Monthly Archives: March 2020

A tale of two part-issues

Most of Dickens’ novels were first issued in serial form, either as monthly parts or in some cases serialised in his journals, ‘Household Words’ or ‘All the Year Round’. ‘A tale of two cities’ combined both of these forms.

Dickens used it as the lead story when he launched ‘All the Year Round’ in April 1859, running it in 31 weekly parts from April to November 1859, and so copies of ‘All the Year Round’ represent the true first publication of the story. It was printed in huge numbers and many copies were kept, so it’s not too difficult even now to pick up copies at reasonable cost. Many surviving copies are in bound volumes, but still offer an affordable way to own a Dickens ‘first edition’.

That though is not enough of a challenge for many book collectors. Dickens followed up publication in ‘All the Year Round’ by publishing it in eight monthly parts (six single parts and a final double one) from June to December 1859 and these are much rarer. One bookseller is currently offering a full set of the parts at a mere $30,000, for what is clearly neither the first publication nor the first book edition.

Part 4 of 8 monthly parts

The first book edition followed in November 1859 and you can buy a copy for considerably less than $30,000 although maybe in the thousands rather than the hundreds of dollars.

But over the same period, the story was also being published in English in Continental Europe. Dickens was on friendly terms with the publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz in Leipzig, and offered him the choice of taking the novel either in weekly or monthly parts. Tauchnitz chose to issue it in monthly parts and publication of the first part was announced on 30th June 1859. It’s likely that the parts appeared shortly after the UK parts, although it’s possible that the Tauchnitz part-issues were actually ahead of the equivalent parts in the UK.

The print run would have been much lower than in the UK and surviving copies of the Tauchnitz part-issues might be expected to be much rarer. It’s a meaningless question to ask how valuable such parts might be, because no copies of them have ever been publicly recorded. Until now.

Copies of the first four part-issues of ‘A tale of two cities’ have recently been discovered by a book collector in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, where they had been held in a local library and were being disposed of. Some books were being offered free to local residents, but these ones had to be rescued from a dumpster, by someone who recognised their importance before they disappeared. They are now in his personal collection – a reminder of how narrow the line is between survival and destruction.

They’re certainly not pretty. Three of the four parts have been taped around the edges, which is really not a great look. Only Part 4 is untaped and only the first four parts are present. However they offer the first conclusive proof that such part-issues exist at all. The fourth part contains at the front preliminary pages so that the four parts could be taken to a bookbinder and bound up as a single book, which would be identified as volume 479 of the Tauchnitz series.

Tauchnitz itself then published ‘A tale of two cities’ in book form and it’s not entirely clear whether there’s any way of distinguishing copies issued by Tauchnitz as a single book, from copies that might have been bound up from the parts. One thing that the part-issues do make clear though, is that copies with ten preliminary pages, including a dedication and preface, are not the first printing in book form, as suggested in the Todd & Bowden bibliography. To qualify as a first printing in book form, copies must have only 6 pages of preliminaries, with the contents on pages v and vi. Sadly that means that copies in the British Library in London, the Bodleian in Oxford, in Frankfurt, Munich and in Stockholm, can no longer be considered first printings.

The first printing, whether in parts or in book form, has contents on pages v and vi

The second set of four parts could be bound up as volume 480, and Tauchnitz announced publication of the entire novel in book form in these two volumes on 22nd December 1859. This was about a month after first publication of the complete novel in the UK, although it’s likely, in line with previous practice, that the first Tauchnitz volume would have been sold on its own in advance of this, possibly from September or October.

When Todd & Bowden published their bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions in 1988 they were able to locate only a single Tauchnitz part-issue of any novel, in any of the major Tauchnitz collections, including those in national, state or university libraries around the world. In total 84 different parts are believed to have been published from a total of six novels, but the only remaining example they could find was a tattered copy of one part of ‘Little Dorrit’ in the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris.

