustrated covers could never work in the UK market and they had proved them all wrong. Now they saw the brightly striped and immediately recognisable covers of Penguin Books as their main weapon in conquering new markets. The scene was set for a struggle that could have profound consequences for Penguin’s future.
In early 1942 the new US Penguin series launched, with numbers starting from 501. The first two books, numbers 501 and 502, appeared with the iconic striped covers. First blood to the Brits. But by volume 503 the design had changed significantly to one that allowed space on the front for a brief written description of the book, and on the back for advertising or for information about the author. Enoch must have been planning this for some time, perhaps waiting for approval from Head Office.
While Lane may not have been happy with any move away from the classic design, this change looks as though it may have been deliberately designed to get approval. It retains enough elements of Penguin identity to still look Penguin-ish and it’s still a very restrained design that doesn’t introduce any illustration to the front cover. It also retains the principle of colour coding used in the UK. Crime is still green, although perhaps strangely, the classic Penguin orange for novels is replaced by red, and yellow is more widely used for a range of books including non-fiction and westerns.
But this was by no means the limit of Enoch’s ambitions. He wanted cover illustration, and as it happened he had the right opportunity to get a foot into the door. A short series of classic texts illustrated by woodcuts had appeared in the UK in 1938 as Penguin Illustrated Classics. They had used illustration on the covers and had included ‘Walden’ by Thoreau, an American classic that would fit well into the new US Penguin series. How could the UK Head Office possibly object to a cover illustration that they had themselves used? The book appeared as volume 508 and was the first American Penguin to feature cover art.
Once the principle had been breached, Enoch was not going to let go. He had shown how a simple illustration could (not coincidentally?) fit well into the cover design he had introduced and others would follow. The first was ‘Tombstone’ by Walter Noble Burns, volume 514 published in October 1942, and from then on illustrated covers were the norm. It may have grated even more in the UK that the process started with a western – at this stage considered too down market for Penguin in the UK, although later on in the series, a few did appear.
The first illustrations were quite small, but it was not long before they were taking up the entire panel. And in the meantime, Enoch was attacking another of Penguin’s key brand attributes – the size of the books. Penguins had always been roughly 11 cm by 18 cm, a format based on the golden ratio and again copied from Albatross. But paperbacks in the US and particularly those from the main competitor, Pocket Books, were shorter and squatter. So Penguin moved in line with them.
This was in November 1943, barely 18 months after the launch and already Penguins had little in common with their UK parents and looked more like the local competitors. Even the glossy card covers and the red page edges looked more American than British. Any idea of changing the market had been abandoned. It was the Penguins that were having to change.
From late 1943 onwards, the rate of new titles started to increase and the cover illustrations became more and more dominant, with the single colour of the covers increasingly used within the picture as well. From volume 566 in October 1945, a second colour is used on the cover before moving on to full colour shortly afterwards.
This was though another turbulent period for the business. Some time around the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945, Ian Ballantine resigned to work on the launch of a competitor, Bantam Books. He had learned what he could from Enoch and was ready to take the next step in his publishing career. Allen Lane however was not prepared to leave Kurt Enoch in sole charge of Penguin’s US business. Eunice Frost, originally Allen Lane’s secretary and still in her twenties, but in practice one of his closest aides in London, was sent out to New York to hold the fort, while Lane attempted to make more permanent arrangements.
That eventually led to the appointment of Victor Weybright to work with Enoch, and to a whole series of other developments. I’ll come back to them in another post and also look separately at the US Penguin Specials, an important series in their own right, which had been published alongside the main series throughout the period I’ve been talking about.
By the time P.G. Wodehouse first appeared in a Tauchnitz Edition in 1924, he was already a well-established and successful writer with around 20 novels to his name. For an author who went on to have around 40 books published by Tauchnitz, this was a surprisingly late start. But Wodehouse had started to come to prominence just as the First World War effectively took the German firm out of the market for new English language books, and the effects of the war lingered on for several years afterwards.
It was at least 1923 before Tauchnitz could get back to anything like a normal publishing programme and it never really recovered its former dominance of the market. The ability to spot promising new writers and publish their latest works almost simultaneously with the first UK editions, had been a defining feature of the business for much of the nineteenth century, but by the mid-1920s it was a fading memory. And Tauchnitz was entering a period that would prove to be one of the most turbulent of its existence. So we should perhaps be grateful that they were able to publish Wodehouse at all.
As usual with a new writer, Tauchnitz were keen to start with Wodehouse’s latest new work, rather than going back to earlier works. So the first in the series was a volume of short stories, ‘Ukridge’, published in the UK in June 1924, and then two months later in Tauchnitz as volume 4651, dated August 1924 at the top of the back wrapper on the first printing.
As always with Tauchnitz paperbacks, it’s the date on the back wrapper that’s important for dating, rather than the date on the title page, which remains fixed at the first printing year, even on reprints many years later. First printing paperbacks from this period also have a distinctive two column format for the latest volumes, which was not used on reprints.
