Dating Tauchnitz paperbacks

Bound copies of the Tauchnitz Edition are very difficult to date.  Most of the key dating information is on the original wrappers that have usually been discarded by the bookbinder.  But what if the wrappers are still present?  Surely then it’s easy to date them, and to identify first printings?

In most cases, it is – the date, both month and year, is shown at the top of the back wrapper.  But not always, and even when it is, there can still be complications.  Firstly the early editions were undated and by early, I mean for the first 30 years of the series, roughly from 1842 to 1872.  Copies from this period in their original wrappers do still turn up from time to time, and although all are 150 years or so old and certainly rare, they’re still often a long way from first printings.

Tauchnitz 80 rear wrapper

Some of the earliest paperbacks are best dated by comparing the other titles listed on the back.  This one is from 1846.

Todd and Bowden in their Tauchnitz bibliography, introduced a system for classifying and dating these early editions, which relies in large part on the dictionary adverts on the back wrapper.  In a reversal of their practice with novels, Tauchnitz always recorded the printing date and the edition number for their dictionaries.  So if the wrapper advertises the 16th edition of the English-German dictionary, it comes from 1865 /66, if it advertises the 20th edition, it’s from 1869/70, and so on.

Tauchnitz 464 rear wrapper

This paperback is one of the first to advertise Tauchnitz Dictionaries on the back.  Reference to the Eleventh Stereotype Edition dates it to 1859-1860

This method is fairly reliable, but it’s not the full story.  When a book was rapidly reprinted, it can exist in two different wrappers, both advertising the same edition of the dictionary.  Then the only way of identifying the first printing is the laborious process of checking through the list of other titles to make sure that the wrapper doesn’t include any later-published titles.

From June 1872 until December 1934, the process gets much easier, as the back wrappers are dated.  If the wrapper date is later than the year shown on the title page, it must be a reprint.  If it’s in the same year, then it comes down to checking the month against the bibliography.   For much of this period though, there’s a simpler way, because Tauchnitz adopted a different style of wrapper for first printings and reprints.

The new style for first printings appears around volume 2990 in 1894.  The front wrapper is still identical, but the list on the back switches to a much larger typeface for the titles, with a very short description underneath – often just ‘A new novel’.   Instead of being just on the back wrapper, this list, on first printings only, stretches over the inside wrappers as well.   In fact the distinction that first printing wrappers have a list extending over the inside and back wrappers, whereas reprints have the list only on the back wrapper, seems to predate the change to the new format by  a year or so.  The first example I’ve seen of this is dated May 1893.

Tauchnitz 2990 New format Continued from page 3

An early example of the 1st printing format – June 1894

The picture below shows a comparison between the style of wrapper used for first printings and the style for reprints, that continued from 1894 right through to 1914.   Throughout this period a quick glance at the style of the back wrapper can identify first printings much quicker than a comparison of dates or volume numbers.

Tauchnitz 3220 rear covers July 1897 1st printing and reprint

1st printing style on left, reprint on right

Then in 1914 a new two-column style was introduced for first printings, now with a slightly longer description of each book, still extending over the inner wrappers as well.   The comparison below of first printing and reprint formats shows them still easily distinguishable.   In some cases, as below, where books were reprinted very quickly after first printing, both first printing and reprint exist with the same month at the top of the back wrapper.  Then only the difference in format can distinguish which is the true first.

Tauchnitz 4578 rear covers June 1922 1st printing and reprint

‘Back to Methuselah’ by George Bernard Shaw (volume 4522).  1st printing and reprint both from June 1922

So far as I know, this rule for identifying first printings is almost always respected.  There is one known example on volume 4700 where the first printing in the correct format is dated September 1925, but copies also exist in reprint format dated August 1925.  Todd & Bowden still give first printing status to the copies dated September 1925, partly on the basis of the bound-in catalogues.  I’m inclined to agree and to think that one or other is mis-dated, but there must be some doubt about this.  Other than that, the rule seems to be a cast iron guide.

This second first printing format continued from about April 1914 (volume 4477) through to December 1934 (volume 5178).  By this point Albatross had taken over editorial control of the series and was starting to apply the more modern design principles of its own series.  Adverts on the back cover had no place in this, and after a brief period of totally plain back covers, Tauchnitz adopted a completely new cover design and the Albatross system of colour-coding by genre.  Dates as well as advertising for other titles moved to inside pages.  In many cases a printing date and sometimes even an indication that a book is a second printing can be found on the back of the title page.  It was only five years though before the Second World War effectively ended the series and so relatively few volumes from this period were reprinted anyway.


Helping refugees – 1940s style

From soon after the start of World War II in 1939, Britain became home to significant numbers of refugees from countries occupied by German forces – French, Dutch and Polish amongst others.  In response to their needs the British Council published a number of books describing different aspects of the British way of life.  A series on ‘British Life and Thought’ was published by Longman Green for the British Council, starting with ten books in 1940 and including titles such as ‘The British system of Government’, ‘British Justice’ and ‘British Education’.

Perhaps the most interesting title in this series was a volume on ‘The Englishman’, written by Earl Baldwin, who had been Prime Minister only three years previously.  But it may have been rivalled by a parallel volume on ‘The Englishwoman’ by Cicely Hamilton, who had been very active in the suffrage movement, writing and acting in plays on the subject as well as campaigning.  The series eventually ran to 25 or more titles, continuing even after the war.


