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Baudry’s European Library

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’.

Baudry1819 pre-Main series
Baudry & Lance, 1819

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.

Baudry 39 Caleb Wiliams 2
An early book in the series in original wrappers

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.

The Red Rover by Fenimore Cooper – Volume 122 of the series

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.

A selection of Baudry volumes in various bindings

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.

Byrons’ Works vol. 1 – vol. 123 of the series

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.

The Pickwick Papers by Dickens – volume 217 of the series

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.

Blimey, I’m a limey! American authors in the Tauchnitz Edition

For over 80 years from 1842 onwards, the firm of Bernhard Tauchnitz published a series of almost 5000 books in English under the title of ‘Collection of British Authors’.   From early on it was a misleading title.  The first book in the series by a non-British author came in the very first year, as volume 5 of the series (‘The spy’ by J.Fenimore Cooper) and it was followed by several hundred others over the decades that followed.   Most of those of other nationalities who had to put up with being classified as British Authors were of course American, but they were not alone.

Tauchnitz 5 Half-title

By volume 5 in 1842 Tauchnitz were already classifying American authors as British

Occasional works in translation, such as The odes and epodes of Horace, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or even the reminiscences of Bismarck, might perhaps be justified on the basis that the translators were British.  Other authors, such as Maarten Maartens or Katherine Mansfield may have written in English, but were certainly not British, and it seems unlikely that someone such as Rabindranath Tagore, an opponent of the British Raj, would have appreciated being classified as British.

But above all it was the Americans who as a group had most cause to feel aggrieved.  The firm even kept a count of the number of books they had contributed.  A 1928 catalogue for instance reported that the series at that point consisted of 4830 volumes from 454 British and 98 American authors, with 4356 volumes by British and 474 volumes by American authors.  The Americans included Mark Twain, Washington Irving, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe and even Woodrow Wilson.

Tauchnitz 4854 Half-title

Over 4800 volumes and almost a century later, they were still at it

To be fair by that point the series title on the outside of the wrappers and on the catalogues had been changed to read ‘Collection of British and American Authors’ and this had applied since 1914.  But the half-title still referred to the Collection of British Authors, and this was the reference point most likely to survive on bound copies, where the wrappers and catalogue would be discarded.  The reason for changing the title in some places but not others, seems to have been that the company held a massive stock of stereotype plates covering the half-titles of already published books.  A complete change of name for the series would have involved recreating them whenever a book was reprinted.   They did however regularly update the half-title verso to show the latest list of other titles by the same author, so it’s not clear that this was really a major barrier to change.   It may have had more to do with a general conservatism – after all the basic wrapper design remained largely unaltered from 1842 to 1914 (can you imagine any design today lasting for 70 years?).

Finally in 1930 Tauchnitz took the plunge and fully changed the series title to ‘Collection of British and American Authors’.  It was one of a number of changes brought in by Max Christian Wegner, and the rate of change was too much for the Board – by 1931 they had forced him out of the business, leaving him free to join the team that was to create Albatross books.

Tauchnitz 4935 A farewell to arms

Ernest Hemingway in 1930 was one of the first American authors to be fully recognised as such by Tauchnitz