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Happy Birthday, HarperCollins

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.

Eagle star 1918 advert

An early advert from 1918, just 14 years after the British Dominions company was formed, shows it already using the date of 1807 in its masthead

Eagle star 1918 advert close-up

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.

harpercollins 200

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.

Thomas Nelson

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


Agatha Christie with Billy Collins of William Collins, Sons

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.


Charles Dickens – The lost Leipzig letters

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.”.

    Tauchnitz 2 frontispiece

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.

Letter from Dickens in The Harvest

Facsimile letter from the Centenary publication

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’.

125th Anniversary publication

The 125th anniversary Festschrift

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.

24. Auktion

One stray letter, separated from the archive

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.



Nicholas Nickleby, Tauchnitz and the pirates

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.

Tauchnitz 2 frontispiece

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.

Nickleby German Edition 1839 2a

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.’

Nicholas Nickleby reprint title page vol I

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.

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.


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


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 Victorian satirist in Tauchnitz Editions

The name of Eustace Clare Grenville: Murray is hardly well-known these days, and so far as I know no photo of him survives.  But between 1871 and 1883, ten of his books, accounting for a total of 17 volumes, were published by Tauchnitz in its Collection of British Authors.   Although the first three were published initially under a pseudonym, he clearly became a well-enough known writer to sell significant numbers of books on the European continent, as well as in Britain.

One of the reasons for his relative lack of public profile, then as now, was that much of his work, both as an author and as a journalist, was published anonymously or under pseudonyms.  And with good cause.   A lot of his output was highly satirical, or even scurrilous, mocking public figures mercilessly.  He almost single-handedly invented, or at least developed, the style of journalism that in today’s Britain would appear in Private Eye. In his own day though, he wrote extensively for ‘Household Words’, the journal edited by Charles Dickens, as well as for various newspapers and briefly for his own publication,’The Queen’s Messenger’.



Extracts from ‘The Queen’s Messenger’

For much of his life he combined his writing with work as a diplomat, based in Vienna, Constantinople and Odessa amongst other places, and he didn’t hesitate to lampoon his colleagues and even his direct superiors in the diplomatic service.  The Ambassador in Vienna became Lord Fiddledee in Grenville Murray’s writings, while the Ambassador in Constantinople was immortalised as Sir Hector Stubble.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he failed to progress in the service, and was shunted into various diplomatic backwaters before being dismissed in 1868.

The cover of anonymity failed again to protect him from trouble the following year, when he published an article satirising Lord Carrington and mocking his late father.   Carrington attacked him physically, outside the Conservative Club, leading to a series of court cases, and eventually to Grenville Murray’s exile in France.  That was far from the end of his journalistic career, but it was the stimulus for his career as a novelist, and as a Tauchnitz author.


His first novel to appear was ‘The member for Paris: a tale of the Second Empire’ written under the pseudonym of ‘Trois-Etoiles’ and published in 1871 in two volumes (vols. 1183 and 1184).  It was followed by two other novels under the same pseudonym, the partly autobiographical ‘Young Brown’ in 1874 (vols. 1444 and 1445), and ‘The boudoir cabal’, in 1875 (vols. 1514, 1515 and 1516).

Grenville Murray had arrived in Paris shortly before the Franco-Prussian War, the siege of Paris in 1870/71 and then the repression of the Paris Commune with much bloodshed.  It was the worst of times, but for a journalist and an author, it was also the best of times. There was both a wealth of material and intense public interest, in Britain and on the continent, in the events of the time and in the regime that had preceded it.


A rare paperback first printing

He followed up those first three novels with two series of sketches of French life, called ‘French Pictures in English Chalk’, for the first time published under his own name, and now acknowledging his authorship of the earlier volumes as well.  The first series appeared in 1876 (vols. 1612 and 1613) and the second in 1878 (vols. 1770 and 1771).  In-between, ‘The Russians of Today’, a satirical review of Russian life drawing on his experiences in Odessa, was published as volume 1742.  A single volume of ‘Strange Tales’ (vol. 1793) was his third publication in 1878, followed in 1879 by another two volume novel ‘That artful vicar’ (vols. 1820 and 1821).


