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P.G. Wodehouse in Tauchnitz Editions

By the time P.G. Wodehouse first appeared in a Tauchnitz Edition in 1924, he was already a well-established and successful writer with around 20 novels to his name.  For an author who went on to have around 40 books published by Tauchnitz, this was a surprisingly late start. But Wodehouse had started to come to prominence just as the First World War effectively took the German firm out of the market for new English language books, and the effects of the war lingered on for several years afterwards.

It was at least 1923 before Tauchnitz could get back to anything like a normal publishing programme and it never really recovered its former dominance of the market.  The ability to spot promising new writers and publish their latest works almost simultaneously with the first UK editions, had been a defining feature of the business for much of the nineteenth century, but by the mid-1920s it was a fading memory.  And Tauchnitz was entering a period that would prove to be one of the most turbulent of its existence. So we should perhaps be grateful that they were able to publish Wodehouse at all.

Tauchnitz Editions of P.G. Wodehouse eventually stretched to an entire shelf full

As usual with a new writer, Tauchnitz were keen to start with Wodehouse’s latest new work, rather than going back to earlier works.   So the first in the series was a volume of short stories, ‘Ukridge’, published in the UK in June 1924, and then two months later in Tauchnitz as volume 4651, dated August 1924 at the top of the back wrapper on the first printing.

As always with Tauchnitz paperbacks, it’s the date on the back wrapper that’s important for dating, rather than the date on the title page, which remains fixed at the first printing year, even on reprints many years later.  First printing paperbacks from this period also have a distinctive two column format for the latest volumes, which was not used on reprints.

For Tauchnitz Editions from the 1920s and 1930s far more copies do survive in paperback than is the case for 19th century novels and they’re much easier to date than bound copies, so I’ve focused on these.

Wodehouse’s next new novel was ‘Bill the Conqueror’, published in the UK in November 1924 and again following rapidly in Tauchnitz as volume 4669, dated January 1925 in the first printing (and listing only ‘Ukridge’ on the back of the half-title).  Another volume of short stories, ‘Carry on, Jeeves’, appeared in the UK in October 1925 and the novel ‘Sam the sudden’ came out in the same month.   Both were taken up by Tauchnitz – ‘Carry on, Jeeves!’ as volume 4710, dated November 1925 and ‘Sam the sudden’ as volume 4714, dated January 1926.

The pattern seemed to be set, with Tauchnitz taking each new work of Wodehouse’s as quickly as possible after UK printing.  But prolific as Wodehouse was, new works were not coming fast enough to satisfy the appetite of continental readers, and there was still a temptingly long list of older works that could be issued. So along with the next volume of short stories, ‘The heart of a goof’ (volume 4641, dated July 1926), Tauchnitz also published a much earlier work ‘ Love among the chickens’ (volume 4640, July 1926), that Wodehouse had first written in 1906 and then rewritten in 1921.

Two other older works, ‘Psmith, journalist’ (vol. 4776, April 1927) and ‘Leave it to Psmith’ (vol. 4777, April 1927) followed in 1927 and from then on two or three new volumes were added almost every year, in a mix of completely new works and older works, both novels and short story collections.  By mid 1929, when Curt Otto, the Managing Director, died, fourteen volumes of P.G. Wodehouse had been issued by Tauchnitz.

The first fourteen P.G. Wodehouse volumes published in Tauchnitz

The incoming General Manager, Christian Wegner, set about making some significant changes, starting with a modernisation of the cover design for the series. After keeping essentially the same cover design for the first 70 years of its existence, a first real change had come in 1914, and now it was entering on a period of continual change. The new design appeared on a Wodehouse novel for the first time, with publication of ‘Mr. Mulliner speaking (vol. 4963, November 1930), followed quickly by ‘Very good, Jeeves!’ (vol. 4983, March 1931) and ‘Summer lightning’ (vol. 4995, June 1931).

Fourteen books appeared in the revised design taking the total to 28 and then from 1935, there was another change. Wegner had left under a cloud, but by mid 1934 he was effectively back as one of the managers of Albatross Books, which took over editorial control of Tauchnitz. The two lists for Albatross and Tauchnitz were managed together, but with Wodehouse remaining very much a Tauchnitz writer, with no entry to the (arguably more prestigious) Albatross list. 

