Monthly Archives: December 2018
As a German publisher selling books in English, Bernhard Tauchnitz had to find a market wherever he could. Of course he wanted to sell to German nationals, but there were only a limited number of those who could read a whole novel in English. He could not sell in Britain or the British Empire for copyright reasons, but he spread out to sell across the whole of the European Continent and beyond. By selling his books in railway station bookstalls and specialist expatriate bookshops, he was able to target British and American expatriates and travellers as well. That made a large enough market for a successful business.
But there was still another sizeable potential market, if he could reach it. Those who were learning English in schools, in universities or as individual students at home. Producing basic school text-books was a specialist market, but there were lots of students who had got past the basics, but would still find it difficult to read a full length novel in English. Given the access Tauchnitz had to novels in English and to British authors, could he help to bridge the gap?
The first attempt was an anthology issued in 1844 called ‘Selections from British Authors in Prose and Poetry. A class-book for the use of schools.’ by Edward Moriarty. That’s according to the English language title page, although oddly the second title page, in German, refers to the book being for both school and personal use. The book contains a series of prose extracts, following directly on from each other as chapters, with author names at the end of each chapter and then followed by 76 poems.
Most of the authors were safely dead and out of copyright, but there were a small number still alive in 1844, which raises the question of whether the use of their work was authorised. There was no international copyright convention in 1844, but by that time Tauchnitz was obtaining authorisation and making payment for all works in the main series. There is no indication here that the book is authorised, even though it contains extracts from the works of Marryat, Bulwer and Dickens among others, writers who had given Tauchnitz early authorisation to publish editions of their novels.
The anthology remained in print for many years, but it was another three years before there was any follow-up and then it was in a rather different direction. A special Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens appeared in 1847, three to four years after the first publication of the story in December 1843. Again the question of authorisation is not entirely clear. Dickens had certainly given his authorisation for the initial publication by Tauchnitz of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it appeared with the wording ‘Edition sanctioned by the Author’ on the title page. In 1846 the first copyright agreements were put in place between Britain, Prussia and Saxony and later editions appeared with the wording ‘Copyright Edition’. But the Schools Edition has no mention of either authorisation or copyright. Was this an oversight, or did Tauchnitz just assume there was no need for any further payment to Dickens, given his existing rights?
I’ve written a longer post on the Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’, which can be found here, so I won’t repeat it all, but the key change was to add at the end an English-German dictionary containing the more difficult words used in the book. The story itself takes up only 78 pages, while the dictionary takes up 91, so it’s fairly comprehensive. As it translates only into German, the book was presumably for sale only in German-speaking countries, a pattern that was to be followed for the next 90 years. Tauchnitz never seems to have made any attempt to sell to schools or students in France, Italy or other countries.
After ‘A Christmas Carol’, it was another 6 years before the next edition specifically for students followed, and it was again to Charles Dickens that Tauchnitz turned. ‘A Child’s History of England’ by Dickens was published in a standard edition by Tauchnitz in 1853, although outside the main series. At more or less the same time it appeared in a special annotated edition, with a substantial dictionary attached to the second volume, but this time also with footnotes, explaining points of English grammar or style.
This was now more or less the format that would eventually be developed into the Tauchnitz Students’ Editions, although they were still more than 30 years away. Oddly there is again no mention of authorisation or copyright, this time on either the annotated edition or the standard edition, although it’s almost impossible to believe that Tauchnitz had not obtained and paid for the European copyright.
So far then, we have a first attempt at a Schools Edition in 1844, another one three years later in 1847, then a gap of 6 years to 1853. So it seems about right that it was then 10 years before Tauchnitz tried again. A Schools Edition of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ appeared in 1863, this time with an introduction and glossary, although I have not seen a copy. And the gaps continued to get larger. The next attempt did not come for another 23 years. And finally this time it was a more serious attempt to develop the market. The first volume of the Tauchnitz Students’ Series for School, College and Home appeared in 1886. I’ll leave the story of those volumes for Part 2.
