Shakespeare plays in Tauchnitz – the 1843 edition

When Bernhard Tauchnitz first launched himself into the business of selling English literature in Germany in 1841, it would have been difficult to avoid the issue of Shakespeare.  Tauchnitz started by selling the novels of contemporary authors, and that became the basis of the business empire that he built up over the rest of his life.  But even in the time of Dickens, few living authors could command sales as high as those of the long-dead Shakespeare.   And the tricky issue of copyright that Tauchnitz was wrestling with, could be avoided by going back to the bard.

Tauchnitz Shakespeare 1843 frontispiece
The frontispiece to the first Tauchnitz volume of Shakespeare plays

So it’s hardly a surprise that the Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ had reached only 40 volumes, before welcoming Shakespeare into its ranks.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare, including all 37 plays, his poems and a brief biography, appeared in 7 volumes as volumes 40 to 46 of the series in 1843 / 1844, and at the same time each of the plays was published individually as well.   Publication of the seven volume edition was spread out over a period of more than a year, with the first volume appearing in February 1843 and the final volume announced in June 1844.  So volumes 6 and 7 are dated 1844 rather than 1843, as are the final five individual plays, numbered 33 to 37.  In both formats, the plays are double paginated, with page numbers for the individual plays in a top corner and numbers for the combined volume in a bottom corner.  In this way, both types of publication could be printed from the same stereotype plates.

Tauchnitz Shakespeare 1843 Title page with Collier reference
First printing title page crediting John Payne Collier and with ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun’.

The text of the plays was provided by John Payne Collier, a noted Shakespearean scholar of the time, and his name appeared prominently on the title page of the collected edition.  Unfortunately he was later exposed as a forger, and the use of his name became a source of embarrassment rather than pride.   Later reprints from about 1860 onwards, don’t show Collier’s name, and in 1868 a new edition was issued using a text provided by Rev. Alexander Dyce.   This new edition still used the same volume numbers, 40 to 46, but the title page date was changed to 1868.   So copies of the books now found split into three categories – firstly those dated 1843/4 with Collier’s name on, then those dated 1843/4 but without Collier’s name, and then all later issues dated 1868.  The 1868 issues continued to be reprinted for the next 70 years or so, and are of course the most commonly found. (Update – see separate post on the 1868 edition on this link.)

Tauchnitz Shakespeare 1843 Title page with no Collier reference
Later title page, still 1843, but now ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ and no reference to Collier

The 1843 edition is rarer, but bound copies are still not too difficult to find.  As usual with Tauchnitz editions, it’s much more of a challenge to find copies in the original wrappers.   Although the books were issued as paperbacks, the standard practice for many purchasers was to have them privately bound, and it’s these copies that survive best.   There are also a few surviving copies in a publisher’s binding, sold more or less at the time of the first printing.  So far as I know though, there are no surviving paperback first printings of the collected volumes.   The earliest paperback copies that Todd & Bowden, the Tauchnitz bibliographers, could track down were a set in the British Library from around 1866, over 20 years after first publication.

Tauchnitz Shakespeare 1843 spines
All seven volumes of the collected edition in first printing, six in the earliest form of publisher’s binding

You might expect that copies of individual plays in the original wrappers would be even more difficult to find.  They’re such thin volumes that the chance of any surviving looks pretty small.  But surprisingly, two library collections in the US hold significant numbers of them.    The Royal Hanover collection at the University of Rochester includes copies of all 37 plays from the 1843/4 edition, the first seven of them bound and the other 30 in the original wrappers.   The paperback copies cover a range of different dates, although unfortunately none are in the first printing state, showing the publisher as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’, rather than ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’.  The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC also has 4 individual plays from the 1843/4 edition in their original wrappers, again none of them in first printing state.

But at least two of the very earliest paperbacks have survived, even if in a pretty dreadful state, as shown below.  They not only show the publisher as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’, but the lists of other Tauchnitz Editions on the back wrapper show no titles later than mid-1843.  With Tauchnitz Editions, this is really the best evidence you can get that they are first printings, or at least very early printings.

Posted on February 5, 2016, in Vintage Paperbacks and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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