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.
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 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.
The market for English language publishing in Continental Europe existed well before Tauchnitz came along in 1842. It was dominated by two large French publishers, Galignani and Baudry, both of which published the latest English novels without any authorisation or any payment to the author. But there was also a German publisher, Frederick Fleischer of Leipzig with an interest in the market.
Fleischer’s niche seems to have been publishing series of books by particular authors, starting with Edward Lytton Bulwer (later Bulwer-Lytton) in 1834. Bulwer was only 31 at the time, perhaps a bit young for a ‘Complete Works’, but he was at the height of his popularity with already several novels to his name. Fleischer launched the series with ‘Pelham’ (later to be the first novel in the Tauchnitz series as well) and followed up with another five volumes of the series in that first year.
By the end of 1935 Fleischer had more or less caught up with Bulwer Lytton’s published output to date and celebrated with his portrait and signature as a frontispiece to volume 10. This might well have reinforced the impression that the series had his authorisation, which it certainly didn’t.
The publisher would now have to wait for new works – not for long as Bulwer was a prolific writer, but in the meantime it was time to launch a new author. Fleischer now settled on Frederick Marryat, another popular and prolific novelist and particularly a writer of sea stories. He too was given the honour of a ‘complete works’ series, although not the honour of any payment.
Eight novels by Marryat were published in 1836 and three more in 1837 and 1838, taking the series to eleven volumes, while the Bulwer Lytton series gradually extended to 15 volumes over the same period.
But by 1838 there was a new literary star on the horizon. The Pickwick Papers, serialised in the UK in 1836/7 and published in book form at the end of 1837, had been a huge success. Charles Dickens was now the author everyone wanted to read and Fleischer was not going to disappoint them. The Pickwick Papers appeared as the first two volumes of a new Complete Works of Charles Dickens in early 1839.
The suggestion of a ‘Complete Works’ of Dickens in 1839 was even more odd than it had been for Bulwer five years earlier. Dickens was barely 27 years old and had just two or three published works to his name. ‘Sketches by Boz’ had appeared in 1836 and ‘Oliver Twist’ appeared in book form in April 1839.
But Fleischer was far from alone in seeing the potential of Dickens. Both Baudry and Galignani had already published pirate editions of Pickwick in English in 1838 (with Galignani probably the first). J.J. Weber had also published a German translations in parts in 1837/8 and 1839 saw a second translation from Vieweg & Sohn of Braunschweig.
Fleischer followed up with ‘Oliver Twist’ as volume 3, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ as volumes 4 and 5 and ‘Sketches’ as volume 6, so that by the end of 1940 he was up to date with Dickens’ works. Three volumes of ‘Master Humphrey’s Clock’ followed in 1841/2, taking Dickens to 9 volumes, while Bulwer gradually increased to 20 volumes and Marryat to 14.
Then in 1942 the rival Tauchnitz series launched, also in Leipzig, and it was very quickly all over for Fleischer. Even before Tauchnitz in mid-1843 landed the hammer blow of obtaining authorisation from the authors in return for payment, Fleischer had more or less given up. The final volume, ‘The last of the barons’ by Bulwer, appeared in 1843 and Fleischer, one of the last of the pirates, hauled down his Jolly Roger and went back to publishing books in German.
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.
As a German publisher selling books in English, Bernhard Tauchnitz had to find a market wherever he could. Of course he wanted to sell to German nationals, but there were only a limited number of those who could read a whole novel in English. He could not sell in Britain or the British Empire for copyright reasons, but he spread out to sell across the whole of the European Continent and beyond. By selling his books in railway station bookstalls and specialist expatriate bookshops, he was able to target British and American expatriates and travellers as well. That made a large enough market for a successful business.
But there was still another sizeable potential market, if he could reach it. Those who were learning English in schools, in universities or as individual students at home. Producing basic school text-books was a specialist market, but there were lots of students who had got past the basics, but would still find it difficult to read a full length novel in English. Given the access Tauchnitz had to novels in English and to British authors, could he help to bridge the gap?
The first attempt was an anthology issued in 1844 called ‘Selections from British Authors in Prose and Poetry. A class-book for the use of schools.’ by Edward Moriarty. That’s according to the English language title page, although oddly the second title page, in German, refers to the book being for both school and personal use. The book contains a series of prose extracts, following directly on from each other as chapters, with author names at the end of each chapter and then followed by 76 poems.
