There is a long history of English language books published in Continental Europe that goes back way before the launch of the Tauchnitz series in 1841. One of the most significant series in the period just before Tauchnitz, and one that almost certainly influenced the young Bernhard Tauchnitz, was Baudry’s Collection of Ancient and Modern British Novels, published in Paris from 1831.
Louis-Claude Baudry (or sometimes Claude-Louis Baudry) seems to have been established as a bookseller in Paris from around 1815 and perhaps a little later as a publisher. Early on he decided to specialise in foreign language publications. A printing in English of ‘The letters of Junius’, published by Baudry & Lance in Paris in 1819, refers to their business as the ‘English, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese Library’. References to Lance soon disappear and the description of the business changes over the years, sometimes referred to as ‘Baudry’s Foreign Library’, but it eventually settles on ‘Baudry’s European Library’.
A New Year catalogue for 1829 makes clear the specialisation of the business in foreign language books and refers to the availability of “more than 40,000 volumes of the best works in English, Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese, ancient and modern, new and second-hand”.
It’s unclear how many of these books would have been actually published by Baudry, rather than just sold by the bookshop. But shortly after this, the firm launched numbered series of books in several European languages, including in English, ‘Baudry’s Collection of Ancient and Modern British Novels and Romances’. The reference to ‘Romances’ was later dropped, but seems in particular to have been applied to the novels of Walter Scott, which featured heavily in the early titles, accounting for rather more than half of the first 50 volumes, including the first volume, ‘Waverley’.
Scott was still alive when the series started, but died in 1832 and would have received no payment at all for the use of his work. There were no international copyright agreements at this time, and publication of foreign titles with no payment to the author was standard practice. It seems ironic that one of the Scott novels published by Baudry was ‘The Pirate’ (volume 22 of the series), given that Baudry was a pirate publisher on a grand scale.
After the initial concentration on Walter Scott, the series settled down to cover a wide variety of authors, with Fenimore Cooper, Bulwer Lytton, G.P.R. James and Captain Marryat prominent among them. Like Tauchnitz after him, Baudry seemed to draw no distinction between British and American authors. Although the series title referred to British novels, it included numerous volumes by Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving, as well as other Americans such as Alexander Mackenzie and George Bancroft and a Nova Scotian in Thomas Haliburton.
Like Tauchnitz, and like most continental publishers of the time, Baudry published their books as paperbacks. But many were then taken to the bookbinder, and as these are generally the copies that survive best, in practice most of the copies found nowadays are hard bound.
Also like Tauchnitz, it’s difficult to distinguish first printings. As far as I can tell, most copies are correctly dated, in the sense that the date on the title page is the actual printing date of that copy. However with no indication of previous printings, it’s not easy to tell whether earlier printings exist or not. I’ve been unable to find a full bibliography of the main series, but I do have a rough list of numbers and dates that I’d be happy to share with anyone who’s interested.
There seem to have been around 450 numbered volumes in the series published between 1831 and 1850, of which about 350 appeared in the decade before the arrival of Tauchnitz to the market. After that the rate of publication of new volumes slows down noticeably, presumably because of the increased competition.
Baudry had sold its books partly on price, claiming to be far cheaper than the same books sold in Britain. The standard price per volume was 5 Francs, equivalent to around 4 shillings in UK Sterling at the time, for books that might have sold for 12s 6d or more in Britain in hardback. But Tauchnitz volumes, considerably smaller in terms of the amount of paper used, sold for more like the equivalent of 1s 6d and would have undercut Baudry.
In the end though the business was killed off, not directly by Tauchnitz, but by legislation. An Anglo-French Copyright treaty was signed in 1851, making it impossible to continue to publish English novels without authorisation. And as Tauchnitz had obtained exclusive authorisation from almost all the leading English novelists, Baudry had little room for manoeuvre. An International Copyright Act followed in 1852. The series of English language novels came to an end, although Baudry’s European Library continued, publishing mostly books on learning foreign languages, particularly English.
The English language series is the only one that I’ve looked into, but there were parallel series in several other languages, certainly Italian and Spanish, running at much the same time.
Pirate publishers in Continental Europe and in America were a constant irritant to Charles Dickens. There was probably no other author who suffered as much at their hands. Dickens’s early works were widely pirated in Europe until the first international copyright treaties, starting with the treaty in 1846 between Prussia and the United Kingdom.
Even many years after that, they were still being pirated in the US and Dickens became a very vocal campaigner for the introduction of international copyright laws. He never succeeded in his lifetime. It was not until 1891 that the US introduced an International Copyright Act, and even then it refused to join the international Berne Convention. Perhaps worth remembering when Americans complain about the lack of copyright protection in China and elsewhere? Trump will not be the first US president to co-operate with other countries only when it suits him.
All this was far into the future when Bernhard Tauchnitz first launched his series of English language novels in Germany in 1841. He was free to publish the novels of British Authors without any restriction or any payment, and he enthusiastically joined the pirate band. To his credit, he realised relatively quickly that the life of a pirate was not for him and set about building relationships with authors, including Dickens. But for the first 18 months or so, Tauchnitz Editions were unauthorised pirate editions.