Astonishingly, as well as those three books published by Tauchnitz in 1878, he was also able in the same year to have a fourth book issued in the rival ‘Asher’s Collection’ then published by Karl Grädener in Hamburg.  Another series of sketches of French life, ‘Round About France’ appeared as volume 145 in Asher’s Collection.  This seems though to have been the only title he denied to Tauchnitz.


Grenville Murray died in Paris in 1881, but there must still have been the appetite in continental Europe for more of his writings, as two posthumous volumes followed.  ‘Six months in the ranks’, a novel of military life, was published in 1882 as volume 2064, and ‘People I have met’, a series of comic character sketches, as volume 2129 the following year.

Like all Tauchnitz Editions, the books were originally published as paperbacks, but few first printing copies remain in their original wrappers.  Most surviving copies have been rebound, and are found now in the usual variety of bindings.


I can’t finish this post without first acknowledging the biography of Grenville Murray written by  Professor G.R. Berridge, called ‘A diplomatic whistleblower in the Victorian era’.  And secondly I have to deal with the question of that odd name.

At his birth in 1824 his name was recorded simply as ‘Eustace, son of Richard and Emma Clare’.  But Clare seems to have been an invented surname to cover up his illegitimacy. The actual parents were Richard Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, and Emma Murray, an actress.   He grew up with his mother and first took her surname, becoming Eustace Clare Murray.   Only later did he add his father’s surname as well, to become Eustace  Clare Grenville: Murray.   The colon seems to have been nothing but an affectation.  In the long run, as in the short run, his true fate was to become anonymous.

A century of celebrations and the celebration of a centenary

Tauchnitz loved issuing celebratory volumes and had plenty of occasions to do so.  The 500th volume of the series in 1860, the 1000th volume in 1869 and the 2000th in 1881 were all marked by specially commissioned volumes and by specially bound presentation copies to be offered to authors, friends and business contacts.

Then in 1887 it was time to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the business, with a specially published history.  Much of this is taken up with a long list of the works published by the firm, making it a rather luxurious catalogue, but it also includes excerpts from authors’ letters to Tauchnitz, which was to become a feature of subsequent histories.


Title page of the 50th anniversary history

Volume 3000 seemed to slip by largely unnoticed, but volume 4000 in 1909 was marked by a ‘A manual of American literature’.   This gave full recognition for the first time to the huge contribution from American authors to a series that for 70 years had been called ‘The Collection of British Authors’.

Then in 1912 another anniversary history to mark 75 years.  The catalogue of publications has now disappeared, and more prominence is given to letters from authors, with Charles Dickens pre-eminent among them.


A selection of letters from Dickens in the 75 year history

The milestone of the 5000th volume was reached in 1931 and celebrated with an ‘Anthology of Modern English Poetry’, but by then the business was tottering.  It was sold in 1934, and lived on until the outbreak of war effectively as a sub-division of Albatross, the firm which had defeated it commercially.

So when the time came to write its centenary publication in 1937 it must have felt to some in the firm more of an obituary than a celebration.  The task of writing it fell to John Holroyd-Reece, the Managing Director of Albatross, and in the end he did Tauchnitz proud, although an early draft had contained a paragraph seeming to celebrate his own role rather too much.  Again the publication included a selection of letters from famous authors, including Dickens and Disraeli, this time in facsimile form, and also a range of congratulatory letters from well-known people, including the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin and the Archbishop of York.  Slightly oddly, it was given the title of ‘The Harvest’, perhaps suggesting that the firm was now reaping the benefits of previous efforts, and no longer sowing new seed for the future, a position uncomfortably close to the truth.


The book appeared in two different forms, one with cream paper boards, and one with gold wrappers, each with a blind-stamped Tauchnitz Centenary logo on the front.  Neither version is difficult to find today.  More interesting are the presentation copies prepared for authors and other friends of the firm.  These are identical to the gold paperback edition, but the half-title is replaced with an individual printed page with the name of the person to whom it was presented.   The copy illustrated here was presented to Janet Beith, the author of ‘No second spring’, published as volume 5157 in 1934.  Other copies in public collections have the names of W.W. Jacobs, Louis Golding, H.M. Tomlinson and Helen Simpson.