But books in English were not enough.  The British Council wanted to publish books in the languages of the refugees as well, which led to a new series – the International Guild Books.   This series started in 1942 with six books, three of them taken from the Longman Green series, two other short books about the British Empire from the Oxford University Press and one new book specially written for the series – ‘Come and See Britain’ by Guy Ramsey.

International Guild Book F1

They were described as published for the British Council by Guild Books, an unusual organisation that wasn’t really a publisher at all,  just an imprint of the British Publishers Guild.  Its original role was as a sort of anti-Penguin front, a combined book industry response to the paperback revolution initiated by Penguin.  It had come too late to be an effective competitive response, and its publication of around 50 paperbacks in 1941 / 1942 made little impression on a market that was by then struggling to adapt to wartime conditions.  So by 1942 it was perhaps looking around for what to do next.  That eventually led to the long series of Services Editions, which was the highpoint of the Guild’s surprisingly long existence, but in the meantime it turned its hand to British Council work.

The books were translated into up to six languages – French, Dutch, Greek, Polish, Czech and Norwegian – all languages of countries invaded by the Nazis.  Guy Ramsey’s book was translated into all six languages, two others into five languages, and overall from this first group, 23 different language versions were produced.  Two further books followed in 1943 in 7 language versions, and when a Greek language version of one of the first books was added in 1944 that brought the total to 31 books – seven each in Polish and Czech, five each for Greek, Norwegian and Dutch, and two in French.   It’s possible that a sixth Dutch book was added later, bringing the overall total to 32, but I can’t get clear confirmation of that.

International Guild Book P1

As was typical for the time, the books had a standard designed wrapper, with different colours used to signify different languages – orange (of course) for Dutch, light blue for Greek and so on.   The design was based on the British Council’s flaming torch symbol, held over a globe surrounded by stars.   To modern eyes it looks almost Soviet in its iconography.  Dustwrappers had by this time been abandoned on paperbacks, but the covers still had the slightly odd turned-back flaps that were used around then.

They were all fairly short books – typically not much more than 80 pages or so – but on reasonable quality paper and not particularly cramped in their layout.  Some books had photographs and the Ramsey book even had two coloured pages of maps.  There’s no evidence of war economy standard production here.   The books sold for either 9d or 1s, with the higher price generally for those with photographs.   Production numbers were probably quite low, maybe only a thousand or so of each(?),  although it’s hard to tell now.  Certainly few have survived, but that’s generally the case for wartime paperbacks anyway, even when printed in much, much larger quantities.

International Guild Book C3

I don’t know of any significant collection of them, other than the ones I’ve put together.  There are very few copies shown on the library cataloguing system, Worldcat, and only a handful to be found on internet book sites.   Just another wartime paperback series on the point of falling out of recorded knowledge.

Victorian women novelists – racier than you might think

It’s a persuasive and persistent myth that in Victorian times it was difficult for women to get novels published.  It doesn’t help that some of the best known women novelists of the period, notably George Eliot and the Brontë sisters, used pseudonyms that were male, or at least in the case of the Brontës, gender neutral.  From there it’s a small jump to conclude that it was only by pretending to be male that they could get published.

NPG 1405; George Eliot (Mary Ann Cross (nÈe Evans)) replica by FranÁois D'Albert Durade

George Eliot from a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery

Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in the mid-Victorian period.   I use as evidence the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors, which is as near as you can get to a representative coverage of English Literature at the time.   For the 25 year period from roughly 1864 to 1889 the collection included more volumes by female authors than male authors.   In the early Victorian period, it’s true that female authors were much less common (and undoubtedly subject to some prejudice as well), and after 1890 the balance also swung back some way towards the men.  But overall the evidence is clear – there were large numbers of Victorian women novelists – and they did get published.

But there’s another myth that needs puncturing – the myth of Victorian Values.  It’s easy to think that Victorian women novelists were a straight-laced bunch, upholding in their lives as well as their writing, a strict moral code, that certainly involved no sex outside marriage.   In practice many women writers were writing ‘sensation novels’, in which it seemed almost every character had a guilty secret.   The dramatic tension came from the contrast between the values that society seemed to expect and the rather messier lives led under the surface.


The Countess of Blessington, from a portrait by Thomas Lawrence

And the authors certainly had messy lives themselves. I’ve written before about the Countess of Blessington, the first female author to be published by Tauchnitz in 1843.  She was in an abusive marriage, then lived as the mistress of the Earl of Blessington, before eventually marrying him.   It was later strongly rumoured that she was in a relationship with the Count d’Orsay, who married her step-daughter.


Caroline Norton from a portrait by Frank Stone in the National Portrait Gallery

Or take Caroline Norton, another of the early Tauchnitz authors (and the daughter of another women novelist).  She had left her husband in 1836 and was involved in a close friendship with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.  After attempting unsuccessfully to blackmail Melbourne, Caroline’s husband sued the Prime Minister for ‘criminal conversation’ with his wife.  This was rejected by the court, but the scandal nearly brought down the Government.  Caroline is then said to have had a five year affair with a Conservative politician, Sidney Herbert.  She was, perhaps pointedly, referred to on the title pages of her Tauchnitz novels, as The Honourable Caroline Norton.