Another new cover design was launched in mid 1935, this time colour-coded to indicate genre. All Wodehouse volumes were coded orange, the colour for ‘tales and short stories, humorous and satirical works’. Shortly afterwards the size of the books changed to match the size of the Albatross volumes and dustwrappers in the same design as the covers were introduced, again in line with Albatross.

A further new design was introduced in 1938 that used colour more strikingly, but by this time war was approaching fast, and with it the end of the Tauchnitz series.

‘The code of the Woosters’, issued in June 1939 as volume 5357, was the last Wodehouse title to appear in the series before the outbreak of the Second World War, but it was not to be the last title of all.  Wodehouse had been living in Le Touquet in France and was interned by the Germans after the invasion of France.  He wrote ‘Money in the Bank’ on a typewriter provided by the Germans while in internment and the text was made available to Tauchnitz.  It appeared in August 1943 as the very last volume in the Tauchnitz series, volume 5370, bringing the total number of Wodehouse works published in the series up to thirty-nine.  It was the only new writing in English to be published in the Tauchnitz series after 1939.

Along with the infamous broadcasts on German radio, this was another example of Wodehouse being perhaps too willingly duped by the enemy.  Certainly for them it was a publicity coup, and the book seems to have been printed in substantial numbers, although it’s hard to imagine much market in Germany in 1943 for Wodehouse’s brand of comedy.

The mixed bag of Wodehouse titles issued from 1935 to 1954

The story should really end here. Shortly after publication of ‘Money in the bank’, the Tauchnitz premises were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid and after 100 years and 5370 volumes, the Tauchnitz Collection of British (and American) Authors came to an end.

But in fact it’s not the end of the story. After the war there were various attempts to revive Tauchnitz.  A series of books reprinted from Hamburg, included ‘Money in the Bank’ as volume 16 in 1949.  Then a short series of mostly new works published from Stuttgart, included two Wodehouse volumes -‘The mating season’ (volume 107 in 1952) and ‘Ring for Jeeves’ (volume 137 in 1954).

Neither of these post-war ventures was much of a success, and although no new volumes were published after 1955, unsold stock hung around for many years. In an attempt to shift it, more modern covers were added in the early 1960s and ‘Ring for Jeeves’ was certainly one of the books to appear in this style, at least the eighth style of wrapper to be applied to Wodehouse volumes by Tauchnitz.

A 1960s rebinding
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A most English writer

The recent news of the death of Charles Aznavour reminded me, like many others, that this most French of singers, was born as Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian, the son of Armenian immigrants.  To the British at least, he had an impeccably French accent, sang quintessentially French songs about French passions and in an unmistakably French way.

Which reminds me in turn of Michael Arlen, that most English of early twentieth century writers, who was though born as Dikran Kouyoumdjian, the son of Armenian immigrants to Britain.  He himself was born in Bulgaria, but came to England with his parents in 1901 at the age of 5.  He was sent to Malvern College, which no doubt turned him into the perfect English gentleman, as it no doubt still does for his modern equivalents.  He remained a Bulgarian citizen though throughout the First World War (in which Bulgaria was aligned with Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) becoming a British Citizen only in 1922 and changing his name at this point to Michael Arlen.

Michael-Arlen

Michael Arlen, from the National Portrait Gallery

My interest in him is focused on the books he had published in Continental Europe by Tauchnitz and Albatross and in the UK by Penguin and Hutchinson.  He first appeared as a Tauchnitz author in 1930, one of the new authors introduced by Max Christian Wegner, who had been appointed as General Manager of the company in 1929.   The first of his books to appear was ‘Lily Christine’ as volume 4926.  As usual Tauchnitz preferred to start by publishing his latest work, rather than going back to the earlier works that had made his name.

‘Lily Christine’, a tangled romance chronicling the lives of upper class society in the 1920s ‘Jazz Age’, had been published in the UK in 1928.   It is probably fairly typical of the novels that led to Arlen being described as the English F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The first printing in Tauchnitz is dated March 1930 at the top of the rear wrapper, and like all first printings from this era, has a two column list of latest volumes on the back and inside wrappers.   Later printings have a single column listing on the back only.