Most of the authors were safely dead and out of copyright, but there were a small number still alive in 1844, which raises the question of whether the use of their work was authorised. There was no international copyright convention in 1844, but by that time Tauchnitz was obtaining authorisation and making payment for all works in the main series. There is no indication here that the book is authorised, even though it contains extracts from the works of Marryat, Bulwer and Dickens among others, writers who had given Tauchnitz early authorisation to publish editions of their novels.
The anthology remained in print for many years, but it was another three years before there was any follow-up and then it was in a rather different direction. A special Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens appeared in 1847, three to four years after the first publication of the story in December 1843. Again the question of authorisation is not entirely clear. Dickens had certainly given his authorisation for the initial publication by Tauchnitz of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it appeared with the wording ‘Edition sanctioned by the Author’ on the title page. In 1846 the first copyright agreements were put in place between Britain, Prussia and Saxony and later editions appeared with the wording ‘Copyright Edition’. But the Schools Edition has no mention of either authorisation or copyright. Was this an oversight, or did Tauchnitz just assume there was no need for any further payment to Dickens, given his existing rights?
I’ve written a longer post on the Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’, which can be found here, so I won’t repeat it all, but the key change was to add at the end an English-German dictionary containing the more difficult words used in the book. The story itself takes up only 78 pages, while the dictionary takes up 91, so it’s fairly comprehensive. As it translates only into German, the book was presumably for sale only in German-speaking countries, a pattern that was to be followed for the next 90 years. Tauchnitz never seems to have made any attempt to sell to schools or students in France, Italy or other countries.
After ‘A Christmas Carol’, it was another 6 years before the next edition specifically for students followed, and it was again to Charles Dickens that Tauchnitz turned. ‘A Child’s History of England’ by Dickens was published in a standard edition by Tauchnitz in 1853, although outside the main series. At more or less the same time it appeared in a special annotated edition, with a substantial dictionary attached to the second volume, but this time also with footnotes, explaining points of English grammar or style.
This was now more or less the format that would eventually be developed into the Tauchnitz Students’ Editions, although they were still more than 30 years away. Oddly there is again no mention of authorisation or copyright, this time on either the annotated edition or the standard edition, although it’s almost impossible to believe that Tauchnitz had not obtained and paid for the European copyright.
So far then, we have a first attempt at a Schools Edition in 1844, another one three years later in 1847, then a gap of 6 years to 1853. So it seems about right that it was then 10 years before Tauchnitz tried again. A Schools Edition of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ appeared in 1863, this time with an introduction and glossary, although I have not seen a copy. And the gaps continued to get larger. The next attempt did not come for another 23 years. And finally this time it was a more serious attempt to develop the market. The first volume of the Tauchnitz Students’ Series for School, College and Home appeared in 1886. I’ll leave the story of those volumes for Part 2.
The RSC are giving Shakespeare a rest this Christmas. While the main theatre has its usual family-friendly show with David Edgar’s adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, the Swan Theatre hosts Imperium – Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels. At over 6 hours of theatre, spread over two shows, this one is perhaps a little less family-friendly. But it has three long books to cover, not just a slim volume of Dickens.
‘A Christmas Carol’ is of course a treat, and particularly a visual treat, although not because of lavish scenery. At times it needs only a top hat and a dress coat here, a couple of doors there, to summon up Victorian London, or perhaps more specifically Dickensian London. The scene with Mr. Fezziwig in Scrooge’s youth is probably not really Victorian, but captured so perfectly the Dickensian image of a slightly earlier period that it seemed to bring the original book illustration to life.
Phil Davis is well cast as Scrooge, surely partly on the basis of his earlier role as Smallweed in the TV adaptation of Bleak House. I didn’t find his personal journey to greater empathy and happiness entirely convincing though. There’s neither a gradual process of understanding, nor a sudden epiphany – more just a feeling of well yes, of course I see that, which is difficult to square with his earlier attitudes.
But the bigger difficulty I have with this production is the role of Dickens, who wanders in and out of the action with his friend, and later biographer, John Forster. David Edgar and the Director, Rachel Kavanaugh, seem to have decided that the story doesn’t stand well enough on its own. It risks being seen as – well, a feel-good family-friendly Christmas show. So they rather ram down our throats the message that Dickens was not just writing a Christmas ghost story – he was a campaigner trying to draw attention to some of the social evils of the time. Slightly bizarrely they show Forster having to convince Dickens, the great storyteller, that a story might be the best way to get his political and social message across.