NPG x21214; Florence Marryat by Unknown photographer

From the National Portrait Gallery

Florence Marryat, one of the most prolific Victorian authors, also left her husband to live with another man.  Her husband eventually sued for divorce, citing his wife’s adultery, and Florence re-married.  Mary Elizabeth Braddon, even more prolific with over 100 volumes to her name in the Tauchnitz series, lived for many years with John Maxwell who was already married to someone else.  And of course George Eliot famously lived with another married man (and another Tauchnitz author), George Henry Lewes.

Elizabeth von Arnim

Elizabeth von Arnim

One of the more prominent women authors towards the end of the Victorian era, Elizabeth von Arnim, writing as Countess Russell, was for several years the mistress of H.G. Wells.  And it wasn’t just the British.  Léonie d’Aunet, possibly the only French woman author whose work appeared in the Tauchnitz series (her work ‘Un mariage en province’ was translated / adapted by Lady Georgiana Fullerton), had a seven year affair with Victor Hugo, for which she was arrested and spent time in prison and in a convent.

Tauchnitz 1769 Leonie D'Aunet

Portrait of Léonie d’Aunet by her husband François-Auguste Biard

There are no doubt many other examples.  I don’t of course want to imply that the men were any better.  Amongst others, Dickens left his wife for an 18 year old actress and the unmarried Wilkie Collins seems to have split his affections between two women simultaneously.   My point is just that Victorian women writers were not only numerous, but racier than you might think.  Victorian Values were just another myth.

Mystery stories in Collins White Circle

I wrote recently about the important distinction that Collins made between Crime stories and Mystery stories – important to them, that is.   It had its origins in the exclusivity of the Collins Crime Club series, so when Collins launched a new series of Crime Club paperbacks in March 1936 – the series that eventually became the White Circle paperbacks – it was natural that to start with, it excluded ‘mystery’ stories.

But once a parallel series of western paperbacks was added a few months later in a similar format and also with a large white circle as the title panel on the front cover, it was perhaps inevitable that mystery stories would follow.  The  westerns started in August 1936 with numbering from 101, leaving the first 100 numbers for crime titles, and mystery stories launched in January 1937, starting from number 201.

Where the Crime Club titles had featured two mysterious figures in green and black, and the westerns were in yellow with a cowboy on a rearing horse, the mystery titles used purple and a policeman blowing a whistle as their design motif.

The back cover of the first six titles explained what the mystery classification meant: ‘While the Crime Club issues books based on a definite detective process, Collins’ famous series of Mystery Novels sponsor equally exciting books of a different kind – mainly Secret Service stories and thrillers of the type for which Edgar Wallace was famous.  The Mystery Novels now published in this new pocket format have been selected from the most successful in this series.’

I still struggle to understand why, to take one example – ‘Unnatural death’ by Dorothy L. Sayers (published as one of those first six mystery titles), is not a Crime novel, or not considered as being ‘based on a definite detective process’, but it matters little.  By the time the next batch of 6 mystery novels, numbered 207 to 212, appeared in September / October 1937, the White Circle name had been adopted for the overall series, with crime stories, westerns, mysteries and romances identified as sub-series, each with their own identity, but clearly part of a larger whole.  The series continued with this structure for the next 20 years.

White Circle 202

White Circle number 202

The pattern of issuing books in batches of six at a time gradually broke down, but new books continued to be added at a steady rate throughout 1938 and 1939, so that over 40 mystery titles had been published by the time war broke out in September 1939.  That inevitably slowed things down a bit and by 1943, with the constraints of paper rationing, the overall series more or less ground to a halt.  It effectively continued in a different form through the Collins series of Services Editions, but that’s another story.

Wartime restrictions also killed off the dustwrappers that had been used on the early volumes up to the end of 1939 – the first 45 volumes in the mystery series.

The main authors in those early years included J.M. Walsh / Stephen Maddock, David Hume, Arthur Mills, Sydney Horler and Edgar Wallace.   Peter Cheyney, who came to dominate the list later on, made his first appearance in 1939 and gradually rose in prominence through the 1940s.  So far as I can tell, none of the authors other than Dorothy L. Sayers are much read or much collected today, and again with the exception of Sayers, none of the individual titles have become anything resembling classics of the genre.

White Circle 219

One that has become a classic.  White Circle number 219.

By 1943, just over 80 mystery titles had been published, numbered from 201 to 282, and a handful of further titles after the war took the numbering up to 300 by 1950.   Numbers from 301 onwards had earlier been allocated to an odd mix of Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga novels  and romantic fiction, but a precedent for dealing with this had already been set by the crime sub-series.   Numbers 98 and 99 had been followed by 100c, 101c etc,, so that 101c (crime) could be distinguished from 101 (western).  On this basis, the mystery titles should have gone from 299 or 300 on to 301m, 302m etc.  They did eventually adopt this format, but only from 308m, so that the numbers from 301 to 307 are used twice.   There’s a more detailed look at some of the numbering peculiarities of the White Circle series on this link.