It was followed shortly after by ‘Babes in the Wood’, a collection of short stories that begins with an apparently autobiographical story called ‘Confessions of a naturalised Englishman’ (although a note adds that all characters are fictitious, including the author).  It appeared as volume 4943 and the first printing is dated June 1930 at the top of the rear wrapper.  In the three months between publication of the two books, Tauchnitz had introduced a modernised design for the front wrappers, so that they look rather different at first.

A final Tauchnitz volume, ‘Men dislike women’ appeared the following year, as volume 5001, dated July 1931 on the rear wrapper.  By this time Christian Wegner had been fired by Tauchnitz and was shortly to re-appear as one of the founders of the rival Albatross series.  Albatross was hugely successful in persuading leading British and American authors to publish with them rather than Tauchnitz, and Arlen quickly switched allegiance to the new firm, no doubt partly because of his earlier relationship with Wegner.

Albatross 40 Young men in love

‘Young men in love’, an earlier novel by Arlen, first published in 1927, appeared as volume 40 of the Albatross series in late 1932, in the blue covers used to identify love stories.  Then in 1934, ‘Man’s mortality’, a rather different type of novel from his usual romances, was published as volume 211.  This is more like science fiction, set 50 years in the future and often compared (almost always unfavourably) with Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, published the previous year.  Albatross gave it the yellow covers representing ‘psychological novels, essays etc.’, although perhaps slightly oddly ‘Brave New World’ had been given the orange covers of ‘tales and short stories, humorous and satirical works’.

Albatross 211 Man's mortality

Arlen’s third and final book in Albatross, was a book of short stories though, and so was given orange covers, making him one of only a handful of writers to have books published in Albatross in three different categories / colours (Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley and Katherine Mansfield were others, and D.H. Lawrence managed four).  ‘The Crooked Coronet’ was published in March 1938 as volume 362.

Albatross 362 The crooked coronet

This was long after Albatross had taken over editorial control of Tauchnitz in 1934, with the two series being managed jointly from then on.  Arlen could presumably have been published in either series, and the criteria for determining  which series was used, are not entirely clear.  Most authors stayed with the series they were published in before the two came together, generally with more of the edgier modern authors in Albatross and more of the longer established or more conservative authors in Tauchnitz.  That fitted the harsh reality that authors banned by the Nazis could not be published by the German-based Tauchnitz.   I don’t think that Michael Arlen was ever banned (or could ever be described as edgy and modern), so presumably he stayed in Albatross just because that was where he was at the time of the coming together.

Meanwhile in the UK, Penguin had been launched in 1935 and was buying up paperback rights where it could, mostly for books published several years earlier, rather than the latest novels.  They obtained the rights to Michael Arlen’s ‘These charming people’, another collection of short stories that had been first published by Collins in 1923, and this appeared as volume 86 of the Penguin series in 1937.  It includes a story called ‘When the nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’, a title that was later appropriated for a song that became one of the most popular songs of the second world war.

Penguin 086 dw

I think ‘These charming people’ was the only one of Michael Arlen’s works to appear in Penguin, but at least two others appeared in Hutchinson’s Pocket Library.  Hutchinson was the original UK publisher for several of Arlen’s books, so they were in a stronger position to publish paperback editions in their series competing against Penguin.  ‘Young men in love’ appeared as volume 50 of the series in May 1938 and ‘Lily Christine as volume 59 in October of the same year.

There may have been other paperback editions in other series, but by this time Arlen’s style was going out of fashion.  He wrote mainly about an era and a society that had vanished, at least from public sympathy, with the depression of the 1930s and that was totally out of tune with the conditions of the second world war.  For a few short years though he had been one of the most popular writers in Britain.   His most successful novel, ‘The green hat’, first published in 1924, doesn’t seem to have ever appeared in paperback.

Arlen himself had left Britain in 1927, first joining D.H. Lawrence in Florence and then moving to Cannes, where he married a Greek Countess, Atalanta Mercati.  He returned to Britain during the war, but then moved to the US for the last years of his life.  His son, Michael J. Arlen, an American with Armenian / British / Greek / French / Bulgarian heritage, has written ‘Exiles’, a memoir of his parents and his childhood, itself published many years later in Penguin.

