An unusual dedication
One of my previous posts looked at the celebratory volume 500 of the Tauchnitz series in 1860, for which a special gift edition was produced. Copies exist, with dedications from Bernhard Tauchnitz to various friends or colleagues, of an edition bound in full leather with all edges gilt and a portrait of Tauchnitz bound in at the front. In comparison, the standard edition had no portrait and exists in the usual paperback and a range of other bindings, as well as in a green cloth edition produced for sale in the UK.
So what is this? A copy of the gift binding, or at least one very similar to it, with no inscription from Tauchnitz, but instead an inscription 41 years later from a Tauchnitz author. This copy has what seems to be a light-hearted dedication from Tighe Hopkins, author of six Tauchnitz works, perhaps most famously ‘The man in the iron mask’ (Tauchnitz volume 3491, first published in 1901). He inscribes it in that same year to Madge Jones as a Prize for the Ping-Pong (practice) tournament, and adds “Call this a prize!”, which he ascribes to Shakespeare, although it seems unlikely to have anything to do with the bard.
But how did Tighe Hopkins come to have this edition in any case? When the book was published, and presumably this edition was produced, he would have been only four years old, so I think we can rule out this having been presented to him at the time. He became a Tauchnitz author for the first time only in 1899, two years before this dedication and four years after the death of Bernhard Tauchnitz in 1895. Surely the firm did not still have a stock of the special gift editions 40 years on, that it was presenting to new authors? And on closer inspection of the binding, although very similar, it is not quite identical to the original gift binding. It looks like a slightly more modern version of it, so possibly bound up years later.
A clue though comes from an article published in Pall Mall magazine in 1901. There are twelve pages on ‘”The Tauchnitz” Edition – The story of a popular publisher’, written by Tighe Hopkins and illustrated by photos of the first and second Barons Tauchnitz and their home and office buildings. It is extremely complimentary to the firm and quotes extensively from the Tauchnitz archive of letters from authors, much as the firm’s own memorial volumes do. Indeed it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that it could easily have been written by somebody from the Tauchnitz firm itself. Certainly if Tighe Hopkins was writing it, he was doing the firm a favour and he would have required personal access to the Tauchnitz archive.
So was he perhaps offered a specially bound edition of volume 500 as a thank you present? Or perhaps one of a few that had been bound up as gifts after the original stock had gone? It seems at least possible, although sadly if so, it was not signed by the second Baron. And perhaps equally sadly, Hopkins seems not to have placed great value on the gift, passing it on within months, perhaps to a young friend, or to someone who beat him at table tennis.