Tauchnitz in Hamburg – a post-war stutter
Before the Second World War, Max Christian Wegner and John Holroyd-Reece had worked together in Paris to launch Albatross, first in competition to the old-established firm of Tauchnitz, and then to run the two companies as a joint operation. Wegner seems to have been more in control of the editorial side in the early years, but relations between the two may have soured, and in 1936 he moved from Paris to Hamburg, taking over the sales and distribution business from Kurt Enoch. From that point on, Holroyd-Reece ran the editorial side of the business from his home and office on the Ile de la Cité.
When the war came, the two found themselves on opposite sides. Holroyd-Reece had been born in Germany as Johann Hermann Riess, but had become British and fled to London, with the Nazis appropriating the business and appointing a German manager to run it. After the war, he re-launched the business from the same offices, although he himself continued to live in London.
Wegner meanwhile set up in effective competition, using the Tauchnitz brand from Hamburg. His short-term ambitions were relatively modest, and by 1948 he had re-issued about 10 of the previous Tauchnitz books in a new series, with no new publications at all. Those 10 were selected from the more than 5000 previously published by Tauchnitz. On the face of it, it’s quite odd to publish them as a new series, rather than under their original Tauchnitz series numbers, but it probably reflects the lack of clarity over rights to the Tauchnitz brand and copyrights. Wegner had no ownership of the original Tauchnitz firm and had simply created a new company, Tauchnitz Edition GmbH in Hamburg, taking advantage of the uncertainty over property rights in post-war Germany, as Holroyd-Reece was doing from Paris.
The post-war conditions in Germany however meant that the books were printed on poor quality paper and did not look attractive, either in comparison with the pre-war publications or with some of the same books being issued from Paris under the Albatross brand. Perhaps not surprisingly they don’t seem to have been a great commercial success.
Of even more concern for Wegner though was that by 1948 Wolfgang Brandstetter, the owner of the firm Oscar Brandstetter, had succeeded in re-establishing his ownership rights over Tauchnitz. Wegner was effectively forced into a short term partnership with Brandstetter as joint Managing Director. As well as extending the series further to an eventual total of 18 titles, they also created a new Students’ Series aimed at German schools, again using texts that had already been published by Tauchnitz in its pre-war Students’ Series.
The partnership between Wegner and Brandstetter was short-lived, and by 1950 Wegner was moving on again, forced out of Tauchnitz for the second time in his career. The Tauchnitz name and business was sold off, although the Students’ Series continued for several more years under a Brandstetter imprint.
Posted on March 15, 2015, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged Albatross, John Holroyd-Reece, Max Christian Wegner, Oscar Brandstetter, Tauchnitz, Wolfgang Brandstetter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.