Exiles 2

 

Boxing clever – the first 6 Albatross books

The launch of Albatross books in 1932 was a key moment in the paperback revolution, even if not fully recognised as such at the time.  It signalled the imminent demise of Tauchnitz, which had dominated English language publishing in Continental Europe for almost a century.  It was to be the inspiration for the launch of Penguin Books three years later.  And it was in some respects the moment that paperbacks came of age in the twentieth century.

A lot of planning and preparation had gone into the launch, which brought together three remarkable men, John Holroyd-Reece, Max Christian Wegner and Kurt Enoch.  Their stories are too long and varied to cover here, but all three played important roles in publishing history, even apart from their time at Albatross.   It was important for them that the first list of Albatross titles made a statement about the ambitions of the new series.

Albatross First six anouncement

It was a mixed list, establishing the principle that the series would cover a range of genres and styles.  A crime story and a romance rubbed shoulders with more literary fiction.   A volume of short stories was published alongside the first volume of an historical family saga.   There was something for everyone, and importantly, with colour coding by genre, the mix of types of book was reflected in a mix of colours for the first six books.

The choice of the first three authors – James Joyce, Aldous Huxley and Sinclair Lewis, seemed to say that the series would be more at the cutting edge of modern literature than Tauchnitz had been in recent years.   It also said something about the ability of Albatross to attract authors away from Tauchnitz.

James Joyce in particular had been neglected by Tauchnitz.  They had eventually published ‘A portrait of the artist as a young man’ in 1930, some ten years after being offered it, but had shown little interest in his other works.  So for Albatross, publishing ‘Dubliners’ as volume 1 was an open goal.

Huxley and Lewis had been treated better, with Tauchnitz publishing six volumes of Huxley and three from Lewis, arguably including their most important works.  But that was far from comprehensive coverage and as with Joyce, Albatross was able to target earlier works, overlooked by Tauchnitz, before later publishing new works.  Sinclair Lewis had in 1930 become the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, so it was a good time to be revisiting his earlier works.

The next three titles were perhaps a bit lighter, but Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole was a significant prize.  It was the first of the Herries Chronicles, a trilogy of books set in the Lake District, and probably the work for which Walpole is best remembered now.  He too had to be attracted away from Tauchnitz, which had published several of his earlier works, as did Warwick Deeping.   As Tauchnitz had had a near monopoly on publishing English literature in Europe, it was almost inevitable that the authors Albatross wanted to publish would already have had dealings with Tauchnitz.

The launch of the first six titles was also marked by the issue of a boxed set of the six books.  I have little idea how many of these were produced or sold, or indeed the price at which it was offered.  I have only ever seen the one example, illustrated below, and that is in less than perfect condition.  Although the box has no Albatross branding, I am pretty sure that it was produced for Albatross, rather than just being a home-made affair.  It’s possible though that it was produced only for presentation copies, offered to business contacts and colleagues.

Box Set First Six 2

Just one of the books in this box still has its transparent dustwrapper, and that is in poor condition, but all the books would originally have had them.   They were easily damaged and after a year or so, new titles were instead given paper dustwrappers in the same design as the books.

Albatross and the Third Reich. A Strange Bird, but a wonderful book.

‘Strange Bird’ is a wonderful new book by Michele Troy, subtitled ‘The Albatross Press and the Third Reich’.  It vividly recounts the difficulties of a business publishing modernist British and American literature in 1930s Germany under the Nazis, and the lives of the key people involved as they cope with the sometimes brutal consequences.

Strange Bird

Michele Troy is Professor of English at Hillyer College at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.  On one level her book is a meticulously researched academic study, where every assertion is backed by detailed research referenced in copious footnotes.   But on another level it’s more like a novel, following the lives of a whole cast of characters, but particularly the three main founders of Albatross – John Holroyd-Reece, Max Christian Wegner and Kurt Enoch.