The post-war revival of the series didn’t really get going again until about 1950, but from then on around 10 mystery titles were added each year, reaching number 350m by 1955 and continuing up to a final 397m in 1959.  However not all were entirely new, as several titles were re-issued under a new number.   Throughout the final decade of the series, the list was dominated by two authors – Peter Cheyney and Edwy Searles Brooks, who wrote under the pseudonyms of Berkeley Gray and Victor Gunn.   Cheyney was the undoubted star, and many of his books featured a special front cover with his image replacing the usual policeman.  But Brooks was prolific too and between them these two authors accounted for around 60 of the approximately 100 titles published between 1950 and 1959.

Cheyney front cover

White Circle number 354m

The final book in the Mystery sub-series was ‘The lady is poison’ by Berkeley Gray, number 397m, published in August 1959 shortly before the end of the overall White Circle series.   Over a period of almost 25 years it had included almost 200 ‘mystery’ books and certainly made its mark as a leader in this area.



Imperium and A Christmas Carol

The RSC are giving Shakespeare a rest this Christmas.   While the main theatre has its usual family-friendly show with David Edgar’s adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, the Swan Theatre hosts Imperium – Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels.  At over 6 hours of theatre, spread over two shows, this one is perhaps a little less family-friendly.   But it has three long books to cover, not just a slim volume of Dickens.

‘A Christmas Carol’ is of course a treat, and particularly a visual treat, although not because of  lavish scenery.  At times it needs only a top hat and a dress coat here, a couple of doors there, to summon up Victorian London, or perhaps more specifically Dickensian London.  The scene with Mr. Fezziwig in Scrooge’s youth is probably not really Victorian, but captured so perfectly the Dickensian image of a slightly earlier period that it seemed to bring the original book illustration to life.

A Christmas Carol Mr and Mrs Fezziwig

Brigid Zengeni and John Hodgkinson as Mrs and Mr Fezziwig

A Christmas Carol Mr and Mrs Fezziwig 2

Original illustration by John Leech

Phil Davis is well cast as Scrooge, surely partly on the basis of his earlier role as Smallweed in the TV adaptation of Bleak House.  I didn’t find his personal journey to greater empathy and happiness entirely convincing though. There’s neither a gradual process of understanding, nor a sudden epiphany – more just a feeling of well yes, of course I see that, which is difficult to square with his earlier attitudes.

A Christmas Carol Scrooge and Bob Cratchit

Phil Davis as Scrooge with Gerard Carey as Bob Cratchit

But the bigger difficulty I have with this production is the role of Dickens, who wanders in and out of the action with his friend, and later biographer, John Forster.  David Edgar and the Director, Rachel Kavanaugh, seem to have decided that the story doesn’t stand well enough on its own.  It risks being seen as  – well, a feel-good family-friendly Christmas show.  So they rather ram down our throats the message that Dickens was not just writing a Christmas ghost story – he was a campaigner trying to draw attention to some of the social evils of the time.  Slightly bizarrely they show Forster having to convince Dickens, the great storyteller, that a story might be the best way to get his  political and social message across.

But in doing so they seem to be denying this very premise.  They don’t trust the storyteller to get his message across through the story – they have to give him a second chance to air his views by talking directly to the audience as well.  Dickens didn’t have to do that – he could just publish the story and let it stand on its own – and the RSC shouldn’t need to either.

‘Imperium’ too has a narrator, who both takes part in the action and stands back from it to pass comment on it, but at least here it’s a device that comes directly from the book.  Joseph Kloska plays Tiro, Cicero’s secretary and biographer.  He’s very likeable in the role, although it’s slightly odd that he seems not to age, while his master does.  The role works much better than with Dickens in a Christmas Carol, and partly because it’s treated a little less earnestly and more tongue in cheek.

Imperium Joseph Kloska as Tiro

Joseph Kloska as Tiro

There’s still a feeling though that the RSC isn’t quite prepared to trust its audience to draw their own conclusions.   As one example, at a key point in the first play they plant in the audience’s mind the idea that perhaps it was Cicero himself who wrote some forged letters.  They then reinforce the idea with muttering from one of his slaves about the role he had to play in the affair.   But that’s not enough – at the end of the play, as though delivering the final coup, they reveal that, surprise surprise, Cicero wrote the letters.

It felt similar in the second play when Mark Anthony’s continual drunken staggering seemed mainly designed to reinforce the point, repeated several times, that his wife was the real power behind the throne.  A few lines of carefully crafted dialogue, or perhaps even a single raised finger, could have made the point far more effectively.  Or given that the plays were very light on female roles, we could perhaps have heard more directly from Fulvia herself, with less focus on her alleged puppet (compare Shakespeare’s treatment of Lady Macbeth for example).  As it is, the women in the play are little more than caricatures, there for sentimentality or for cheap jokes about licentiousness or avarice.

And what on earth was going on with the apparent appearance of Julius Caesar’s ghost, screaming ‘Avenge me’, at his state funeral?  Were Mark Anthony’s words not enough indication that were those who would be seeking revenge?  I don’t recall Shakespeare having to make the point quite so unsubtly.  Subtlety was not really the strong point of this version, certainly not when it came to a perma-tanned, bouffant-haired Pompey declaring “I’m a Republican”.

