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.