Embed from Getty Images

Kurt Enoch (right) with novelist Erskine Caldwell, in the US after the war

The book is beautifully written, again more like a novel in places, but the story the author has uncovered is almost too implausible for the plot of a novel.  There are twists and turns as the business has to adapt to Nazi control and suspicion, and the team is then split apart by restrictions on Jewish ownership of property in Germany.   I won’t include too many spoilers, but the story reaches a climax with the German occupation of Paris in 1940.  The contrasts in the experiences of the main participants at that point are almost heartbreaking, but there is far more to come.  Triumph turns to disaster and disaster turns to recovery in very personal terms as well as in political, military and business terms.

Max Christian Wegner

Max Christian Wegner, after the war

Holroyd-Reece, Wegner and Enoch all had very successful publishing careers separately from Albatross, both before and after the war, and they worked together for only a few years.  I’ve long believed that in that short period they were able to create something really special, and that the Albatross series was a remarkable achievement in both literary and business terms.  But I had little idea before picking up this book of quite how remarkable it really was.  It needs the context of time and place, of everything that was going on in 1930s Germany, followed by the war and the post-war chaos, to understand the extent of their achievement.  ‘Strange Bird’ brings together the context and the achievement and ties it together with the intertwining personal life stories of three remarkable men.

Holroyd Reece Christmas Card 8 and 9

John Holroyd Reece in his Paris office, drawn by Gunter Böhmer for a 1938 Christmas Card

All three died many years ago, but as well as researching many archives, Michele Troy has tracked down relatives and uncovered personal reminiscences that transform the book from a dusty academic work to a spellbinding thriller.  Above all it’s the stories of the people that you come away with from this book.  They’re engaging stories and engaging people, for the most part sympathetically drawn characters, despite all their faults.

The book is part history, part biography, part novel, part academic treatise, part detective story, part bibliographical research, but above all it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.   I hope many more people will read it.

Aldous Huxley in Tauchnitz and Albatross – Part 1

By 1928, when Aldous Huxley’s work first appeared in the Tauchnitz series, he was already a well-established writer.   Tauchnitz was still the dominant English language publisher in Continental Europe, but it had struggled during the First World War and the difficulties that followed in Germany.  It was no longer quite at the cutting edge of English literature, where it had been for most of its long existence, and British publishers were becoming reluctant to allow continental reprints as soon after UK publication as they previously had.  Still, to join the near-5000-volume-strong Tauchnitz series was recognition that you had reached a certain level in your profession.  The honour was as much to Huxley as it was to Tauchnitz.

‘Two or three graces’, a collection of Huxley’s short stories appeared in early 1928 (or possibly late 1927) as volume 4810, and the satirical novel ‘Those barren leaves’ followed shortly after as volume 4816.   Although both volumes are dated 1928 on the title page, the first printing of volume 4810 is dated December 1927 at the top of the back wrapper, while volume 4816 is dated January 1928.  There are multiple reprints of both books, identifiable by later dates on the back wrapper.

 Tauchnitz 4810 Two or three graces  Tauchnitz 4810 Two or three graces rear wrapper

 Tauchnitz 4816 Those Barren Leaves  Tauchnitz 4816 Those Barren Leaves rear wrapper

Sales must have gone well, and having identified Huxley as a promising young writer, Tauchnitz were keen to extend the relationship.  The following year they published his new novel ‘Point Counter Point’, a longer work that stretched over two volumes, numbered 4872 and 4873, and dated March 1929 in the first printing.  That was followed up by ‘Brief candles’, another collection of short stories, (volume 4958, dated October 1930) and by ‘Music at Night and other essays’ (volume 5017, dated October 1931).  Both works appeared in Tauchnitz very shortly after first UK publication.

  Tauchnitz 4872 Point Counter Point Vol 1  Tauchnitz 4873 Point Counter Point Vol 2

 Tauchnitz 4958 Brief Candles  Tauchnitz 5017 Music at Night

Tauchnitz though, by this time, was in turmoil.  Hans Christian Wegner had been appointed to manage the firm in late 1929, after the death of Curt Otto, and was keen to modernise the series, encouraging writers such as Huxley, D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce.   But his ideas were too radical for the Tauchnitz board and he left in 1931, becoming one of the key founders of the rival firm Albatross.  At last, Tauchnitz had a serious competitor.