But in doing so they seem to be denying this very premise. They don’t trust the storyteller to get his message across through the story – they have to give him a second chance to air his views by talking directly to the audience as well. Dickens didn’t have to do that – he could just publish the story and let it stand on its own – and the RSC shouldn’t need to either.
‘Imperium’ too has a narrator, who both takes part in the action and stands back from it to pass comment on it, but at least here it’s a device that comes directly from the book. Joseph Kloska plays Tiro, Cicero’s secretary and biographer. He’s very likeable in the role, although it’s slightly odd that he seems not to age, while his master does. The role works much better than with Dickens in a Christmas Carol, and partly because it’s treated a little less earnestly and more tongue in cheek.
There’s still a feeling though that the RSC isn’t quite prepared to trust its audience to draw their own conclusions. As one example, at a key point in the first play they plant in the audience’s mind the idea that perhaps it was Cicero himself who wrote some forged letters. They then reinforce the idea with muttering from one of his slaves about the role he had to play in the affair. But that’s not enough – at the end of the play, as though delivering the final coup, they reveal that, surprise surprise, Cicero wrote the letters.
It felt similar in the second play when Mark Anthony’s continual drunken staggering seemed mainly designed to reinforce the point, repeated several times, that his wife was the real power behind the throne. A few lines of carefully crafted dialogue, or perhaps even a single raised finger, could have made the point far more effectively. Or given that the plays were very light on female roles, we could perhaps have heard more directly from Fulvia herself, with less focus on her alleged puppet (compare Shakespeare’s treatment of Lady Macbeth for example). As it is, the women in the play are little more than caricatures, there for sentimentality or for cheap jokes about licentiousness or avarice.
And what on earth was going on with the apparent appearance of Julius Caesar’s ghost, screaming ‘Avenge me’, at his state funeral? Were Mark Anthony’s words not enough indication that were those who would be seeking revenge? I don’t recall Shakespeare having to make the point quite so unsubtly. Subtlety was not really the strong point of this version, certainly not when it came to a perma-tanned, bouffant-haired Pompey declaring “I’m a Republican”.
Perhaps I protest too much. No-one is claiming that this is Shakespeare. For all the lack of subtlety, these were two wonderfully enjoyable evenings of theatre. Richard McCabe held them together with a strong performance as Cicero and impressive stamina, channelling his inner Tony Hancock into moments of world-weary cynicism inbetween his oratorical triumphs and disasters. I enjoyed too the performance of Peter de Jersey as Julius Caesar, convincing both as a military leader and as a smooth politician, where you could always sense the steel hand beneath his velvet glove.
I’ve looked in earlier posts at the first publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Tauchnitz in December 1843 (possibly the first printing worldwide of the book), and also at the Schools Edition of the story that followed in 1847. Both editions are scarce today in first printing or even in early printings, although the book continued to sell for so long that later printings are not too difficult to find.
The individual issue of ‘A Christmas Carol’ remained in print with Tauchnitz for many decades, but it was also combined with the next two Christmas stories by Dickens, ‘The chimes’ and ‘The cricket on the hearth’, to form volume 91 of the Tauchnitz main series in 1846. That volume too remained in print right up until the Second World War.
As the Schools Edition was also sold over a long period, Tauchnitz had three different editions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for sale simultaneously. The Schools Edition was probably sold right through until the 1880s, when Tauchnitz expanded the concept into the ‘Students Series’. Not surprisingly ‘A Christmas Carol’ appeared again in this series, as volume 25 in 1888 and remained in print in this format at least through until the First World War in 1914.
During the war, the firm was unable to publish much new material, but instead raided its back catalogue for shorter works or excerpts that could be published in a new series of slim paperbacks. The series started life as ‘English Text-books’ and was later renamed as the ‘Tauchnitz Pocket Library’. And sure enough, there was ‘A Christmas Carol’ again, as volume 45 in the series.
