Monthly Archives: October 2017

It’s a wrap

I have no idea when the first wrap-around bands for books were introduced.  But I do know that Tauchnitz were already using them by 1926, so their history is certainly a long one.  They typically feature a short blurb about the book or a quote from a review, and are presumably intended to make the book stand out in the shop display.  Just another marketing tool, but as they’re still used today, I suppose they must be reasonably effective.

Wrap-around band 4743

Band for ‘The secret that was kept’ by Elizabeth Robins

The earliest band I’ve seen on a Tauchnitz book is from August 1926.  It exists for volume 4743, ‘The secret that was kept’ by Elizabeth Robins, and it’s in full wrap-around style, glued together at the back.  The book can only be opened by either slipping the band up and over the top of the book or by tearing it.  Presumably most people tore it off and discarded it.  Even those readers who carefully removed it without tearing, would hardly be tempted to put it back on later, so again would end up throwing it away.  It’s surprising really that any of them have survived.

Wrap-around band 4889

July 1929 band, now with title and author on the spine panel

But one careful owner of a selection of books I bought a few years ago, slipped the bands in between the pages of the books, perhaps using them as bookmarks, and preserved them.  Some are torn, others intact, but overall they’re in surprisingly good condition.  I have eight of them, for books published between August 1926 and July 1929.  The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions records one other known band in this style, so nine in total are known, but it’s possible that they existed for all 150 or so books published over this period.  An alternative is that they were only used to boost sales on slower-selling volumes, but in this case it seems unlikely that they would have been so clearly dated.  All the bands in this style are in white, and wrapped around an off white paperback would not have stood out particularly well.

So it was a natural next step to introduce coloured bands, which happened from around February 1930.  With this change came also a change in format, so that the band was tucked in under the front and back covers, rather than glued at the back.  Crucially this change meant that the book could be opened without removing the band.  This allowed prospective buyers to open and look at the book in the shop, without taking the band off.  If they were careful enough, they might even be able to leave it on while reading the book.  Of course most were still removed and discarded, but more of these later bands survive.  They’re mostly on books that were never read, which is the fate of many copies.  Few buyers are so uninterested in a book that they will not even want to pick it up and flick through it, which involves taking off a full wrap-around band, but many buyers never get round to reading their book, so a tucked-in band has a better chance of survival.

Tauchnitz 4976 with wraparound band 2

Volume 4976 by Siegfried Sasssoon with wrap-around band – February 1931

The colours of the bands were not random.  They were coded to indicate the genre of the book – red for crime and humour, blue for ‘serious’ books, yellow for novels and short stories of adventure, social life or historical novels, and green for love stories.  The colour-coding seems to have been the brainchild of Max Christian Wegner, then Managing Director of Tauchnitz.  Two years later, by then in charge of the rival Albatross Books, he developed the idea further, using the entire paperback cover for colour coding by genre, a practice also taken up by Penguin when it launched in 1935.

At Tauchnitz the colour-coded bands continued for over four years, through to mid 1934, at which point the firm more or less collapsed into the arms of Albatross.  I’m aware of surviving bands for around 20 volumes, but again they may have been used on all the more than 200 volumes published over that period.   The bands did their bit to brighten up the rather drab Tauchnitz books, but they were still unable to compete against the more colourful Albatross volumes.

Wrap-around band 5148

Band for ‘Gretchen discovers America’ by Helene Scheu-Riesz – May 1934

After mid 1934 the two series were managed jointly by the Albatross management team and Tauchnitz fell into line with the Albatross practice of colour-coded covers with dustwrappers, but no wrap-around bands.

But it wasn’t quite the end of the story.  After the end of the war, a number of attempts were made to revive both Tauchnitz and Albatross, one of which involved a short series of 40 volumes published from Stuttgart under the Tauchnitz brand from 1952 to 1955.  Dustwrappers on paperbacks had by then gone rather out of fashion and wrap-around bands were again used.  As ever, it’s impossible to verify that all volumes were issued with bands, but many of them may have been, with again only a small number surviving.

Wrap-around band S125 post-war

Band for ‘The exploration of space’ by Arthur C. Clarke – 1953

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Lucy Clifford in Tauchnitz Editions

As a writer, Lucy Clifford is probably best remembered today for ‘Mrs Keith’s crime’, her 1885 novel about a mother, dying of consumption, who decides to kill her also dying daughter.  In personal terms she is remembered as the wife of the mathematician and philosopher, William Kingdon Clifford.  William died early at the age of 33, but was already a professor at University College, London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had done ground-breaking work in algebra, geometry and philosophy.  There is a type of algebra, still referred to as a Clifford algebra today, in his honour.