Wegner would have had a relationship with Huxley’s agent and UK publisher and been well aware of which works had already been published by Tauchnitz.  He wanted Huxley for his new Albatross series, and saw an opportunity to win him over by publishing some of the earlier works that had been ignored by Tauchnitz

‘The Gioconda Smile and other stories’ appeared as volume 2 of the Albatross series in 1932.  It brought together most of Huxley’s short stories from the two collections published in the UK as ‘Mortal Coils’ (1922) and ‘Little Mexican’ (1924).  ‘Antic Hay’, another early work from 1923, followed as volume 24, with ‘Crome Yellow’, his first novel from 1921, published as volume 64 in 1933.  Inbetween though came the real prize.  Having won Huxley over and published his early work in far more attractive editions than the drab Tauchnitz volumes, Albatross was rewarded with his latest new work, ‘Brave new World’ published early in 1933 as volume 47 of the series.

     

A further volume of short stories appeared  under the title ‘Uncle Spencer and other stories’ later in 1933, as volume 87.  It combined the two remaining stories from ‘Little Mexican’, with five stories that had appeared in Huxley’s first collection ‘Limbo’ in 1921.  So in the first 100 volumes and the first two years of Albatross, five Huxley volumes had been published.  The tally at that point stood at six Huxley volumes in Tauchnitz and five in Albatross.  Not bad for a writer who was still in his thirties.

Huxley in Tauchnitz and Albatross to 1934

But then two other events intervened that were to have significant effects on Huxley’s continental publishing history.  The first was the near collapse of Tauchnitz, unable to compete with its much more modern rival, and the second was the rise to power in Germany of the Nazi party.  I’ll come back to the effects of those two events in my next post.  (See part 2)

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

Publishing in the shadow of the Nazis. Tauchnitz, Albatross and Brandstetter in the 1930s.

By the time the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, the firm of Bernhard Tauchnitz had existed in Leipzig for almost a century and had already survived a world war as well as the hyperinflation and depression that followed it.   The printer and publisher Oscar Brandstetter, also based in Leipzig, was fast approaching its 75 year anniversary.   Although the leaders of the two firms must surely have known each other within the Leipzig book trade, they were at that point unconnected, as far as I can tell.  They were shortly to be brought together by the intervention of a third firm, Albatross, based not in Leipzig, but in Paris, and which had existed for only a few months.   They presumably had little awareness of this, but may have had more awareness of some of the complications likely to arise from Hitler’s rise to power, which were to play a significant part in the coming together of the three companies.

On 10th May 1933, in the Opernplatz in Berlin, German students and brown-shirted stormtroopers gathered to burn books that they considered un-German.  It was followed by ceremonial book-burnings in other German university towns, including Leipzig.  Did a collective shiver pass down the spine of the German book trade, for so long based in Leipzig?

book-burning 2

The Opernplatz in Berlin – 10 May 1933

As well as the works of many prominent German authors, books by a long list of English and American authors were banned, many of them published by Tauchnitz, including H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Dreiser and John Dos Passos.  All of these writers had books published by Tauchnitz before May 1933.   No further books by any of them were published after that date, although a few reprints with later dates exist, possibly only for sale outside Germany.

Several of the banned authors had in any case already defected to Albatross, whose books were vastly more attractive than the Tauchnitz volumes, and had quickly established the upper hand in the marketplace.   So in the face of a formidable competitor, Tauchnitz was being asked to compete with one hand tied behind its back.   To make matters worse, Albatross was led by Max Christian Wegner, who had previously managed Tauchnitz in Leipzig, where he had tried to push through various changes, before the Board, finding his changes too radical, decided to part company with him.

At Albatross he found a Board, led by the Italian publisher Arnoldo Mondadori, that was more attuned to his way of thinking and he was able to implement many of his ideas, with striking success.  Amongst those ideas was the separation of the printing from the publishing side of the business.  Unlike Tauchnitz Editions, Albatross books were never printed in-house.  The first few were printed at Mondadori in Italy, but from volume 21 onwards, most were printed by Brandstetter, or more specifically by the Jakob Hegner department of Brandstetter in Leipzig.

printing colophon volume 29

Colophon for an early Albatross book printed by Hegner

How did the contact with Brandstetter / Hegner come about?   Had Wegner already had discussions with them when he was at Tauchnitz, possibly with the thought of them taking over the printing work for Tauchnitz?   Up to the point when he left, in May 1931, Tauchnitz books had always been printed in-house, but by the end of the following year books were being printed by the Bibliographisches Institut in Leipzig or by the Offizin Haag-Drugulin.  Was that one of the changes he had proposed?

