A Christmas Carol – the Tauchnitz Schools Edition

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens was one of the first fruits of the agreements that Tauchnitz put in place with British authors to pay them for authorised editions.   In the days before international copyright agreement, most publishers paid nothing to foreign authors, but Tauchnitz decided authorisation was worth paying for.

With ‘A Christmas Carol’ he hit the jackpot almost immediately.   Because of his agreement with Dickens, he received an early copy of the text and was able to get his edition out just about in time for Christmas 1843.   It was almost certainly a best seller, although as a slim paperback, copies have not survived well and early or first printing copies are now rare.   Later reprints are easier to find and it went on selling well for many years.  Tauchnitz was still selling reprints of it not far short of 100 years later, both as an individual story and as a combined volume.  Volume 91 of the main Tauchnitz series put together ‘A Christmas Carol’ with the later Christmas stories ‘The Chimes’ and ‘The cricket on the hearth’ and again this was reprinted repeatedly for over 90 years, through to the 1930s.

A Christmas Carol Reprint 1880s front wrapper

A reprint from the 1880s in original wrappers

But this was still not the end of Tauchnitz’s ability to profit from the text.   He also in 1847 published a Schools Edition, for which he commissioned a special English-German dictionary of the words used in the text, and a pronunciation guide.   The Tauchnitz bibliographers, Todd & Bowden, recorded this edition in their ‘Additional volumes’ section and catalogued it as A7, but were able to find only a single copy of it (and that not a first printing) in any of the known Tauchnitz collections.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition half title

Not great spelling for a Schools Edition


So the copy illustrated above and below is the only known example of what I assume to be the first printing of the Schools Edition.  It’s distinguished by the publisher’s name on the title page being shown as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ rather than the later form of ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’.  It also though has a misprint on the half-title and another in the page numbering.  The text of the story itself is on pages numbered 1 to 78, exactly as the early printings of the Tauchnitz original, and was probably printed from the same plates.  It’s then followed by two unnumbered pages, covering the pronunciation guide and the first page of the dictionary, before the numbering starts again from page 85, rather than 81.   The copy seen by Todd & Bowden was correctly numbered from 81 through to 170, whereas this copy goes from 85 to 174.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition title page

The earliest form of the title page, showing ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition dictionary

Dictionary with page numbering starting at 85

It was presumably issued originally as a paperback, as almost all Tauchnitz Editions were, but slim paperbacks rarely survive well for 170 years, and those used in schools are probably even less likely to do so.  This copy has been bound with a leather spine over decorated paper boards, and has no internal school or library markings or previous owner’s names, so may never have been used in a school.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition front board

Too nice for a near 170 year-old schoolbook?

Was this edition on general sale rather than only available to schools?  Presumably there would have been some market amongst native German speakers for an edition that had a convenient dictionary at the back.  Many years later, Tauchnitz launched a series of Students Editions that followed a similar format of text followed by dictionary and these appear to have been offered for general sale as well as available to schools.   ‘A Christmas Carol’ featured again in this series, so the 1847 edition may just have been the first toe in the water.

Posted on December 10, 2015, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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