For Tauchnitz Editions from the 1920s and 1930s far more copies do survive in paperback than is the case for 19th century novels and they’re much easier to date than bound copies, so I’ve focused on these.
Wodehouse’s next new novel was ‘Bill the Conqueror’, published in the UK in November 1924 and again following rapidly in Tauchnitz as volume 4669, dated January 1925 in the first printing (and listing only ‘Ukridge’ on the back of the half-title). Another volume of short stories, ‘Carry on, Jeeves’, appeared in the UK in October 1925 and the novel ‘Sam the sudden’ came out in the same month. Both were taken up by Tauchnitz – ‘Carry on, Jeeves!’ as volume 4710, dated November 1925 and ‘Sam the sudden’ as volume 4714, dated January 1926.
The pattern seemed to be set, with Tauchnitz taking each new work of Wodehouse’s as quickly as possible after UK printing. But prolific as Wodehouse was, new works were not coming fast enough to satisfy the appetite of continental readers, and there was still a temptingly long list of older works that could be issued. So along with the next volume of short stories, ‘The heart of a goof’ (volume 4641, dated July 1926), Tauchnitz also published a much earlier work ‘ Love among the chickens’ (volume 4640, July 1926), that Wodehouse had first written in 1906 and then rewritten in 1921.
Two other older works, ‘Psmith, journalist’ (vol. 4776, April 1927) and ‘Leave it to Psmith’ (vol. 4777, April 1927) followed in 1927 and from then on two or three new volumes were added almost every year, in a mix of completely new works and older works, both novels and short story collections. By mid 1929, when Curt Otto, the Managing Director, died, fourteen volumes of P.G. Wodehouse had been issued by Tauchnitz.
The incoming General Manager, Christian Wegner, set about making some significant changes, starting with a modernisation of the cover design for the series. After keeping essentially the same cover design for the first 70 years of its existence, a first real change had come in 1914, and now it was entering on a period of continual change. The new design appeared on a Wodehouse novel for the first time, with publication of ‘Mr. Mulliner speaking (vol. 4963, November 1930), followed quickly by ‘Very good, Jeeves!’ (vol. 4983, March 1931) and ‘Summer lightning’ (vol. 4995, June 1931).
Fourteen books appeared in the revised design taking the total to 28 and then from 1935, there was another change. Wegner had left under a cloud, but by mid 1934 he was effectively back as one of the managers of Albatross Books, which took over editorial control of Tauchnitz. The two lists for Albatross and Tauchnitz were managed together, but with Wodehouse remaining very much a Tauchnitz writer, with no entry to the (arguably more prestigious) Albatross list.
Another new cover design was launched in mid 1935, this time colour-coded to indicate genre. All Wodehouse volumes were coded orange, the colour for ‘tales and short stories, humorous and satirical works’. Shortly afterwards the size of the books changed to match the size of the Albatross volumes and dustwrappers in the same design as the covers were introduced, again in line with Albatross.
A further new design was introduced in 1938 that used colour more strikingly, but by this time war was approaching fast, and with it the end of the Tauchnitz series.
‘The code of the Woosters’, issued in June 1939 as volume 5357, was the last Wodehouse title to appear in the series before the outbreak of the Second World War, but it was not to be the last title of all. Wodehouse had been living in Le Touquet in France and was interned by the Germans after the invasion of France. He wrote ‘Money in the Bank’ on a typewriter provided by the Germans while in internment and the text was made available to Tauchnitz. It appeared in August 1943 as the very last volume in the Tauchnitz series, volume 5370, bringing the total number of Wodehouse works published in the series up to thirty-nine. It was the only new writing in English to be published in the Tauchnitz series after 1939.
Along with the infamous broadcasts on German radio, this was another example of Wodehouse being perhaps too willingly duped by the enemy. Certainly for them it was a publicity coup, and the book seems to have been printed in substantial numbers, although it’s hard to imagine much market in Germany in 1943 for Wodehouse’s brand of comedy.
The story should really end here. Shortly after publication of ‘Money in the bank’, the Tauchnitz premises were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid and after 100 years and 5370 volumes, the Tauchnitz Collection of British (and American) Authors came to an end.
But in fact it’s not the end of the story. After the war there were various attempts to revive Tauchnitz. A series of books reprinted from Hamburg, included ‘Money in the Bank’ as volume 16 in 1949. Then a short series of mostly new works published from Stuttgart, included two Wodehouse volumes -‘The mating season’ (volume 107 in 1952) and ‘Ring for Jeeves’ (volume 137 in 1954).
Neither of these post-war ventures was much of a success, and although no new volumes were published after 1955, unsold stock hung around for many years. In an attempt to shift it, more modern covers were added in the early 1960s and ‘Ring for Jeeves’ was certainly one of the books to appear in this style, at least the eighth style of wrapper to be applied to Wodehouse volumes by Tauchnitz.