Presumably copies were printed with the names of all Tauchnitz authors still alive in 1937, which would have included, amongst many others, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Daphne du Maurier, Aldous Huxley, P.G. Wodehouse and A.A. Milne.   As Louis Golding, whose copy survives, was published only by Albatross, never by Tauchnitz itself, this suggests copies may also have been presented to all Albatross authors.   In that case, copies may exist with the names of Agatha Christie, Evelyn Waugh and Ernest Hemingway, amongst others.

An intriguing question arises though from the fact that several of the Tauchnitz authors, including for instance Joyce, Wells and Huxley, had been placed on the list of banned authors, by the Nazi party, then in power in Germany.  Albatross, whose editorial offices were based in Paris, continued to publish works by banned authors, but always in the Albatross series rather than in Tauchnitz, and presumably for sale only outside Germany.  Interestingly the Albatross books were still being printed in Germany, just down the road from where other works by some of the same authors were being burned.  But did Tauchnitz in 1937, a German-owned firm based in Leipzig, print special celebratory volumes for authors at that time banned in Germany?  A copy printed for James Joyce would be an interesting find …

A Christmas Carol – the Tauchnitz Schools Edition

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens was one of the first fruits of the agreements that Tauchnitz put in place with British authors to pay them for authorised editions.   In the days before international copyright agreement, most publishers paid nothing to foreign authors, but Tauchnitz decided authorisation was worth paying for.

With ‘A Christmas Carol’ he hit the jackpot almost immediately.   Because of his agreement with Dickens, he received an early copy of the text and was able to get his edition out just about in time for Christmas 1843.   It was almost certainly a best seller, although as a slim paperback, copies have not survived well and early or first printing copies are now rare.   Later reprints are easier to find and it went on selling well for many years.  Tauchnitz was still selling reprints of it not far short of 100 years later, both as an individual story and as a combined volume.  Volume 91 of the main Tauchnitz series put together ‘A Christmas Carol’ with the later Christmas stories ‘The Chimes’ and ‘The cricket on the hearth’ and again this was reprinted repeatedly for over 90 years, through to the 1930s.

A Christmas Carol Reprint 1880s front wrapper

A reprint from the 1880s in original wrappers

But this was still not the end of Tauchnitz’s ability to profit from the text.   He also in 1847 published a Schools Edition, for which he commissioned a special English-German dictionary of the words used in the text, and a pronunciation guide.   The Tauchnitz bibliographers, Todd & Bowden, recorded this edition in their ‘Additional volumes’ section and catalogued it as A7, but were able to find only a single copy of it (and that not a first printing) in any of the known Tauchnitz collections.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition half title

Not great spelling for a Schools Edition


So the copy illustrated above and below is the only known example of what I assume to be the first printing of the Schools Edition.  It’s distinguished by the publisher’s name on the title page being shown as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ rather than the later form of ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’.  It also though has a misprint on the half-title and another in the page numbering.  The text of the story itself is on pages numbered 1 to 78, exactly as the early printings of the Tauchnitz original, and was probably printed from the same plates.  It’s then followed by two unnumbered pages, covering the pronunciation guide and the first page of the dictionary, before the numbering starts again from page 85, rather than 81.   The copy seen by Todd & Bowden was correctly numbered from 81 through to 170, whereas this copy goes from 85 to 174.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition title page

The earliest form of the title page, showing ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition dictionary

Dictionary with page numbering starting at 85

It was presumably issued originally as a paperback, as almost all Tauchnitz Editions were, but slim paperbacks rarely survive well for 170 years, and those used in schools are probably even less likely to do so.  This copy has been bound with a leather spine over decorated paper boards, and has no internal school or library markings or previous owner’s names, so may never have been used in a school.

A Christmas Carol Schools Edition front board

Too nice for a near 170 year-old schoolbook?