Perhaps I protest too much.  No-one is claiming that this is Shakespeare.  For all the lack of subtlety, these were two wonderfully enjoyable evenings of theatre.  Richard McCabe held them together with a strong performance as Cicero and impressive stamina, channelling his inner Tony Hancock into moments of world-weary cynicism inbetween his oratorical triumphs and disasters.  I enjoyed too the performance of Peter de Jersey as Julius Caesar, convincing both as a military leader and as a smooth politician, where you could always sense the steel hand beneath his velvet glove.

Imperium Peter de Jersey as Julius Caesar

Peter de Jersey as Julius Caesar

More Christmas Carols in Tauchnitz

I’ve looked in earlier posts at the first publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Tauchnitz in December 1843 (possibly the first printing worldwide of the book), and also at the Schools Edition of the story that followed in 1847.  Both editions are scarce today in first printing or even in early printings, although the book continued to sell for so long that later printings are not too difficult to find.

The individual issue of ‘A Christmas Carol’ remained in print with Tauchnitz for many decades, but it was also combined with the next two Christmas stories by Dickens, ‘The chimes’ and ‘The cricket on the hearth’, to form volume 91 of the Tauchnitz main series in 1846.  That volume too remained in print right up until the Second World War.

Tauchnitz 91 title page

As the Schools Edition was also sold over a long period, Tauchnitz had three different editions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for sale simultaneously.  The Schools Edition was probably sold right through until the 1880s, when Tauchnitz expanded the concept into the ‘Students Series’.  Not surprisingly ‘A Christmas Carol’ appeared again in this series, as volume 25 in 1888 and remained in print in this format at least through until the First World War in 1914.

Tauchnitz Students Series 25

During the war, the firm was unable to publish much new material, but instead raided its back catalogue for shorter works or excerpts that could be published in a new series of slim paperbacks.  The series started life as ‘English Text-books’ and was later renamed as the ‘Tauchnitz Pocket Library’.  And sure enough, there was ‘A Christmas Carol’ again, as volume 45 in the series.

Tauchnitz Pocket Library 45

I have no idea how many copies of the story Tauchnitz sold in total between 1843 and 1943, but it must have been an enormous number by the standards of the company.  A more normal Tauchnitz novel might only have sold 2,000 copies, but it seems possible that sales of ‘A Christmas Carol’ could have been a hundred times that figure, or more.

It’s worth remembering that Tauchnitz did not pay royalties.  He typically paid a fixed lump sum for the continental rights to a novel, a practice he followed right from the start, when there was no international copyright agreement.  As there was no obligation on him to pay anything at that time, his offer of a lump sum payment was gratefully received, and he was able to define the terms of business for the future.

The gesture certainly bought him a lot of goodwill with Dickens, who forever after regarded him as a friend and as a trustworthy business partner.  It also gave Tauchnitz privileged early access to new work by Dickens, so that his editions were sometimes published ahead of the UK editions.  And the terms of the deals were determined by Tauchnitz, not only in terms of the price paid, which Dickens always allowed him to propose, but also in terms of the structure.

Letters from Dickens quoted in 1912 Anniversary history 2

A lump sum payment left Tauchnitz open to the risk of lower than expected sales, but with Dickens that was hardly a risk at all.  If on the other hand, sales were higher, Tauchnitz would make additional payments, at his discretion.   In this way he was able to extend his reputation for fair dealing and for generosity, while still managing his costs and his profits.

In the case of ‘A Christmas Carol’, he could certainly afford to be generous.  He had a very valuable property on his hands, particularly after copyright treaties restricted the issue by any other European publishers.  So he made the most of it.  There’s no record, so far as I know, of what Tauchnitz paid for the initial right to publish ‘A Christmas Carol’, or what later payments he may have made, but for a full length work by Dickens some  20 years later, he offered £35.   On that basis, the initial payment for ‘A Christmas Carol’ could possibly have been £20 or less.  If so, it must surely have been one of the best bits of business ever done.   I feel sure that Tauchnitz would have made regular additional payments to reflect its success, at least over the rest of Dickens’ lifetime.   Whether he continued to be as generous to Dickens’ estate after his death may be a little more doubtful.

Todd & Bowden

The phrase ‘Todd & Bowden’ means only one thing for me.  It’s a large red 1000+ page book that is practically the Bible of my book-collecting – the bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions.    For other people, the same phrase may refer to another 1000+ page tome, the bibliography of Walter Scott editions.   Underlying these two monumental works though, there are the two authors, William Todd and Ann Bowden, a husband and wife team of bibliographers, who spent years of their lives producing these two works.

Bibliography Todd & Bowden

The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions

They had the good fortune to work at the University of Texas at Austin, which through the huge collections held at its Harry Ransom Centre and the associated literary research, has become perhaps one of the best places in the world for a bibliographer to work.  It was partly they who made it so, William Todd having been recruited by Ransom to work at Austin before there was such a thing as the Harry Ransom Centre.

William Todd Ann Bowden

Ann Bowden and William Todd

Todd had made his name through a series of pioneering works, including the standard reference work on Edmund Burke, as well as studies of the Nixon tapes and Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book.  He was already almost 60 years old and a well-respected professor and bibliographer, when he and Ann started to collect and study Tauchnitz Editions.  It was the beginning of a 10 year project that led to the Todd & Bowden bibliography, published in 1988.

