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Early Tauchnitz catalogues

For the first 30 years or so of the Tauchnitz Editions, the firm listed all of the titles in the series on the wrappers of each book.  For the early volumes in 1843, the list fitted easily onto the back cover in a single column, but as the number of titles grew, it had to become a two column list, then three columns.  The type became smaller and smaller, but by 1859 with the series having grown to over 450 volumes, the struggle became too much.  The list was then extended over both inside wrappers as well as the back, going back to a two column list and a more readable type size.

  Tauchnitz 381 rear wrapper    Tauchnitz 1218 back wrapper

An early issue (1857) with all titles listed on the back and a later one (1872) with the list extending over inner wrappers as well

That format kept them going for quite a while longer, but by 1872 the number of volumes had grown to over 1200 and this too was becoming impossible to manage.  The decision was taken to start printing separate monthly catalogues of all the titles published so far.  A copy would be tipped in at the end of each volume, or for books published in two or three volumes, at the end of the final volume only.

Tauchnitz 1230 Catalogue June 1872

It was not an entirely new idea – the firm had earlier experimented with catalogues inside their books.  Even as early as 1845 a single sheet had appeared in volume 76 listing the volumes issued to date and in 1854 a 4-sided catalogue was included in at least one volume.

  Tauchnitz 76 advertisement page    Tauchnitz 310 Bound-in catalogue

Early one-off examples of catalogues from 1845 and 1854

But by 1872 catalogues began to appear in all volumes, with a new version being printed every month.  To start with they had sixteen sides, which gave a lot more room than the three sides of wrappers previously available.   The layout could be improved, and titles included from other series as well as from the main ‘Collection of British Authors’.  The layout of the rear wrapper of the book could also be improved, now showing only a small number of recently published or forthcoming volumes, with the inside wrappers left blank.

Tauchnitz catalogue sample page

A sample page from an early catalogue

How effective the catalogues were as advertising is difficult to tell.  They were rarely bound into volumes taken to a bookbinder, but some copies may have been detached and kept for reference.  Catalogues survive in many of the paperback copies, but often the pages are uncut, so presumably were not even looked at.  They were printed on a single sheet and then folded into a sixteen page booklet, but as with the books themselves, cutting and separating the pages was a task left to the buyers.

Advertising can sometimes be effective though, even if only a small proportion of people take any notice of it and given that the catalogues continued for roughly the next 60 years, they must have been judged a success.  The Todd & Bowden bibliography records copies dated for almost every month from May 1872 to the end of 1899.  I can fill in several of the gaps as well from my own collection, so I think it’s likely that copies were updated every month over that period.   After 1900 it became more complicated, although they did continue for more than another thirty years.  I’ll come back to those later issues another time.

In most cases the catalogue date is the same as, or very close to, the date on the back wrapper of the book it’s tipped into.  But not always.   It’s not uncommon for the dates to differ by a few months and sometimes the difference can be several years, in either direction.  The catalogue date may be earlier than the wrapper date or vice versa.

I’ve never quite understood how this worked.  Were books in some cases prepared and bound into a wrapper, but then held in the warehouse, perhaps for several years?  Then perhaps an up to date catalogue was added in when they were ordered by booksellers?  That might explain catalogues later than the wrappers, but how to explain wrappers later than the catalogues?

  Tauchnitz 2828 rear wrapper  Tauchnitz 2828 catalogue

This copy of volume 2828, first published in May 1892 has a catalogue for May 1892, but wrappers dated October 1895

Was there at some stage a change of practice so that copies were stored in the warehouse with pages and catalogue bound together, but no wrappers?   If catalogues were being sewn in with the pages, rather than just tipped in with glue, that might make sense.  I can’t easily tell the difference, but looking at copies I have, I think it’s possible that at some stage, catalogues started to be sewn in rather than glued in.

In practice the rule I use for my own collection is that for a paperback copy to be considered a first printing, it should have wrappers with the first printing date on, whatever the date of the catalogue.  In practice though, many copies with later dated wrappers may also be first printings in terms of the pages, and a catalogue with the first printing date may be a good indication of this.   On the other hand copies with the first printing wrappers, seem likely to be first printings even if they contain later catalogues.  It’s hard to imagine earlier dated wrappers being added to a later printed book.  Much easier to imagine later dated wrappers being added to an earlier printed book.

