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.