I have no idea how many copies of the story Tauchnitz sold in total between 1843 and 1943, but it must have been an enormous number by the standards of the company. A more normal Tauchnitz novel might only have sold 2,000 copies, but it seems possible that sales of ‘A Christmas Carol’ could have been a hundred times that figure, or more.
It’s worth remembering that Tauchnitz did not pay royalties. He typically paid a fixed lump sum for the continental rights to a novel, a practice he followed right from the start, when there was no international copyright agreement. As there was no obligation on him to pay anything at that time, his offer of a lump sum payment was gratefully received, and he was able to define the terms of business for the future.
The gesture certainly bought him a lot of goodwill with Dickens, who forever after regarded him as a friend and as a trustworthy business partner. It also gave Tauchnitz privileged early access to new work by Dickens, so that his editions were sometimes published ahead of the UK editions. And the terms of the deals were determined by Tauchnitz, not only in terms of the price paid, which Dickens always allowed him to propose, but also in terms of the structure.
A lump sum payment left Tauchnitz open to the risk of lower than expected sales, but with Dickens that was hardly a risk at all. If on the other hand, sales were higher, Tauchnitz would make additional payments, at his discretion. In this way he was able to extend his reputation for fair dealing and for generosity, while still managing his costs and his profits.
In the case of ‘A Christmas Carol’, he could certainly afford to be generous. He had a very valuable property on his hands, particularly after copyright treaties restricted the issue by any other European publishers. So he made the most of it. There’s no record, so far as I know, of what Tauchnitz paid for the initial right to publish ‘A Christmas Carol’, or what later payments he may have made, but for a full length work by Dickens some 20 years later, he offered £35. On that basis, the initial payment for ‘A Christmas Carol’ could possibly have been £20 or less. If so, it must surely have been one of the best bits of business ever done. I feel sure that Tauchnitz would have made regular additional payments to reflect its success, at least over the rest of Dickens’ lifetime. Whether he continued to be as generous to Dickens’ estate after his death may be a little more doubtful.
I used to work for a company, Eagle Star Insurance, which claimed to have been founded in 1807. It was useful for an insurance company to have been around for a long time. It gave you more confidence that it might still be around when you came to make a claim, or when your 30 year pension policy finally matured.
The claim was nonsense, really. Eagle Star had actually been founded by Edward Mountain as the British Dominions Marine Insurance Company in 1904. It later bought up older companies, including the Eagle Insurance Company (founded in 1807) and the Star, before renaming itself as the Eagle, Star and British Dominions in 1917. Twenty years later it dropped the British Dominions bit to become just Eagle Star, and adopted the history of the Eagle company, as well as its name. In my time there, Eagle Star employed an archivist and had a small museum with such treasures as an insurance policy issued to Charles Dickens.
But when Eagle Star in turn was bought up by Zurich Insurance Company, that history was no longer wanted. Zurich had a little earlier celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding in Zurich in 1872 and had its own museum. It had no interest in tracing new roots back to London 65 years earlier. The Eagle Star museum was closed and a new home was sought for the archive. It ended up in the City of London’s Guildhall Library, where it still is, including that Dickens policy.
Publishing is another industry, like insurance, where large numbers of companies have been amalgamated into a small number of modern conglomerates. So when HarperCollins, a business that has been around for less than 30 years, announces that it is celebrating its 200th anniversary, it’s a reasonable question to ask exactly what it is that goes back 200 years. For example, Thomas Nelson, one of the many publishing companies belonging to HarperCollins, was founded in Edinburgh in 1798. It could have celebrated its 200th anniversary almost 20 years ago. ‘William Collins, Sons’ was founded in Glasgow in 1819, so still has two years to wait.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the company that dates back 200 years is the American firm of J & J Harper. I suppose they’re regarded as the company that came out on top in the various mergers, and it’s the winners who get to write the history. So the history of HarperCollins starts in 1817. And it has to be said that it’s an impressive history, showcased in their wonderful anniversary website at http://200.hc.com/
The business has combined so many publishing companies over the years that the list of books first published by its various subsidiaries is long and includes many titles that have become part of the culture. William Collins was Agatha Christie‘s publisher for most of her books, J. B. Lippincott was the publisher of ‘To kill a mockingbird’ and Lippincott’s Magazine saw the first publication of the Sherlock Holmes novel ‘The sign of (the) four’. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was first published by George Allen and Unwin, C.S. Lewis’s early Narnia books were published by Geoffrey Bles, and Harper Brothers published American classics such as ‘A tree grows in Brooklyn’, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, and later ‘The Exorcist’. All of these are now part of HarperCollins. It has collected history as if it were collecting stamps.