Although it was based in Germany, sold books only outside Britain and the British Empire, and continued right through to the Second World War, the Tauchnitz Edition was in many ways a Victorian series. Bernhard Tauchnitz was just three years older than Victoria and founded his firm in 1837, the year she came to the throne. By the time Queen Victoria died in 1901, the Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ had reached almost 3500 volumes. Although it was to continue for another 40 years, the high point of the series came in Victoria’s reign and it was essentially on Victorian literature that it built its reputation.
Tauchnitz was undoubtedly an admirer of Victoria and of Victorian Britain and he cultivated links with the Royal Family as assiduously as he cultivated links with all his British Authors. Perhaps surprisingly, both Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were part of that select group, his British Authors. It’s true that neither of them had much of a reputation for literary prowess, but then that was probably not the criterion for their inclusion in the series.
It helped that Albert was German (and Victoria, his cousin, was at least half-German). Indeed arguably Prince Albert and Bernhard Tauchnitz were the two most prominent Anglophile Germans of the Victorian era, building their respective businesses on the closeness of their links with Britain. It is said that the hereditary Baronage granted to Tauchnitz in 1860, was arranged indirectly by Prince Albert, who would surely have been well aware of the impact made by Tauchnitz in continental Europe. The Baronage was granted by Ernst, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was Prince Albert’s brother.
Albert died though in 1861, leaving Victoria to 40 years of widowhood and leaving as a literary legacy only 20 years of formal speeches. ‘The principal speeches and addresses of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort’ were published in the UK in 1862 by John Murray, along with an exceptionally fawning introduction. The Tauchnitz Edition followed in 1866 as volume 850 of the series, with the same introduction and frontispiece and with a further preface written by Tauchnitz himself. This refers to the necessity of including in the series a volume, which ‘contains the results of an essential portion of the intellectual life of a Prince whose memory is honoured not only in England, but in every civilised country of the Globe, and above all in Germany, the land of his birth’. The wrappers of the original paperback edition were marked with the royal insignia.
It seems unlikely that the book was a bestseller in continental Europe. A relatively small number of copies are found in the main library collections, in comparison to other volumes from the same period. They do though include a copy in Cornell University with wrappers dated August 1884, so it was clearly still selling some copies at that time.
In 1868, Victoria too became a published author in the UK when extracts from her journal were published by Smith, Elder & Co. under the title ‘Leaves from the Journal of our life in the Highlands’. This covered her visits to Scotland with Prince Albert from 1848 to 1860. ‘Our life’ here seems to mean both Victoria and Albert, rather than the royal we. Publication in a Tauchnitz Edition did not immediately follow, although it’s hard to say whether this was because Tauchnitz could not obtain the rights, or because he did not want them.
But then in 1884, when Smith Elder brought out a second selection called ‘More leaves from the journal of a life in the Highlands …’, Tauchnitz was able to secure rights to both this and the earlier book. In the second book, the extracts cover the period after Albert’s death, from 1862 to 1882 and the title refers to ‘a life’ rather than ‘our life’. This later book is volume number 2228 in the Tauchnitz series and in paperback copies the rear wrapper is dated February 1884. The earlier book is volume 2227, but was published by Tauchnitz about two weeks later and the rear wrapper is dated March 1884. For both volumes, the first printing is distinguished in bound copies by having nothing on the back of the half-title at the front of the book. Later reprints of each have a reference to the other book on the half-title verso.
Oddly neither book shows Queen Victoria’s name as the author. No-one can have been in any doubt as to whose journal this was, so this must have been some obscure point of royal protocol, rather than an attempt to disguise the true author. The first volume is dedicated to Albert, again without mentioning him by name, while the second is dedicated to ‘my devoted personal attendant and faithful friend John Brown’ and is signed by Victoria.
To complete the picture, it should be noted that two of Victoria and Albert’s daughters were also honoured as Tauchnitz authors. ‘Letters to her Majesty the Queen’ by Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, appeared in 1885 as volumes 2348 and 2349 of the series. Alice was Victoria’s second daughter, who had married a German prince and gone to live in Darmstadt. Her marriage and departure came just after her father’s death and she wrote home regularly to her widowed mother, careful not to appear too happy. In 1877, her husband became the Grand Duke of Hesse, but Alice died the following year. As well as Alice’s letters, the book contains a 75 page memoir written by her sister Helena, who had married another German prince.