While the cat’s away …
Nelson were not the only publisher to try to take advantage of the enforced absence of Tauchnitz from at least part of the European market during the First World War. Louis Conard, another publisher in Paris, saw the opportunity too, and was quick to act. ‘The Standard Collection of latest copyrighted works by British and American Authors’ launched in 1915 with an impressive list of authors. The first 10 volumes included works by H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and E.F. Benson, all of whom had previously been published by Tauchnitz. Later volumes included works by Kipling, Galsworthy, Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, Katherine Mansfield and G.K. Chesterton, amongst others. As the Nelson’s Continental Library was launched at almost the same time, there must have been quite a scramble to sign up authors.
Conard clearly modelled their series on Tauchnitz, as Nelson did. The books are the same shape, the same buff colour and the same price, at least to start with. In comparison with Tauchnitz, their market would have been restricted geographically, but did the war itself create a new market? Over 5 million British soldiers served in France and Flanders during the war. They would have had little opportunity to visit bookshops, but it seems possible that at least some of these volumes might have found their way into battledress pockets.
By the end of the war the series had extended to over 100 volumes. The price had risen steadily to 3.50 Francs by 1919 although this was described as a temporary price, and the quality of the paper had declined. Conard persisted though and by 1920 was heading towards 200 volumes, as Nelson, with fewer than 100, was winding its series down. The market dynamics were inevitably changing with the end of the war and the return of Tauchnitz to the market, and Conard too decided to move on.
This though was not the end of The Standard Collection. Some time around 1920, the series was taken on by the Scottish publisher William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. from a base in Brussels, and the price increased again to 4.50 Francs. They continued it for another 2 years or so, and up to at least 230 volumes, before finally ending it. The last volume I have seen is G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Eugenics and other evils’ published in 1922. This is also the only volume I have seen with an illustrated dustwrapper, following the example of the Nelson series, although it is quite possible that there are many others.
This is the second in what I intend to be a series of posts about the publishers in competition to Tauchnitz. I looked at Thomas Nelson a few days ago. Louis Conard and William Collins Sons represent competitors two and three.
Posted on September 23, 2014, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged Collins, Louis Conard, Nelson's Continental Library, Standard Collection, Tauchnitz, Thomas Nelson, World War I. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.