So Happy Birthday, HarperCollins, and congratulations on your first 200 years … or so.
The relationship between Charles Dickens and Bernhard Tauchnitz was much closer and friendlier than is often the case between authors and publishers. The letters between the two men were both very numerous and very cordial. They were also preserved for a long time. But where are they now?
“I really do not know what it would be fair and reasonable to require from you.’, writes Dickens in 1846, “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 …”. Then in 1854, “… It was a matter of real regret to me that I was abroad when you were in London. For it would have given me true pleasure to have taken your hand and thanked you with all heartiness for your friendship. I hope to do so on the occasion of your next visit, and also that it will not be long before you return here. Mrs. Dickens and her sister unite with me in best regards to yourself and family.”.
Bernhard Tauchnitz and Charles Dickens
The two men had known each other since 1843, when Dickens was 31 and Tauchnitz just 26. Dickens was undoubtedly the star author in the Tauchnitz series. The Tauchnitz Editions were the only authorised editions of Dickens’ work to be published in continental Europe in English, and covered all of his novels, as well as a long series of volumes reprinted from ‘Household Words’. So the correspondence between the two men is evidence of a long and trusting relationship.
The letters from Dickens were kept by Tauchnitz, along with correspondence from other authors. When the firm celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1887 by publishing an anniversary history and catalogue, the book included excerpts from letters sent to Tauchnitz from various authors who had by then died, including Dickens. A shorter anniversary publication 25 years later in 1912 gave even greater prominence to the correspondence. This time a dedicated section on letters from Dickens preceded a general section on letters from all other authors.
In 1937 the Centenary publication contained facsimiles of a small number of author letters, with pride of place again going to a letter from Dickens. This was followed by a selection of contemporary letters of congratulation on the centenary from prominent people such as the British Prime Minister and the Archbishop of York. At that point it seems clear that the archive of author correspondence was still in existence. Presumably it remained the property of Tauchnitz, by then legally owned by Brandstetter, the firm that printed both Tauchnitz and Albatross books. However Albatross, based in Paris, exercised editorial control over both firms, so it’s certainly possible that some or all correspondence had moved location.
In December 1943, the printing works of Brandstetter in Leipzig were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid, and it has since been widely assumed that the archive was destroyed at that time. On the 125th anniversary of Tauchnitz in 1962 what remained of the Tauchnitz firm, by then based in Stuttgart, published a final short Festschrift. It again quoted extracts from two letters from Dickens, but as both of these had already been published in the earlier anniversary histories, they do not provide evidence that the archive was still in existence. Instead, rather ominously the Festschrift (roughly translated) says that ‘… most of the documents relating to the history and development of the firm in its old home town of Leipzig were destroyed in 1943, or are currently unobtainable as a result of the unhappy division of our country’.
That unhappy division came to an end in 1990 and with it the first evidence that at least some of the documents had survived. For that evidence we are indebted to Gunter Böhnke, who discovered and transcribed some of the letters from Dickens to Tauchnitz, and to his son, Dietmar Böhnke, a lecturer at the University of Leipzig, who has more recently published them. Gunter Böhnke in 1991 discovered 34 of Dickens’ letters to Tauchnitz and about 30 others by various Dickens family members and other publishers, in the archive of one of the state owned publishing and printing firms that were about to be dismantled following German reunification. He photocopied and transcribed them before handing them back. Unfortunately they have since been lost and there is now no record of what has happened to them.
Other evidence that the archive may have survived comes from a single letter that I was able to buy at auction several years ago – see my post on A letter from Charles Dickens. This letter was not one of those transcribed by Gunter Böhnke, and was not acknowledged in the auction as being from Dickens, so presumably it must have been separated from other letters, probably before 1991.
It appears that at some stage the Tauchnitz archive was broken up. Large parts of it may by now have been lost or destroyed, even if they survived the 1943 attack. But there does remain the intriguing possibility that other letters, including those seen in 1991, still exist and may turn up again some day. That could include not only multiple letters from Dickens, but a treasure trove of letters from other leading authors of the 19th and 20th centuries.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.