Studying with Tauchnitz – Part 2
Part 1 of this topic looked at the early one-off publications by Tauchnitz for school use and for home students of English. They were not really a serious attempt to access what was potentially a substantial market. From 1886 though, Tauchnitz got serious. The Students’ Series for School, College and Home took classic English texts, mostly already published in the main Tauchnitz series and gave them to a German academic. Their job was to take an excerpt or abridge a novel, add footnotes for German students and write an introduction in German.
Fifteen volumes of the new series were issued in 1886, starting with ‘The Lady of Lyons’ by Edward Bulwer Lytton, who had already had the honour of opening the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors 44 years earlier. He was quickly followed in this new series by works from George Eliot, Alfred Lord Tennyson, W.M. Thackeray, Thomas Carlyle and Sir Walter Scott – something of a parade of the great and the good from the first 40 years of Tauchnitz history, although Dickens had to wait until volumes 9 and 10.
The books were issued in two formats, as paperbacks and in a hard binding with plain paper boards and a red fabric spine. Few people would pay to have the paperbacks privately bound, and few of them have survived in the original wrappers, so almost all surviving copies are in the standard hard binding. It generally cost only 10 pfennigs more than the paperback edition anyway (for instance 0.80 Marks rather than 0.70 Marks), so it seems likely that this was how most of them were sold.
First printings of the early editions are rare. Todd & Bowden, the Tauchnitz bibliographers, found an 1886 copy of only three of the first 15 titles. They were unable to find any copy at all of four of these books and of the overall series there were 21 of the 41 volumes for which they could not locate a single copy. This probably exaggerates the rarity though, as most libraries have limited interest in schoolbooks and tend not to collect them. My own collection now includes copies of 33 of the 41 titles, including many of those previously unlocated.
But early printings are still difficult to find. I now have what I believe to be first printings of six of the first 15 titles. The key is that they are dated 1886 on the back cover and have no volume number on the front. As more generally with Tauchnitz, even reprints from many years later still have the original publication date on the title page and the front cover, so we have to look for clues elsewhere. Early issues have the printing date on the back cover. For later issues, the approximate date can be established by checking what other titles are advertised, or often by checking the edition number of the English-German dictionary regularly advertised on the back cover. New editions of the dictionary were regularly issued, so for instance an advert for the 39th edition of the dictionary dates the book to roughly 1904 to 1907, when the 40th edition was published.
A first printing of volume 4
The example of volume 4 above is typical. It is dated March 1886 on the rear and unnumbered on the front. It lists only the first eight volumes as already available and a further six titles as in course of preparation. Two of these six volumes did appear in due course substantially as promised, although ‘Sketches’ by Dickens split into two volumes. Of the other four, one never appeared, and three were published under other titles and/or with different academics supplying the footnotes.
After the initial rush, production of new titles started to slow down. There were six volumes added in 1887, another five in 1888 and a total of 11 between 1889 and 1893. After that it was only occasional titles, one in 1896, one in 1900, one in 1902 and bizarrely a final title during the First World War in 1917. Reprints from around the turn of the century seem to be relatively plentiful though, so the existing titles must have been selling well enough. Perhaps there was simply no need for lots of different titles. After all few people remain a student for long enough to get through more than 41 books, before either giving up, or graduating to full novels.
From volume 38 onwards in 1896 there was a bit of a change of direction. Instead of adding footnotes under the relevant text, comments were provided in a separate booklet along with an English-German dictionary of the most difficult words. The ‘Anmerkungen und Worterbuch’ were sold separately, generally at a price of around 40 pfennigs. Dictionaries were also compiled for many of the earlier titles that were still on sale and again sold separately from the books at prices ranging from 20 pfennigs to 1 Mark.
The series continued to sell into the early 1920s, but eventually, after 40 years, Tauchnitz seems to have come to the conclusion that it needed a refresh. A new series, the Tauchnitz Students’ Series Neue Folge, launched in 1926. That may some time be the subject of Part 3, and if I ever get round to it, there’s a Part 4 waiting in the wings as well.