Dickens was the new rising star of English literature at that time, challenging the establishment of writers such as Bulwer Lytton, G.P.R. James, Captain Marryat and Walter Scott (who had died 10 years earlier). The works of all of these authors were widely available in Europe in unauthorised editions, both in English and in translation. So Tauchnitz was far from the first to publish ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ when it appeared as volumes 47 and 48 of his ‘Collection of British authors’ in 1843.
Dickens wrote the novel in 1838 / 1839, publishing it in monthly instalments from March 1838 to October 1839. Before the final instalment was published, possibly even before it was written, pirate versions of the earlier chapters were appearing. In 1838, Georg Westerman in Braunchweig was already publishing ‘Leben und Abenteuer des Nicolaus Nickleby. Herausgegeben von Boz, dem Verfasser der Pickwicker‘. By 1939 the novel had been published in English by J.J. Weber and Frederick Fleischer in Germany and from Paris had appeared in Baudry’s European Library. In the same year it was published in the US by Lea and Blanchard in Philadelphia and apparently by two New York publishers, William H. Colyer and James Turney. It seems fairly safe to assume that none of these publishers paid anything to Dickens.
A pirate German language edition of Nicholas Nickleby, already in 1839, the Second Edition
By early June 1843 when the Tauchnitz Edition of Nickleby appeared, Tauchnitz had already published ‘The Pickwick Papers’ as volumes 2 and 3 of his series, ‘American Notes for general circulation’ as volume 32 and ‘Oliver Twist’ as volume 36. After Nickleby, ‘Sketches by Boz’ followed a month or two later, bringing the number of unauthorised Dickens volumes to seven. But change was underway. Dickens had returned from a six month tour of America in 1842 outraged at the piracy of his works. In May 1843 he chaired a first meeting of the ‘Association for the Protection of Literature’. Six weeks after that Tauchnitz made his move, proposing voluntary payment to authors. His first authorised volume, by G.P.R. James, appeared in August 1843, and by the end of the year he was able to publish a fully authorised edition of Dickens’ latest work, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
So that first unauthorised printing of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ in a Tauchnitz Edition was one of the last few pirate editions Tauchnitz ever published. It can be identified by the lack of any copyright notice on the title page. All later printings still show 1843 on the title page, but say clearly ‘copyright edition’. Any copy printed after about 1853 will also show the later form of the publisher’s name, as ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ rather than ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’
The title page from a later reprint showing ‘Copyright Edition’ and ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’
It’s not clear to what extent the agreement with Dickens was retrospective, offering payment for works already published and copies already sold. But it would be surprising if Tauchnitz didn’t offer some payment to wash away his previous sins. Certainly he seems to have done enough to earn the gratitude of Dickens and to establish cordial relations with him for the rest of his life. But however much absolution Tauchnitz later received, that first Tauchnitz printing of Nicholas Nickleby still has a tinge of piracy about it.
The Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ started in late 1841 with ‘Pelham’ by Bulwer Lytton. Neither the book nor the author are much remembered today. But it was followed by what has surely become one of the best-known and best-loved books of the entire 19th century, written by the century’s most famous author. ‘The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club’, or as it’s better known today, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens was published in two volumes as volumes 2 and 3 of the Tauchnitz series.
Dickens was only 24 when he started to write the Pickwick Papers, which appeared in monthly instalments over 1836 and 1837, with the first publication in book form in 1837. It was a publishing sensation in Britain and not surprisingly, rapidly attracted the attention of continental publishers. By the time Tauchnitz published it at the start of 1842 (or possibly late 1841), it had already appeared in English language editions published by Galignani and by Baudry in Paris and by Friedrich Fleischer in Leipzig. It had also been published in German language translations by Weber in Leipzig (from 1837) and by at least two other publishers (Eduard Leibrock and Vieweg und Sohn).
All of these, and the first Tauchnitz publication too, were pirated. There was no international copyright agreement and none of those publishers would have paid Dickens a penny for the right to publish his work. Although Tauchnitz went on to make his name and fortune by offering payment to authors, notably Dickens, for the right to publish authorised editions, he too started off by effectively stealing their work. He went on to publish 5 further pirated volumes by Dickens, before finally offering payment for the publication of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in 1844.
So the earliest Tauchnitz editions of The Pickwick Papers carry no reference to authorisation on the title page. As the book went on to be reprinted many times by Tauchnitz over the next 100 years, later printings are described as ‘copyright edition’, and the vast majority of copies now found are of this type. But at least the first two editions are distinguished by having no mention of copyright on the title page. The first edition had 446 pages in volume 1 (and 427 in volume 2), but the first volume was quickly re-set with 432 pages, so few copies have survived of the very first printing. I have one in my collection and there are two copies in the Pressler collection, now in the National Library of Scotland. The bibliography records no other copies, although there are surely some out there. It’s certainly possible though that not a single copy in the original paperback state has survived. If anyone has a paperback copy, or even has ever seen one, please let me know.