William B. Todd

The two of them travelled around Europe and America to inspect all the major Tauchnitz collections that they were able to identify.  They recorded in detail 25 collections in Europe, many in National Libraries, and a further 21 in North America, mostly in universities.  In doing so, they were able for the first time to create a guide to distinguish different printings and editions and to start to date them.  Tauchnitz were notorious for leaving the first publication date on the title page of editions published many years later, leading to widespread confusion over dating.  Unfortunately for many of the libraries they visited, Todd & Bowden’s work had the effect of identifying their copies as reprints.

Todd & Bowden title page

At the same time they were building their own collection, which eventually grew to over 6000 volumes, covering both bound editions and paperbacks, first printings and reprints.  After publication of the bibliography, their collection was acquired by a German cultural foundation and presented to the British Library, which had previously held only a relatively small collection.  Todd & Bowden moved on to work on the equally comprehensive Walter Scott bibliography, published in 1998, by which time they were both well into their seventies, and Todd nearly 80.

Ann Bowden died in 2001 and William Todd in 2011, at the age of 92.  The two major bibliographies they worked on together serve as a monument to them.  They also inspired, through their teaching and their example, generations of other bibliographers.  And for me too their work has been an inspiration.  I might still have been interested in Tauchnitz Editions, but without their bibliography, I would never have embarked on the project to build a collection that has occupied me for the last 25 years and more.  And the collection itself is defined both in terms of scope and in terms of first printing status, by the parameters established in ‘Todd & Bowden’.

Canadian White Circle books

Many of the books I write about on this blog are so little known, little researched and little collected, that I can be reasonably confident that anything I write adds to the stock of recorded knowledge.  That’s why I do it.  No doubt I occasionally get things wrong, but the risk of being contradicted is fairly low.  The bigger risk is of not being contradicted and errors surviving uncorrected.

Some other books, like Penguins, are so well researched that I can draw on the existing stock of knowledge, while trying to find an angle that adds something new.

The Canadian editions of Collins White Circle fall somewhere inbetween.   As far as I can tell they’re not collected or researched by very many people, but there are certainly a few people who are far more knowledgeable than I am about them.  For a comprehensive listing and identification guide, see the Wollamshram World website, or for various blog posts, see the Canadian fly-by-night blog.  I can’t add much to that wealth of knowledge, but I want to put the Canadian editions into the context of the Collins White Circle editions in the UK and other countries.

CWC Canada 345 not my copy

The White Circle series was launched in the UK in 1936, replacing previous Collins paperback series with a new format much more similar to Penguin Books, whose own launch a few months earlier had so disrupted the UK paperback market.  All the books in the UK featured a large white circle on the cover as the title panel right from the start, and this served as the unifying feature of the designs used for the various sub-series.  However the White Circle name for the series only started to be used in early 1938.

The initiative to move overseas arose from the wartime conditions in Britain and the introduction of paper rationing.  Exporting books from the UK no longer made any sense, so setting up local publishing operations suddenly seemed the way forward.  Penguin started publishing in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Egypt, Collins in Australia, New Zealand, India and Ceylon as well as in Canada.  All of these ventures started around 1942.

  CC Christie Sad Cypress  Collins Indian F1

White Circle editions from Australia and India

In all these cases, the British publishers started off with what had become the market norm in the UK since the Penguin launch – standard designed covers with a strong series identity and no cover illustration.  In Australia, New Zealand, India and Ceylon they were more or less able to impose this format, but neither Penguin in the US, nor Collins in Canada could make it work.  The North American tradition of garishly illustrated covers was too strong and both companies eventually had to fall into line.

The first 50 titles for Collins White Circle in Canada, issued up until the end of 1942, were in a UK style format with standard designed covers.  Oddly the design didn’t feature a white circle, other than a very small circle for the Crime Club logo.  If anything it was more like the design used by Penguin in the UK, with large horizontal blocks of colour, although not I think as well designed.

CWC Canada S

The vast majority of the early books were either Crime or Mystery novels, all with the main cover panel in green and no real distinction between the two other than the small logo.   A handful of western titles were distinguished by a lighter green and blue cover, and general fiction / non-fiction titles had covers in orange.

By the beginning of 1943 though, Collins had concluded that standard designed covers could not work in the Canadian market in competition with the brightly illustrated covers of local and American paperbacks.  Like Penguin in the US at much the same time, they switched to illustrated covers, at first dipping their toe in, with restrained, stylised cover illustrations.  By the end of the war though, the covers were becoming noticeably brighter, usually featuring pictures of girls, often in various states of undress or submission.  And any evidence of white circles on the cover seemed to become even less prominent.

  CWC Canada 40  CWC Canada 224 not my copy

Editions from 1942 and 1946

The type of book was changing too.  The proportion of crime and mystery books was falling and in the post-war period there were more westerns and more romances.  There was a sprinkling of American authors, particularly of course for the westerns, and the occasional Canadian author, like Roderick Haig-Brown, but still most books were by British authors.  It looks as if books were almost entirely chosen from what the British parent had available, rather than being sourced locally.   Two books by Canadian broadcaster Kate Aitken – a cook book and a book on beauty for women, were a rare exception.

