As a German publisher selling books in English, Bernhard Tauchnitz had to find a market wherever he could. Of course he wanted to sell to German nationals, but there were only a limited number of those who could read a whole novel in English. He could not sell in Britain or the British Empire for copyright reasons, but he spread out to sell across the whole of the European Continent and beyond. By selling his books in railway station bookstalls and specialist expatriate bookshops, he was able to target British and American expatriates and travellers as well. That made a large enough market for a successful business.
But there was still another sizeable potential market, if he could reach it. Those who were learning English in schools, in universities or as individual students at home. Producing basic school text-books was a specialist market, but there were lots of students who had got past the basics, but would still find it difficult to read a full length novel in English. Given the access Tauchnitz had to novels in English and to British authors, could he help to bridge the gap?
The first attempt was an anthology issued in 1844 called ‘Selections from British Authors in Prose and Poetry. A class-book for the use of schools.’ by Edward Moriarty. That’s according to the English language title page, although oddly the second title page, in German, refers to the book being for both school and personal use. The book contains a series of prose extracts, following directly on from each other as chapters, with author names at the end of each chapter and then followed by 76 poems.
Most of the authors were safely dead and out of copyright, but there were a small number still alive in 1844, which raises the question of whether the use of their work was authorised. There was no international copyright convention in 1844, but by that time Tauchnitz was obtaining authorisation and making payment for all works in the main series. There is no indication here that the book is authorised, even though it contains extracts from the works of Marryat, Bulwer and Dickens among others, writers who had given Tauchnitz early authorisation to publish editions of their novels.
The anthology remained in print for many years, but it was another three years before there was any follow-up and then it was in a rather different direction. A special Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens appeared in 1847, three to four years after the first publication of the story in December 1843. Again the question of authorisation is not entirely clear. Dickens had certainly given his authorisation for the initial publication by Tauchnitz of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it appeared with the wording ‘Edition sanctioned by the Author’ on the title page. In 1846 the first copyright agreements were put in place between Britain, Prussia and Saxony and later editions appeared with the wording ‘Copyright Edition’. But the Schools Edition has no mention of either authorisation or copyright. Was this an oversight, or did Tauchnitz just assume there was no need for any further payment to Dickens, given his existing rights?
I’ve written a longer post on the Schools Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’, which can be found here, so I won’t repeat it all, but the key change was to add at the end an English-German dictionary containing the more difficult words used in the book. The story itself takes up only 78 pages, while the dictionary takes up 91, so it’s fairly comprehensive. As it translates only into German, the book was presumably for sale only in German-speaking countries, a pattern that was to be followed for the next 90 years. Tauchnitz never seems to have made any attempt to sell to schools or students in France, Italy or other countries.
After ‘A Christmas Carol’, it was another 6 years before the next edition specifically for students followed, and it was again to Charles Dickens that Tauchnitz turned. ‘A Child’s History of England’ by Dickens was published in a standard edition by Tauchnitz in 1853, although outside the main series. At more or less the same time it appeared in a special annotated edition, with a substantial dictionary attached to the second volume, but this time also with footnotes, explaining points of English grammar or style.
This was now more or less the format that would eventually be developed into the Tauchnitz Students’ Editions, although they were still more than 30 years away. Oddly there is again no mention of authorisation or copyright, this time on either the annotated edition or the standard edition, although it’s almost impossible to believe that Tauchnitz had not obtained and paid for the European copyright.
So far then, we have a first attempt at a Schools Edition in 1844, another one three years later in 1847, then a gap of 6 years to 1853. So it seems about right that it was then 10 years before Tauchnitz tried again. A Schools Edition of ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ appeared in 1863, this time with an introduction and glossary, although I have not seen a copy. And the gaps continued to get larger. The next attempt did not come for another 23 years. And finally this time it was a more serious attempt to develop the market. The first volume of the Tauchnitz Students’ Series for School, College and Home appeared in 1886. I’ll leave the story of those volumes for Part 2.
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.
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.
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.’
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.