Early Tauchnitz publisher’s bindings
At heart the Tauchnitz Editions were paperbacks. That’s almost an article of faith for me, despite the fact that a high proportion of them were taken on a visit to the bookbinder. And because the bound copies survived better, an even higher proportion of the surviving copies are hardbound books, in a bewildering variety of bindings.
But not all Tauchnitz Editions were sold as paperbacks. Almost from the start, Tauchnitz offered books for sale in bound editions as well as paperback. The earliest record of these is an announcement in the Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel on 31 May 1842, that attractively bound copies (schöne Einbände) would be available two weeks after the paperback issue.
The binding this referred to was almost certainly the binding illustrated below and classified as binding x1 in the Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions. I have several of the early editions in this binding, but nothing to rival the magnificent run of almost all the first 100 volumes that exists in the Pressler Collection, now in the National Library of Scotland.
Bindings in this style don’t seem to exist much after volume 100, in 1846, although the bibliography records an unusual copy of ‘Bleak House’ bound in this style from around 1852. There are though many fairly similar bindings that were probably produced by private binders.
The usual rule for recognising that a binding is produced and sold by the publisher, rather than being a private binding attached to a book sold as a paperback, is that it has the publisher’s name on the binding. Few publishers could resist the temptation to add their own name to the binding, sometimes almost with greater prominence than that of the author, but oddly few private binders thought the name of the publisher of any relevance at all. It seems unlikely that bindings without the Tauchnitz name on are produced by the firm, although there are certainly a few private bindings that are marked with it, particularly later on, as ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ became almost a generic product name applied to any continental edition in English.
The example below, which shows a first printing of ‘The Pickwick Papers’, volumes 2 and 3 of the series, alongside the later volumes 36 and 50, is an interesting example. The bindings are clearly very similar, and this applies not only to the spine, but to the boards as well, which are almost identical, as are the endpapers and the marbling of the page edges. The most significant difference between the two is that the later volumes have the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the base of the spine. Is it possible that the first two are an early binding from the publisher, before he developed the vanity to insist on his own name being applied?
However the Pressler collection includes a similar copy of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ in the standard publisher binding, with the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the foot of the spine. It seems unlikely that the firm would have sold two versions, with and without the publisher name. So my best guess is still that my copy is a private binding, although possibly produced by the same bookbinder, if the Tauchnitz binding work was outsourced, or perhaps by another bookbinder in Leipzig, who worked in a similar style.
Although this early publisher binding was probably not offered for long, other styles followed it and were offered for sale by Tauchnitz at various times, indeed throughout most of their history. I’ll come back to the other types of binding in later posts.