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Dating Tauchnitz paperbacks

Bound copies of the Tauchnitz Edition are very difficult to date.  Most of the key dating information is on the original wrappers that have usually been discarded by the bookbinder.  But what if the wrappers are still present?  Surely then it’s easy to date them, and to identify first printings?

In most cases, it is – the date, both month and year, is shown at the top of the back wrapper.  But not always, and even when it is, there can still be complications.  Firstly the early editions were undated and by early, I mean for the first 30 years of the series, roughly from 1842 to 1872.  Copies from this period in their original wrappers do still turn up from time to time, and although all are 150 years or so old and certainly rare, they’re still often a long way from first printings.

Tauchnitz 80 rear wrapper

Some of the earliest paperbacks are best dated by comparing the other titles listed on the back.  This one is from 1846.

Todd and Bowden in their Tauchnitz bibliography, introduced a system for classifying and dating these early editions, which relies in large part on the dictionary adverts on the back wrapper.  In a reversal of their practice with novels, Tauchnitz always recorded the printing date and the edition number for their dictionaries.  So if the wrapper advertises the 16th edition of the English-German dictionary, it comes from 1865 /66, if it advertises the 20th edition, it’s from 1869/70, and so on.

Tauchnitz 464 rear wrapper

This paperback is one of the first to advertise Tauchnitz Dictionaries on the back.  Reference to the Eleventh Stereotype Edition dates it to 1859-1860

This method is fairly reliable, but it’s not the full story.  When a book was rapidly reprinted, it can exist in two different wrappers, both advertising the same edition of the dictionary.  Then the only way of identifying the first printing is the laborious process of checking through the list of other titles to make sure that the wrapper doesn’t include any later-published titles.

From June 1872 until December 1934, the process gets much easier, as the back wrappers are dated.  If the wrapper date is later than the year shown on the title page, it must be a reprint.  If it’s in the same year, then it comes down to checking the month against the bibliography.   For much of this period though, there’s a simpler way, because Tauchnitz adopted a different style of wrapper for first printings and reprints.

The new style for first printings appears around volume 2990 in 1894.  The front wrapper is still identical, but the list on the back switches to a much larger typeface for the titles, with a very short description underneath – often just ‘A new novel’.   Instead of being just on the back wrapper, this list, on first printings only, stretches over the inside wrappers as well.   In fact the distinction that first printing wrappers have a list extending over the inside and back wrappers, whereas reprints have the list only on the back wrapper, seems to predate the change to the new format by  a year or so.  The first example I’ve seen of this is dated May 1893.

Tauchnitz 2990 New format Continued from page 3

An early example of the 1st printing format – June 1894

The picture below shows a comparison between the style of wrapper used for first printings and the style for reprints, that continued from 1894 through to 1903.   Throughout this period a quick glance at the style of the back wrapper can identify first printings much quicker than a comparison of dates or volume numbers.

Tauchnitz 3220 rear covers July 1897 1st printing and reprint

1st printing style on left, reprint on right

Then at the beginning of 1904 a new two-column style was introduced for first printings, now with a slightly longer description of each book, still extending over the inner wrappers as well.   The comparison below of first printing and reprint formats shows them still easily distinguishable.   In some cases, as below, where books were reprinted very quickly after first printing, both first printing and reprint exist with the same month at the top of the back wrapper.  Then only the difference in format can distinguish which is the true first.

Tauchnitz 4578 rear covers June 1922 1st printing and reprint

‘Back to Methuselah’ by George Bernard Shaw (volume 4522).  1st printing and reprint both from June 1922

So far as I know, this rule for identifying first printings is almost always respected.  There is one known example on volume 4700 where the first printing in the correct format is dated September 1925, but copies also exist in reprint format dated August 1925.  Todd & Bowden still give first printing status to the copies dated September 1925, partly on the basis of the bound-in catalogues.  I’m inclined to agree and to think that one or other is mis-dated, but there must be some doubt about this.  Other than that, the rule seems to be a cast iron guide.

This second first printing format continued from about January 1904 (volume 3705) through to December 1934 (volume 5178).  By this point Albatross had taken over editorial control of the series and was starting to apply the more modern design principles of its own series.  Adverts on the back cover had no place in this, and after a brief period of totally plain back covers, Tauchnitz adopted a completely new cover design and the Albatross system of colour-coding by genre.  Dates as well as advertising for other titles moved to inside pages.  In many cases a printing date and sometimes even an indication that a book is a second printing can be found on the back of the title page.  It was only five years though before the Second World War effectively ended the series and so relatively few volumes from this period were reprinted anyway.