Early Tauchnitz catalogues
Posted by jojoal
For the first 30 years or so of the Tauchnitz Editions, the firm listed all of the titles in the series on the wrappers of each book. For the early volumes in 1843, the list fitted easily onto the back cover in a single column, but as the number of titles grew, it had to become a two column list, then three columns. The type became smaller and smaller, but by 1859 with the series having grown to over 450 volumes, the struggle became too much. The list was then extended over both inside wrappers as well as the back, going back to a two column list and a more readable type size.
An early issue (1857) with all titles listed on the back and a later one (1872) with the list extending over inner wrappers as well
That format kept them going for quite a while longer, but by 1872 the number of volumes had grown to over 1200 and this too was becoming impossible to manage. The decision was taken to start printing separate monthly catalogues of all the titles published so far. A copy would be tipped in at the end of each volume, or for books published in two or three volumes, at the end of the final volume only.
It was not an entirely new idea – the firm had earlier experimented with catalogues inside their books. Even as early as 1845 a single sheet had appeared in volume 76 listing the volumes issued to date and in 1854 a 4-sided catalogue was included in at least one volume.
Early one-off examples of catalogues from 1845 and 1854
But by 1872 catalogues began to appear in all volumes, with a new version being printed every month. To start with they had sixteen sides, which gave a lot more room than the three sides of wrappers previously available. The layout could be improved, and titles included from other series as well as from the main ‘Collection of British Authors’. The layout of the rear wrapper of the book could also be improved, now showing only a small number of recently published or forthcoming volumes, with the inside wrappers left blank.
How effective the catalogues were as advertising is difficult to tell. They were rarely bound into volumes taken to a bookbinder, but some copies may have been detached and kept for reference. Catalogues survive in many of the paperback copies, but often the pages are uncut, so presumably were not even looked at. They were printed on a single sheet and then folded into a sixteen page booklet, but as with the books themselves, cutting and separating the pages was a task left to the buyers.
Advertising can sometimes be effective though, even if only a small proportion of people take any notice of it and given that the catalogues continued for roughly the next 60 years, they must have been judged a success. The Todd & Bowden bibliography records copies dated for almost every month from May 1872 to the end of 1899. I can fill in several of the gaps as well from my own collection, so I think it’s likely that copies were updated every month over that period. After 1900 it became more complicated, although they did continue for more than another thirty years. I’ll come back to those later issues another time.
In most cases the catalogue date is the same as, or very close to, the date on the back wrapper of the book it’s tipped into. But not always. It’s not uncommon for the dates to differ by a few months and sometimes the difference can be several years, in either direction. The catalogue date may be earlier than the wrapper date or vice versa.
I’ve never quite understood how this worked. Were books in some cases prepared and bound into a wrapper, but then held in the warehouse, perhaps for several years? Then perhaps an up to date catalogue was added in when they were ordered by booksellers? That might explain catalogues later than the wrappers, but how to explain wrappers later than the catalogues?
This copy of volume 2828, first published in May 1892 has a catalogue for May 1892, but wrappers dated October 1895
Was there at some stage a change of practice so that copies were stored in the warehouse with pages and catalogue bound together, but no wrappers? If catalogues were being sewn in with the pages, rather than just tipped in with glue, that might make sense. I can’t easily tell the difference, but looking at copies I have, I think it’s possible that at some stage, catalogues started to be sewn in rather than glued in.
In practice the rule I use for my own collection is that for a paperback copy to be considered a first printing, it should have wrappers with the first printing date on, whatever the date of the catalogue. In practice though, many copies with later dated wrappers may also be first printings in terms of the pages, and a catalogue with the first printing date may be a good indication of this. On the other hand copies with the first printing wrappers, seem likely to be first printings even if they contain later catalogues. It’s hard to imagine earlier dated wrappers being added to a later printed book. Much easier to imagine later dated wrappers being added to an earlier printed book.