Lucy-Lane-Clifford

Lucy Clifford from the National Portrait Gallery collection NPG x41412

The two lives of William and Lucy are remembered in a book by Monty Chisholm and an associated website.  They were married for only four years, between 1875 and his death in 1879, but Lucy chose to publish her novels under the name of Mrs. W.K. Clifford.  She may well have been writing before his death, but I can’t find any published work before then.  When she was left widowed with two small children, financial pressures may then have pushed her to publication, perhaps encouraged by her many literary connections, which certainly included George Eliot, Mary Braddon and Henry James.

A collection of stories for children, ‘Anyhow stories, moral and otherwise’ was published in the UK in 1882, followed by ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ in 1885.   But perhaps surprisingly, she didn’t achieve publication in the Tauchnitz Edition (or as far as I can tell any of its competitors in continental publishing), until 1892.  This was a particularly productive time in Mrs. Clifford’s writing career and Tauchnitz backed her strongly, publishing five of her books in an eighteen month period.  This may also though have had something to do with the pressure that Tauchnitz was under at the time from the rival ‘English Library’ published by Heinemann and Balestier.  A significant number of authors were defecting to the new series and Tauchnitz was keen to maintain a large publishing programme, forcing it to search out and back new talent.

Tauchnitz 2803 Love Letters

The first to appear was an epistolatory novel, ‘Love letters of a worldly woman’, published as volume 2803 in the Tauchnitz series in February 1892.  The first printing in Tauchnitz has a quotation on the back of the half-title page, with the back of the title page blank.  Later reprints list 6 other Clifford titles on the half-title verso and move the quotation to the back of the title page.  I have nicely bound copies of this book and two other later books, with the signature of the author’s daughter, Margaret Clifford.  As they are all first printings and Margaret would have been a teenager when they were published, they may well have been first acquired by her mother.

Tauchnitz 2803 Love Letters signature

Lucy Clifford gilt edges

Gleaming gilt page edges on the volumes signed by Margaret Clifford (above)

It was followed by ‘Aunt Anne’, published in two volumes as volumes 2857 and 2858 of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors in September 1892 and by ‘The last touches and other stories’, published in January 1893 as volume 2880.  ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ appeared as volume 2913 in June 1893 and ‘A wild proxy’ as volume 2930 in August 1893.  First printings in paperback should show the appropriate date quoted above at the top of the back wrapper, and bound copies should list only previously published titles on the back of the half-title.  So ‘Aunt Anne’ should list only ‘Love letters …’, whereas ‘The last touches’ should list both ‘Love letters’ and ‘Aunt Anne’, and so on.  In practice though, of these books, only ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ is recorded as existing with a greater number of titles listed.

Tauchnitz 2913 Mrs Keith's Crime

In first printing, ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ lists only the three previously published titles

After this rush of titles (and with Heinemann and Balestier largely defeated as a serious rival), there seems to have been a pause, not just in Lucy Clifford’s appearances in the Tauchnitz series, but in her writing more generally.   ‘A flash of summer’ was published in November 1896 as volume 3168 (listing five previously published works on the back of the half-title) and then nothing more until September 1901, with the publication of ‘A woman alone’ as volume 3525 (listing 6 other works).  Both volumes were later reprinted.  ‘Woodside Farm’ followed in June 1902 as volume 3584, ‘The modern way’ in February 1907 as volume 3945, ‘The getting well of Dorothy’ in May 1907 as volume 3967 and ‘Mere stories’, another collection of short stories, in October 1909 as volume 4146.

Tauchnitz 4146 Mere Stories

‘Mere Stories’ in the original wrappers, dated October 1909

That brings us up to the First World War and another pause, certainly in the output of Tauchnitz volumes from 1914 onwards, but again as far as I can tell, in Lucy Clifford’s writing as well.  By the time Tauchnitz was back up and running again after the war, it was in a very different political, social and literary landscape.  ‘Eve’s Lover and other stories’ appeared in June 1924 as volume 4644, by which time its author was nearly 80 and from a different world to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

But Tauchnitz was slow to recognise the changing literary fashions, and still willing to publish two further works – ‘Sir George’s objection’ in April 1925 as volume 4680, and ”Miss Fingal’ in July 1928 as volume 4840.  As with all  Tauchnitz Editions, these 20th Century volumes are more commonly found in the original paperback form, rather than the bound editions from the 19th Century.

Tauchnitz 4840 Miss Fingal 2

First printing of ‘Miss Fingal’, dated July 1928

Lucy Clifford died in 1929, some 50 years after her husband, leaving behind a substantial body of work.  The success of most 19th Century and early 20th Century writers can almost be measured by the volume of their output in Tauchnitz Editions, and on that measure Mrs. W.K. Clifford did pretty well.  Fifteen volumes of her work were published over a period of more than 35 years, and no doubt tens of thousands of copies sold in Continental Europe.  Most of them though are not easy to find today.

Lucy Clifford in Tauchnitz

Fourteen of the fifteen volumes, with ‘Eve’s Lover’ missing