Since then copies of individual parts of ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Our mutual friend’ have come to light, followed by the discovery of a full set of 20 parts of ‘Bleak House’, although the location of these is now unknown. The discovery now of part-issues of ‘A tale of two cities’ means that parts are known of, for four of the five Dickens novels published in this way. No parts of ‘Edwin Drood’ are yet known, nor any of the one non-Dickens novel to be issued in parts by Tauchnitz – ‘A strange story’ by Bulwer Lytton.

All 20 parts of ‘Bleak House’

Io Diomedeæ et Amicorum

A strange title for a blog post and a strange wording to find on the front board of a book. It turns up on various Albatross books produced in the period around 1950 when the business was casting around, looking for a way to succeed in the very different publishing conditions after the war.

Albatross had been hugely successful before the war, publishing English language paperbacks in Continental Europe, defeating and effectively taking over, the long established Tauchnitz business. But attempts to revive the brand after the war faltered in the face of difficult market conditions and strong competition from British and American paperbacks, including of course Penguin Books.

In 1948 the business seems to have tried a different approach, having a range of titles bound up in a creamy coloured card binding, almost a sort of false vellum, and probably using existing unsold paperback stock. These were then given a standard Albatross dustwrapper , which in the post-war period showed the name of the local sales partner company, varying by country. All of the copies in this style that I have seen, have a dustwrapper from either Norway, Sweden or Denmark although they may have been sold elsewhere as well.

The front and back boards have an intricate blind stamped frame with on the front the title in the middle, the date 1948 in Roman numerals at the top, and the Latin phrase ‘Io Diomedeæ et Amicorum’ at the bottom. It’s not immediately clear what this means and a quick Internet search brings up a description of a similar book and the suggestion that the phrase translates as ‘I like pie’.

That seems hardly likely, and a more promising search result shows a similar phrase ‘Io Grolierii et Amicorum’, used by Jean Grolier de Servières, a famous bibliophile from the sixteenth century. He had his books bound in a range of fine bindings with this phrase as an inscription on the front board. It translates as ‘ For the use of Jean Grolier and his friends’.

So the Albatross binding it seems is some kind of reference or tribute to Jean Grolier. That’s confirmed by the Wikipedia entry on Grolier, which shows illustrations of some of his books, including strapwork designs very similar to the Albatross cover design. That leaves little doubt that this is a ‘Grolier binding’, albeit very much a poor man’s version of it.

An original Grolier binding

But who might have produced such a binding and why? And if Diomedeæ refers to a person, who is it? In the Greek legends, Diomedes was a warrior in the Trojan War and one of the main characters in the Iliad.

Diomedes, King of Argos

The answer though is far simpler. Albatrosses are seabirds in the family Diomedeidae. The Latin name for the Wandering Albatross is Diomedea Exulans. So ‘Io Diomedeæ et Amicorum’ means ‘For the use of The Albatross and his friends’.

It’s unclear how successful or how widely used this binding was, but Albatross was certainly struggling as a business at this time. Over the next few years it tried various different things in order to survive, including other types of hard binding. In 1951 though it came back to Grolier for a rather more luxurious binding. The copy that I have is on Albatross volume 583 – ‘London belongs to me’ by Norman Collins, but it seems to have been used for other volumes as well, including volume 600.

This time the boards have a rather different strapwork design in colour, but still clearly in the Grolier style, with that same phrase at the bottom and with a central arabesque that refers back to the same source (see the image of a Grolier design above). The book has a glassine jacket, printed on the flaps, and an elaborate design of spine, with more arabesques, the albatross symbol and at the base, the name ‘Torriani’.

The Legatoria Torriani was one the largest Italian bookbinders for most of the twentieth century, based in Milan up until 1960. By 1950 the Albatross company was based in Rome and this book was printed in Verona, so Torriani would have been a natural choice of binder. The owners may well have had an interest in the history of bookbinding and Grolier had spent several years in Milan as an aide to the French Court. While there he had met Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Aldine Press and he had used local bookbinders for many of the books in his library.

Whether the suggestion to use Grolier as the inspiration for a series of Albatross bindings came in the first place from Torriani or from Albatross or from elsewhere, we may never know. But the resulting books now provide rather a nice memorial to both Grolier and Albatross.