I looked in an earlier post at the first 1843 edition of Shakespeare plays in the Tauchnitz Edition. Although sold in large quantities over a period of 25 years, the publication was rather discredited by being based on the text of John Payne Collier, a noted Shakespeare scholar, but one who was later shown to be a forger. Collier’s name was dropped from the title page in later printings, and the decision was eventually taken to re-issue all the plays in an alternative text edited by the Rev. Alexander Dyce.
In correspondence with Tauchnitz, Dyce was insistent that ‘no alterations are to be introduced, which are not authorised by, Dear Sir, your very truly, Alexander Dyce’. Perhaps not surprising in the circumstances. He also noted that ‘I should prefer my name to appear on the title-page of the proposed Shakespeare’.
Dyce had been a friend of Collier’s, but had turned against him, notably with his publication of ‘Strictures on Collier’s new Edition of Shakespeare’ in 1859. His own edition of the plays had first been published in 1857, with a Second Edition in 1866 and this was to be the basis of the new Tauchnitz Edition of 1868. In his preface to the Tauchnitz Edition Dyce refers to his First Edition having ‘too timidly adhered to sundry more than questionable readings of the early copies’, which may well be a reference to Collier’s influence.
The Tauchnitz volumes with the new text appeared in 1868 as volume 40 to 46 of the Collection of British Authors, using the same series numbers as the original issues, but with the 1868 date on the title page of each volume. Although this seems entirely sensible, it was actually very unusual for Tauchnitz ever to change the date on the title page. Usually the original first edition date remained on the title page of all later printings, even many decades later. Here the 1868 date distinguishes the new edition, but in line with the usual practice, later reprints of this edition then retained 1868 on the title page, even well into the 1930s.
In the original paperback, the volumes initially said ‘Second Edition’ clearly on the front wrapper, which presumably meant the Second Tauchnitz Edition. On the title page though they refer only to ‘the Rev. Alexander Dyce’s Second Edition’, which is a rather different thing. Dyce also wanted to make clear that the dedication to John Forster was the dedication of his second edition rather than just the Tauchnitz Edition, so had it dated 1866 rather than 1868, and inserted a note at the top saying ‘Dedication to the Second Edition’. This serves only to confuse, as it could equally well refer to the second Tauchnitz Edition.
As with the 1843 edition, the books appeared not only as seven volumes in the main Tauchnitz series, at half a Thaler per volume, but also as individual plays, numbered from 1 to 37, selling for 1/10th of a Thaler each. Unlike the 1843 edition though, there is no dual numbering of pages. The individual plays all have their own page numbering, suggesting that they may have had their own stereotype plates. It would presumably have been a relatively small task to change the page numbering after taking a first mould from the original page of type, and then take a second mould. Each mould would be used to create a stereotype plate that would then be stored for use on reprints.
And there were many, many reprints. Shakespeare plays were a steady seller for Tauchnitz for almost a century in total, and distinguishing the date of reprints is a puzzle of enormous complexity. With bound copies it can be almost impossible, although a first clue is that earlier printings have the series number on the half-title in roman numerals, later printings in standard arabic numerals.
With paperbacks it’s a bit easier, and for the individual plays it is often the paperbacks that survive, as few of them were individually bound. They’re distinguished most easily by the price shown on the wrapper – 1/10 Thlr. for the first printing, then M. 0,30 from around 1871, modified to M 0,30 from 1892, increased to M 0,40 from 1916 and so on. Full details in the Todd & Bowden bibliography. In my experience the earliest paperbacks, showing the price as 1/10 of a Thaler are difficult to find now, but copies from the 1870s / 1880s are much more common.
Around the time of the First World War, a new format for the individual plays was adopted, slightly smaller and more like the volumes of the Tauchnitz Pocket Library sold in wartime. Variants of this format (still with Dyce’s name on the title page) continued to be sold right through until the Second World War put an effective end to Tauchnitz.
Rather sadly, Alexander Dyce never saw the longevity achieved by the edition that he gave his name to. He died in May 1869, shortly after the first publication. His displaced rival, John Payne Collier, surviving to 1883, could only watch and grit his teeth.
When Bernhard Tauchnitz first launched himself into the business of selling English literature in Germany in 1841, it would have been difficult to avoid the issue of Shakespeare. Tauchnitz started by selling the novels of contemporary authors, and that became the basis of the business empire that he built up over the rest of his life. But even in the time of Dickens, few living authors could command sales as high as those of the long-dead Shakespeare. And the tricky issue of copyright that Tauchnitz was wrestling with, could be avoided by going back to the bard.
So it’s hardly a surprise that the Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ had reached only 40 volumes, before welcoming Shakespeare into its ranks. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, including all 37 plays, his poems and a brief biography, appeared in 7 volumes as volumes 40 to 46 of the series in 1843 / 1844, and at the same time each of the plays was published individually as well. Publication of the seven volume edition was spread out over a period of more than a year, with the first volume appearing in February 1843 and the final volume announced in June 1844. So volumes 6 and 7 are dated 1844 rather than 1843, as are the final five individual plays, numbered 33 to 37. In both formats, the plays are double paginated, with page numbers for the individual plays in a top corner and numbers for the combined volume in a bottom corner. In this way, both types of publication could be printed from the same stereotype plates.
The text of the plays was provided by John Payne Collier, a noted Shakespearean scholar of the time, and his name appeared prominently on the title page of the collected edition. Unfortunately he was later exposed as a forger, and the use of his name became a source of embarrassment rather than pride. Later reprints from about 1860 onwards, don’t show Collier’s name, and in 1868 a new edition was issued using a text provided by Rev. Alexander Dyce. This new edition still used the same volume numbers, 40 to 46, but the title page date was changed to 1868. So copies of the books now found split into three categories – firstly those dated 1843/4 with Collier’s name on, then those dated 1843/4 but without Collier’s name, and then all later issues dated 1868. The 1868 issues continued to be reprinted for the next 70 years or so, and are of course the most commonly found. (Update – see separate post on the 1868 edition on this link.)
The 1843 edition is rarer, but bound copies are still not too difficult to find. As usual with Tauchnitz editions, it’s much more of a challenge to find copies in the original wrappers. Although the books were issued as paperbacks, the standard practice for many purchasers was to have them privately bound, and it’s these copies that survive best. There are also a few surviving copies in a publisher’s binding, sold more or less at the time of the first printing. So far as I know though, there are no surviving paperback first printings of the collected volumes. The earliest paperback copies that Todd & Bowden, the Tauchnitz bibliographers, could track down were a set in the British Library from around 1866, over 20 years after first publication.
You might expect that copies of individual plays in the original wrappers would be even more difficult to find. They’re such thin volumes that the chance of any surviving looks pretty small. But surprisingly, two library collections in the US hold significant numbers of them. The Royal Hanover collection at the University of Rochester includes copies of all 37 plays from the 1843/4 edition, the first seven of them bound and the other 30 in the original wrappers. The paperback copies cover a range of different dates, although unfortunately none are in the first printing state, showing the publisher as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’, rather than ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC also has 4 individual plays from the 1843/4 edition in their original wrappers, again none of them in first printing state.
But at least two of the very earliest paperbacks have survived, even if in a pretty dreadful state, as shown below. They not only show the publisher as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’, but the lists of other Tauchnitz Editions on the back wrapper show no titles later than mid-1843. With Tauchnitz Editions, this is really the best evidence you can get that they are first printings, or at least very early printings.
First printing of King Henry VI Part I in original wrappers
First printing of King Henry V in original wrappers