Was this edition on general sale rather than only available to schools?  Presumably there would have been some market amongst native German speakers for an edition that had a convenient dictionary at the back.  Many years later, Tauchnitz launched a series of Students Editions that followed a similar format of text followed by dictionary and these appear to have been offered for general sale as well as available to schools.   ‘A Christmas Carol’ featured again in this series, so the 1847 edition may just have been the first toe in the water.

A vast store of plates

The idea of storing vast numbers of stereotype plates in a publisher’s warehouse, as Tauchnitz seem to have done for many years, sounds incredibly old-fashioned in this digital age.   But for Bernhard Tauchnitz it was the latest technology.   He was in the perfect position to understand the benefits, as his uncle, the printer-publisher Karl Tauchnitz, had been the first to introduce stereotyping to Germany, and the young Bernhard had worked for him as an apprentice.  So when he launched his own publishing company in 1837, it might have seemed the natural thing to do.

In the 19th century every printed page involved the laborious process of building up a page of type, letter by letter into a frame, using individual cast metal letters.   After printing it would be broken up, so that the letters could be re-used.  If the book was later reprinted, every page would have to be re-assembled, letter by letter.   With the stereotyping process, instead of using the assembled page of type for printing directly, a mould was taken and used to create a metal plate for the whole page.  The type could then be broken up, while the plate was used for the printing and stored, so that it could be re-used if necessary.   Reprinting a book became a much less expensive process, and publishers could be more cautious about the number of copies they ordered in the first printing.

Stereotype Producing a Flong Deutsche Fotothek

Producing a mould, or flong, from a page of type (source: Deutsche Fotothek)

Yet oddly it seems that the first two volumes in the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors, were probably not printed from stereotype plates, judging by the evidence of their reprints.   Both ‘Pelham’ by Bulwer Lytton, number 1 in the series, and the first volume of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Dickens, were quickly not only reprinted but re-set.  The first printing of Pelham has 477 pages, but the first reprint is re-set with 467 pages.   The setting with 467 pages is then reprinted many times over the next 50 years or more, so almost certainly from stereotype plates.   The same pattern applies for volume 1 of ‘The Pickwick Papers’.  The first printing has 446 pages, but it was quickly re-set with 432 pages and that setting was then repeatedly re-used, until replaced with a third setting possibly around the 1880s.

Volume 2 of Pickwick was announced for publication in December 1841, around 2 months after volume 1, although there is some doubt about the actual publication dates.   Here there is no evidence of an early re-setting, with 427 pages in all early printings, so possibly by the time it was first printed, Tauchnitz had already changed his mind on stereotyping.   The success of the first two volumes of the series had become evident and they were having to be reprinted, so the extra cost of producing stereotype plates seemed well justified.   From that point on, stereotype plates seem to have been used for all the books.

Stereotype Flong

A flong from 1929

A single plate of type would have been used to print 8 sides of text (and another plate to print a further 8 sides on the back of the paper before folding and cutting), so these plates would be quite large things to store. For a typical volume, with say 320 pages, there would be around 40 stereotype plates to be stored.  And by the end of the 19th century, with over 3000 volumes in print, the store might have included well over 100,000 plates.   It’s difficult to imagine quite what 100,000 large metal plates would have looked like, but they must have taken up a fair amount of space.

Stereotype Plate

A stereotype plate (source: Melbourne Museum of Printing)

Early Tauchnitz publisher’s bindings

At heart the Tauchnitz Editions were paperbacks.  That’s almost an article of faith for me, despite the fact that a high proportion of them were taken on a visit to the bookbinder.  And because the bound copies survived better, an even higher proportion of the surviving copies are hardbound books, in a bewildering variety of bindings.

But not all Tauchnitz Editions were sold as paperbacks.   Almost from the start, Tauchnitz offered books for sale in bound editions as well as paperback.  The earliest record of these is an announcement in the Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel on 31 May 1842, that attractively bound copies (schöne Einbände) would be available two weeks after the paperback issue. 

