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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’

Dickens – the extra Christmas numbers in Tauchnitz

Bookdealer Jeremy Parrott hit the headlines last year when he discovered a remarkable set of bound volumes of ‘All the Year Round’, the periodical founded and owned by Charles Dickens.  The volumes had been annotated by Dickens himself to show the names of the authors of each contribution.

All articles, stories and poems had originally been published anonymously, with only Dickens’ own name appearing as editor. The authors of many had remained unknown for well over 100 years.  It had become one of the great literary puzzles that scholars debated endlessly, and at one stroke Jeremy Parrott seems to have solved it.  It’s hard to imagine the excitement that he must have felt when he realised what he had discovered.

all-the-year-round-1a

But a small dent had been made in this puzzle much earlier.   One of the many firsts that the German publisher Tauchnitz achieved, was to be the first to identify who had written what in some of the Christmas numbers of ‘All the Year Round’.  Here’s how it happened.

It had become a tradition for Dickens each Christmas to publish a special Christmas number of ‘All the Year Round’ (and before that ‘Household Words’), which contained a series of short stories by different authors linked into a single overall framework.  Dickens himself would write at least one story, as well as forming the framework, and other contributors would write the other stories, or chapters.  As usual, contributors other than Dickens were mostly anonymous.

In 1862 Tauchnitz reprinted the stories from ‘All the Year Round’ of 1859, 1860 and 1861 as volume 609 of the Collection of British Authors, under the title ‘Christmas Stories’.  The paperback wrapper described the stories as being by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins etc., but the title page, listed all the separate authors for each story.   Dickens and Collins are given precedence in each case, followed by the other names, so it is not made clear exactly which parts were written by which author.  But at least the names are there, and according to research by Neville Davies in 1978, this is believed to be the first time that they had been identified.

tauchnitz-609-christmas-stories-title-page

Tauchnitz volume 609 – crediting all authors

Tauchnitz had been caught out before by reprinting works from ‘Household Words’ and seeming to attribute them just to Dickens.  In 1856 he had started a series of ‘Novels and Tales  reprinted from Household Words, conducted by Charles Dickens’, where most of the writing was by other authors.  This was in the tradition of ‘Household Words’, but it became a bit much when all of volume 4 of the series and most of volume 5 were devoted to a single novel, ‘The dead secret’, written by Wilkie Collins.   Although Collins was credited on the contents page, the only author’s name on the title page and the wrappers of the first printing was that of Dickens, and this really did seem unfair.  On later printings, Collins was properly credited.  Once bitten, Tauchnitz may have been twice shy.  When it came to reprinting the Christmas stories, he wanted all authors credited.

Five years later in 1867, he brought the series up to date by publishing the Christmas stories from 1862, 1863 and 1864 as volume 888 in the series, and those from 1865 and 1866 as volume 894.  Perhaps surprisingly, this time the title page shows only the name of Dickens, although it does add ‘and the authors named at the head of the stories’.   Although this is in some ways a step backwards, the real difference here is that at the start of the stories, each chapter has the name of the author against it, so that we can now see exactly who wrote what.   Again this is believed to be the first time that this information had been revealed.  Presumably it was done with the approval of Dickens, and the same information appeared in Britain the following year, after the final Christmas story of 1867, when a Collected Edition of all the 9 stories from 1859 to 1867 was published.

tauchnitz-888-title-page

Tauchnitz volume 888 – ‘Charles Dickens and the authors named at the head of the stories’

tauchnitz-888-heading-of-first-story

That final 1867 story – ‘No thoroughfare’, which was written by Dickens and Collins only, was published in a Tauchnitz Edition in June 1868, as volume 961, and both authors are fully credited.  But the story was not long enough to fill a volume on its own and so another story that had been published in ‘All the year round’ was included with it.  ‘The late Miss Hollingford’ had been written by Rosa Mulholland, but was published anonymously, leaving the rather unfortunate impression that it too had been written by Dickens and Collins.

Tauchnitz 961 No thoroughfare title page

‘The late Miss Hollingford’ – not by Dickens and Collins

 

A letter from Charles Dickens

If, like me, you have an interest in the Tauchnitz Editions, then a 150 year-old letter addressed to Bernhard Tauchnitz, is an exciting find.   If you’re at all interested in English literature, then a letter written and signed by Charles Dickens is something special.   A letter from Dickens to Tauchnitz wins on both counts.

24. Auktion

This one was written by Dickens in November 1860 accepting an offer of £35 from Tauchnitz for the publication of ‘The uncommercial traveller’ and ‘Hunted Down’.  The two works were published together as volume 536 of the Tauchnitz series just a few weeks later, their publication announced on 13 December 1860.  Dickens seems to consider ‘The uncommercial traveller’, a series of sketches from his journal ‘All the Year Round’, as being the main work for which payment is being offered.  He adds ‘Hunted Down’ apparently only as an afterthought, at the bottom of the letter, and it accounts for little more than 30 of the near 300 pages in the book.  Yet it is this short story that takes pride of place at the front of the book and on the title page.  Did Tauchnitz see this as the real prize?

Tauchnitz 536 Hunted Down title page

The 75th anniversary publication for Tauchnitz in 1912 included a long selection of extracts of letters from famous authors, with a special section for a series of letters from Dickens.  It is clear from these that Dickens had absolute faith in the reputation of Tauchnitz for fair dealing.  In relation to ‘Dombey and Son’ in 1846 for instance he wrote ‘… I really do not know what it would be fair and reasonable to require from you.  But I have every reason to rely upon your honourable intentions; and if you will do me the favour to state your own proposal, I have little doubt that I shall be willing to assent to it …’.

Letters from Dickens quoted in 1912 Anniversary history 3
Letters from Dickens quoted in 1912 Anniversary history 2

In this letter too, he accepts without question the proposal of £35 from Tauchnitz.   That may well have been a fair price, but it is worth noting that ‘Hunted Down’ is a story that has drawn attention because of the large amount of money initially paid for it.  Dickens was offered £1000 to write it for the ‘New York Ledger’, which published it in three instalments in August and September 1859.   He then published it in ‘All the Year Round’ in 1860, and here now he offers it to Tauchnitz as a makeweight in a £35 deal.   Its value seems to have fallen from £1000 to just a few pounds in little over 12 months!

This particular letter was not quoted in the 1912 publication, but there is an extract from a letter dated just 6 days later, on November 21st 1860.   ‘I beg to acknowledge with thanks, the safe receipt of your draft for £ .. Sterling, also, to send you the agreement with my signature and seal attached’.   Although the publisher’s discretion means that neither the amount of money nor the name of the work are quoted, it seems fair to assume that Dickens had already received both the contract and the payment of £35.   Tauchnitz it seems was a fast worker, and the postal service between Britain and Germany must also have been efficient, possibly even faster than it now is.

Letters from Dickens quoted in 1912 Anniversary history 4

Clearly Tauchnitz kept files of his correspondence with his authors, and recognised himself that the letters from Dickens were something special.  It would be reasonable to assume that they continued to be kept at the Tauchnitz offices and might have been in the premises destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in December 1943.   The survival of this letter suggests though that may not have been the case.  Perhaps they were kept by representatives of the Tauchnitz family when the business was sold in 1934.   This letter turned up last year in an auction in Germany, where it was described as a letter to the German publisher, Tauchnitz, but not identified as being from Dickens.   Do  other letters still exist out there somewhere?

Finally, if that’s not enough, there is another reason to celebrate this find.  ‘Hunted Down’ is one of the few stories to be set in the exciting world of life assurance and to have as one of its principal characters, an actuary, the career to which I have devoted most of my working life.