The phrase ‘Todd & Bowden’ means only one thing for me. It’s a large red 1000+ page book that is practically the Bible of my book-collecting – the bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions. For other people, the same phrase may refer to another 1000+ page tome, the bibliography of Walter Scott editions. Underlying these two monumental works though, there are the two authors, William Todd and Ann Bowden, a husband and wife team of bibliographers, who spent years of their lives producing these two works.
They had the good fortune to work at the University of Texas at Austin, which through the huge collections held at its Harry Ransom Centre and the associated literary research, has become perhaps one of the best places in the world for a bibliographer to work. It was partly they who made it so, William Todd having been recruited by Ransom to work at Austin before there was such a thing as the Harry Ransom Centre.
Todd had made his name through a series of pioneering works, including the standard reference work on Edmund Burke, as well as studies of the Nixon tapes and Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book. He was already almost 60 years old and a well-respected professor and bibliographer, when he and Ann started to collect and study Tauchnitz Editions. It was the beginning of a 10 year project that led to the Todd & Bowden bibliography, published in 1988.
The two of them travelled around Europe and America to inspect all the major Tauchnitz collections that they were able to identify. They recorded in detail 25 collections in Europe, many in National Libraries, and a further 21 in North America, mostly in universities. In doing so, they were able for the first time to create a guide to distinguish different printings and editions and to start to date them. Tauchnitz were notorious for leaving the first publication date on the title page of editions published many years later, leading to widespread confusion over dating. Unfortunately for many of the libraries they visited, Todd & Bowden’s work had the effect of identifying their copies as reprints.
At the same time they were building their own collection, which eventually grew to over 6000 volumes, covering both bound editions and paperbacks, first printings and reprints. After publication of the bibliography, their collection was acquired by a German cultural foundation and presented to the British Library, which had previously held only a relatively small collection. Todd & Bowden moved on to work on the equally comprehensive Walter Scott bibliography, published in 1998, by which time they were both well into their seventies, and Todd nearly 80.
Ann Bowden died in 2001 and William Todd in 2011, at the age of 92. The two major bibliographies they worked on together serve as a monument to them. They also inspired, through their teaching and their example, generations of other bibliographers. And for me too their work has been an inspiration. I might still have been interested in Tauchnitz Editions, but without their bibliography, I would never have embarked on the project to build a collection that has occupied me for the last 25 years and more. And the collection itself is defined both in terms of scope and in terms of first printing status, by the parameters established in ‘Todd & Bowden’.
In 1843 Bernhard Tauchnitz signed an agreement with Charles Dickens to publish authorised continental editions of his books. ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, the first of Dickens’ novels to appear in an authorised edition, has already featured in this blog. But his short story ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published almost at the same time by Tauchnitz and may even have got there first.
The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz lists the announcement dates in some detail. Tauchnitz announced both books for issue within the next few days on 4 December 1843, with an official announcement in the Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel on 8 December. ‘A Christmas Carol’ was to be published simultaneously with the London edition, which was eventually issued on 19 December. ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ appeared in the Hinrichs’schen Buchhandung lists of publications on 18-20 December followed by ‘A Christmas Carol’ on 27 December.
That might suggest that ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ was published first, but on the other hand it is dated 1844 on the title page, whereas ‘A Christmas Carol’ is dated 1843. The date of 1844 for ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ could be because this was only volume 1, with volume 2 to appear later in 1844, although Tauchnitz didn’t always follow this practice. On the other hand it seems highly likely that ‘A Christmas Carol’ did appear in 1843, and indeed before Christmas. Even if the Christmas book market was not as competitive in 1843 as it is now, there would have been an obvious commercial imperative to having it published before rather than after Christmas. As books had to be distributed for sale across continental Europe, it could hardly have been left to the last minute either. Could it actually have been published earlier than 19 December, in which case the Tauchnitz edition would be the worldwide first edition?
We may never know the answer to that. Certainly the Tauchnitz Edition was published very close to the date of first UK publication. But as always with Tauchnitz Editions, there’s another problem anyway, which is to identify which copies represent the first edition.
Like all Tauchnitz Editions it was issued as a paperback, and a relatively small one, consisting of just 78 pages on quite thin paper. The half-title identifies it as being part of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors, but it was effectively an unnumbered special edition, too short to justify a series number or the normal volume price. More significantly for its chances of survival, it was too slim a paperback for many purchasers to justify taking it to the bookbinders and having it separately bound. Instead it is sometimes found bound together with another volume of Dickens, or an unrelated volume from another author. But for the most part it has simply disappeared, with surviving copies of the first printing now very rare.
For a copy to be identified as the first printing, it must first have 78 pages (with the preliminary pages not included in the numbering), must show the publisher as Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. on the title page and refer to the book being an ‘Edition sanctioned by the author’. It should also say ‘Printed by Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ at the foot of the final page and have a frontispiece entitled ‘Marley’s Ghost’, described on the title page as being a coloured etching, although according to the bibliography it is really a coloured lithograph. Even with all these qualifications, there remain two variants, one of which (impression Aa) finishes with ‘THE END.’ and the other (impression Ab) with ‘THE E .’ – i.e with the letters ND missing. The bibliography gives precedence to impression Aa, suggesting that the ‘ND’ of impression Ab was ‘apparently dropped in reimpression from standing type’. That may be right, but it’s not clear to me why the alternative interpretation of a mistake in the first impression, quickly corrected in a second impression, could not equally be true. Although printing errors happened only extremely rarely in Tauchnitz Editions, a rush to get the book issued in time for Christmas might conceivably have caused this?
Todd & Bowden in the bibliography identified only a single copy of impression Aa, in their own collection, now held in the British Library, with three surviving copies of impression Ab in Amsterdam, Yale and Munich, the last of these in a private collection now held in the National Library of Scotland. There’s now a further copy of impression Aa in my collection, which may therefore be an extremely rare example of the worldwide first printing of ‘A Christmas Carol’, or may not even be a first printing of the Tauchnitz Edition. That’s the joy of book collecting!