The binding this referred to was almost certainly the binding illustrated below and classified as binding x1 in the Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions.  I have several of the early editions in this binding, but nothing to rival the magnificent run of almost all the first 100 volumes that exists in the Pressler Collection, now in the National Library of Scotland.

Publisher binding x1 1

Publisher binding x1 2

Bindings in this style don’t seem to exist much after volume 100, in 1846, although the bibliography records an unusual copy of ‘Bleak House’ bound in this style from around 1852.   There are though many fairly similar bindings that were probably produced by private binders.

The usual rule for recognising that a binding is produced and sold by the publisher, rather than being a private binding attached to a book sold as a paperback, is that it has the publisher’s name on the binding.   Few publishers could resist the temptation to add their own name to the binding, sometimes almost with greater prominence than that of the author, but oddly few private binders thought the name of the publisher of any relevance at all.   It seems unlikely that bindings without the Tauchnitz name on are produced by the firm, although there are certainly a few private bindings that are marked with it, particularly later on, as ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ became almost a generic product name applied to any continental edition in English.

The example below, which shows a first printing of ‘The Pickwick Papers’, volumes 2 and 3 of the series, alongside the later volumes 36 and 50, is an interesting example.  The bindings are clearly very similar, and this applies not only to the spine, but to the boards as well, which are almost identical, as are the endpapers and the marbling of the page edges.  The most significant difference between the two is that the later volumes have the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the base of the spine.   Is it possible that the first two are an early binding from the publisher, before he developed the vanity to insist on his own name being applied?

Publisher binding x1 3

However the Pressler collection includes a similar copy of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ in the standard publisher binding, with the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the foot of the spine. It seems unlikely that the firm would have sold two versions, with and without the publisher name.  So my best guess is still that my copy is a private binding, although possibly produced by the same bookbinder, if the Tauchnitz binding work was outsourced, or perhaps by another bookbinder in Leipzig, who worked in a similar style.

Although this early publisher binding was probably not offered for long, other styles followed it and were offered for sale by Tauchnitz at various times, indeed throughout most of their history.  I’ll come back to the other types of binding in later posts.

Dickens by instalment – the Tauchnitz part-issues

It’s well known that several of Dickens’ novels were first published in the UK in monthly parts.  Dickens was extremely popular at the time, and some of the print runs must have been very high.  But they were fragile things and naturally relatively few have survived.   Sets of the original part-issues are now scarce and can be very valuable.  A first printing set of the part-issues for ‘David Copperfield’ or ‘Oliver Twist’ would now set you back many thousands of pounds.

David Copperfield

Perhaps less well known is that the Continental editions of some of the novels, published by Tauchnitz, were also issued in the same monthly parts, concurrently with the UK instalments.   They were not quite as lavish as the UK issues, in plain covers and without all the illustrations (or adverts) and it’s unlikely that they would command prices anywhere near those quoted for the UK editions.   But it’s almost certain that they’re much rarer, to the extent that there are no known surviving copies of most of them.   And it’s possible that some of them may have been published ahead of the UK parts and so represent the very first printing.

Bleak House 7

Five of Dickens’ novels were treated in this way, starting with ‘Bleak House’ in 1852 to 1853, followed by ‘Little Dorritt’ in 1856 to 1857, and later ‘Our mutual friend’ in 1864 to 1865.   Each of these novels was made up of 20 monthly parts, of which the last two parts were combined in a single issue.  At least one full set of the parts of ‘Bleak House’ has survived, and is illustrated below, although I don’t know where it currently is.  A small number of other individual parts of all three novels are also known.


As well as these three long novels, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is believed to have been issued in 8 parts in 1859, and then finally ‘Edwin Drood’, for which the first 6 parts were issued in 1870, before being interrupted by the death of Dickens.  I am not aware of any surviving copies even of a single part of either of these novels, although I’d love to hear of one.    Overall of around 70 different part-issues from Tauchnitz, fewer than 25 are known to have survived in even a single copy.

Little Dorrit picture from T and B

A single part of Little Dorrit held in the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris

Our Mutual Friend

One of two parts of ‘Our mutual friend’ held at the Dickens Museum in London