  CWC Canada 528 not my copy  CWC Canada 498 not my copy

The series continued through to 1952 before Collins called it a day.  Canada could no longer be treated as a market that would naturally take what British publishers had to offer.  Over a period of just over 10 years though, from 1942 to 1952, the series ran to well over 500 titles.  By my count that’s about the same as the number of titles published in the main UK series up to that point (excluding Services Editions).  In the end there were more UK editions, but only because the UK series continued for another 7 years, through to 1959.

It also seems to me that today there are more second-hand Canadian editions for sale than British editions, raising the possibility that print runs may actually have been higher in Canada than in the UK.   Far from being the junior partner in the arrangement, the Canadian business may actually have been stronger than the UK.

It’s a wrap

I have no idea when the first wrap-around bands for books were introduced.  But I do know that Tauchnitz were already using them by 1926, so their history is certainly a long one.  They typically feature a short blurb about the book or a quote from a review, and are presumably intended to make the book stand out in the shop display.  Just another marketing tool, but as they’re still used today, I suppose they must be reasonably effective.

Wrap-around band 4743

Band for ‘The secret that was kept’ by Elizabeth Robins

The earliest band I’ve seen on a Tauchnitz book is from August 1926.  It exists for volume 4743, ‘The secret that was kept’ by Elizabeth Robins, and it’s in full wrap-around style, glued together at the back.  The book can only be opened by either slipping the band up and over the top of the book or by tearing it.  Presumably most people tore it off and discarded it.  Even those readers who carefully removed it without tearing, would hardly be tempted to put it back on later, so again would end up throwing it away.  It’s surprising really that any of them have survived.

Wrap-around band 4889

July 1929 band, now with title and author on the spine panel

But one careful owner of a selection of books I bought a few years ago, slipped the bands in between the pages of the books, perhaps using them as bookmarks, and preserved them.  Some are torn, others intact, but overall they’re in surprisingly good condition.  I have eight of them, for books published between August 1926 and July 1929.  The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions records one other known band in this style, so nine in total are known, but it’s possible that they existed for all 150 or so books published over this period.  An alternative is that they were only used to boost sales on slower-selling volumes, but in this case it seems unlikely that they would have been so clearly dated.  All the bands in this style are in white, and wrapped around an off white paperback would not have stood out particularly well.

So it was a natural next step to introduce coloured bands, which happened from around February 1930.  With this change came also a change in format, so that the band was tucked in under the front and back covers, rather than glued at the back.  Crucially this change meant that the book could be opened without removing the band.  This allowed prospective buyers to open and look at the book in the shop, without taking the band off.  If they were careful enough, they might even be able to leave it on while reading the book.  Of course most were still removed and discarded, but more of these later bands survive.  They’re mostly on books that were never read, which is the fate of many copies.  Few buyers are so uninterested in a book that they will not even want to pick it up and flick through it, which involves taking off a full wrap-around band, but many buyers never get round to reading their book, so a tucked-in band has a better chance of survival.

Tauchnitz 4976 with wraparound band 2

Volume 4976 by Siegfried Sasssoon with wrap-around band – February 1931

The colours of the bands were not random.  They were coded to indicate the genre of the book – red for crime and humour, blue for ‘serious’ books, yellow for novels and short stories of adventure, social life or historical novels, and green for love stories.  The colour-coding seems to have been the brainchild of Max Christian Wegner, then Managing Director of Tauchnitz.  Two years later, by then in charge of the rival Albatross Books, he developed the idea further, using the entire paperback cover for colour coding by genre, a practice also taken up by Penguin when it launched in 1935.

At Tauchnitz the colour-coded bands continued for over four years, through to mid 1934, at which point the firm more or less collapsed into the arms of Albatross.  I’m aware of surviving bands for around 20 volumes, but again they may have been used on all the more than 200 volumes published over that period.   The bands did their bit to brighten up the rather drab Tauchnitz books, but they were still unable to compete against the more colourful Albatross volumes.

Wrap-around band 5148

Band for ‘Gretchen discovers America’ by Helene Scheu-Riesz – May 1934

After mid 1934 the two series were managed jointly by the Albatross management team and Tauchnitz fell into line with the Albatross practice of colour-coded covers with dustwrappers, but no wrap-around bands.

But it wasn’t quite the end of the story.  After the end of the war, a number of attempts were made to revive both Tauchnitz and Albatross, one of which involved a short series of 40 volumes published from Stuttgart under the Tauchnitz brand from 1952 to 1955.  Dustwrappers on paperbacks had by then gone rather out of fashion and wrap-around bands were again used.  As ever, it’s impossible to verify that all volumes were issued with bands, but many of them may have been, with again only a small number surviving.

Wrap-around band S125 post-war

Band for ‘The exploration of space’ by Arthur C. Clarke – 1953

Lucy Clifford in Tauchnitz Editions

As a writer, Lucy Clifford is probably best remembered today for ‘Mrs Keith’s crime’, her 1885 novel about a mother, dying of consumption, who decides to kill her also dying daughter.  In personal terms she is remembered as the wife of the mathematician and philosopher, William Kingdon Clifford.  William died early at the age of 33, but was already a professor at University College, London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had done ground-breaking work in algebra, geometry and philosophy.  There is a type of algebra, still referred to as a Clifford algebra today, in his honour.


Lucy Clifford from the National Portrait Gallery collection NPG x41412

The two lives of William and Lucy are remembered in a book by Monty Chisholm and an associated website.  They were married for only four years, between 1875 and his death in 1879, but Lucy chose to publish her novels under the name of Mrs. W.K. Clifford.  She may well have been writing before his death, but I can’t find any published work before then.  When she was left widowed with two small children, financial pressures may then have pushed her to publication, perhaps encouraged by her many literary connections, which certainly included George Eliot, Mary Braddon and Henry James.

A collection of stories for children, ‘Anyhow stories, moral and otherwise’ was published in the UK in 1882, followed by ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ in 1885.   But perhaps surprisingly, she didn’t achieve publication in the Tauchnitz Edition (or as far as I can tell any of its competitors in continental publishing), until 1892.  This was a particularly productive time in Mrs. Clifford’s writing career and Tauchnitz backed her strongly, publishing five of her books in an eighteen month period.  This may also though have had something to do with the pressure that Tauchnitz was under at the time from the rival ‘English Library’ published by Heinemann and Balestier.  A significant number of authors were defecting to the new series and Tauchnitz was keen to maintain a large publishing programme, forcing it to search out and back new talent.

Tauchnitz 2803 Love Letters

The first to appear was an epistolatory novel, ‘Love letters of a worldly woman’, published as volume 2803 in the Tauchnitz series in February 1892.  The first printing in Tauchnitz has a quotation on the back of the half-title page, with the back of the title page blank.  Later reprints list 6 other Clifford titles on the half-title verso and move the quotation to the back of the title page.  I have nicely bound copies of this book and two other later books, with the signature of the author’s daughter, Margaret Clifford.  As they are all first printings and Margaret would have been a teenager when they were published, they may well have been first acquired by her mother.

Tauchnitz 2803 Love Letters signature

Lucy Clifford gilt edges

Gleaming gilt page edges on the volumes signed by Margaret Clifford (above)

It was followed by ‘Aunt Anne’, published in two volumes as volumes 2857 and 2858 of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors in September 1892 and by ‘The last touches and other stories’, published in January 1893 as volume 2880.  ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ appeared as volume 2913 in June 1893 and ‘A wild proxy’ as volume 2930 in August 1893.  First printings in paperback should show the appropriate date quoted above at the top of the back wrapper, and bound copies should list only previously published titles on the back of the half-title.  So ‘Aunt Anne’ should list only ‘Love letters …’, whereas ‘The last touches’ should list both ‘Love letters’ and ‘Aunt Anne’, and so on.  In practice though, of these books, only ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ is recorded as existing with a greater number of titles listed.

Tauchnitz 2913 Mrs Keith's Crime

In first printing, ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ lists only the three previously published titles

After this rush of titles (and with Heinemann and Balestier largely defeated as a serious rival), there seems to have been a pause, not just in Lucy Clifford’s appearances in the Tauchnitz series, but in her writing more generally.   ‘A flash of summer’ was published in November 1896 as volume 3168 (listing five previously published works on the back of the half-title) and then nothing more until September 1901, with the publication of ‘A woman alone’ as volume 3525 (listing 6 other works).  Both volumes were later reprinted.  ‘Woodside Farm’ followed in June 1902 as volume 3584, ‘The modern way’ in February 1907 as volume 3945, ‘The getting well of Dorothy’ in May 1907 as volume 3967 and ‘Mere stories’, another collection of short stories, in October 1909 as volume 4146.

Tauchnitz 4146 Mere Stories

‘Mere Stories’ in the original wrappers, dated October 1909

That brings us up to the First World War and another pause, certainly in the output of Tauchnitz volumes from 1914 onwards, but again as far as I can tell, in Lucy Clifford’s writing as well.  By the time Tauchnitz was back up and running again after the war, it was in a very different political, social and literary landscape.  ‘Eve’s Lover and other stories’ appeared in June 1924 as volume 4644, by which time its author was nearly 80 and from a different world to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

But Tauchnitz was slow to recognise the changing literary fashions, and still willing to publish two further works – ‘Sir George’s objection’ in April 1925 as volume 4680, and ”Miss Fingal’ in July 1928 as volume 4840.  As with all  Tauchnitz Editions, these 20th Century volumes are more commonly found in the original paperback form, rather than the bound editions from the 19th Century.

Tauchnitz 4840 Miss Fingal 2

First printing of ‘Miss Fingal’, dated July 1928

Lucy Clifford died in 1929, some 50 years after her husband, leaving behind a substantial body of work.  The success of most 19th Century and early 20th Century writers can almost be measured by the volume of their output in Tauchnitz Editions, and on that measure Mrs. W.K. Clifford did pretty well.  Fifteen volumes of her work were published over a period of more than 35 years, and no doubt tens of thousands of copies sold in Continental Europe.  Most of them though are not easy to find today.

Lucy Clifford in Tauchnitz

Fourteen of the fifteen volumes, with ‘Eve’s Lover’ missing