It would take more than a change of printer to save Tauchnitz though, and by mid-1934 its financial situation had deteriorated to the point where it was put up for sale.   Although it was effectively unable to compete with Albatross, it had a back catalogue of over 5000 volumes that would have some value in the hands of the right owners, and in particular would have some value for Albatross.

But it was not Albatross who bought Tauchnitz, despite the rumours circulating at the time.  Albatross had too many Jewish links, both in terms of its owners and its managers, for that to be allowed in the political climate of the time.   Instead there was an effective partnership between Albatross and Oscar Brandstetter, where Brandstetter became the new owner of Tauchnitz and took on all the printing work, while editorial control was taken on by Albatross.

 Brandstetter Oscar    Brandstetter printing machine

Oscar Brandstetter                               The Brandstetter printing works

So Brandstetter may have been reluctant and largely nominal owners of Tauchnitz, there only to satisfy the authorities, happy to benefit from the substantial printing work, but with little interest in the publishing side of the business.   It’s hard to know for sure.  They were certainly not just printers.  They did have other publishing interests, but publishing contemporary English literature would be quite a specialised area that they might not have felt able to take on.  They surely would not have wanted anyway to go into direct competition with Albatross, one of their major printing clients.  A partnership where Brandstetter were the legal owners of Tauchnitz, but Albatross controlled the editorial side, would tie the two companies together and guarantee a substantial volume of printing work from both businesses.

But if that arrangement suited Brandstetter, other changes under way were more threatening.  The department of Brandstetter dealing with Albatross was run by Jakob Hegner, who despite converting to Christianity, came from an Austrian Jewish family and was strongly opposed to National Socialism.  He had been a publisher in Vienna, but his firm had run into difficulties in 1930 and was acquired by Brandstetter, with Hegner himself moving to Leipzig.  In 1936 though he was excluded from the Reichsschrifttumskammer, which effectively barred him from the book business in Germany, and he moved back to Vienna, before fleeing to England in 1938 after the Anschluss.  Interestingly Brandstetter published a short volume in 1937 celebrating the work of the Jakob Hegner business, with the title ‘Wirklichkeit und Wahrheit’ (Reality and Truth).  The title came from a work by Josef Pieper published by the firm, but could it also have been a commentary aimed at the German authorities that had effectively driven the founder of the firm out of the country?

Jakob Hegner book title page

Albatross had similar problems to deal with.  The distribution business of the company was run from Hamburg by Kurt Enoch, who was also Jewish.  Although a decorated officer in the German Army from the First World War, he was effectively required under the Aryanisation programme to sell his business, and he too emigrated, first to Paris and then in 1940 to the US, where he went on to work for Penguin Books and to found the New American Library.   Max Wegner moved back to Germany from Paris to take on Enoch’s role in distribution, leaving John Holroyd-Reece in charge of the editorial side.

Holroyd-Reece is rather demonised by the Tauchnitz bibliographers, Todd & Bowden, but almost certainly unfairly.   He did have some potentially difficult decisions about which books to publish under the Albatross brand, and which in the Tauchnitz Edition, but did so in a way that distinguished the brand images – Albatross more edgy and modern, Tauchnitz more conservative and traditional.  While Todd & Bowden accuse him of unfairly favouring Albatross, his decisions were restricted by censorship in Germany, and in any case the reality is probably that without the intervention of Albatross, Tauchnitz would have had no new publishing programme at all after 1934.   They had failed commercially and anyone else would have struggled to compete with Albatross in anything other than reprinting previous successes from their back catalogue.  Brandstetter, as legal owners of Tauchnitz would have had little cause for complaint about Holroyd-Reece’s stewardship of the company in the few years before the Second World War.

Tauchnitz in Hamburg – a post-war stutter

Before the Second World War, Max Christian Wegner and John Holroyd-Reece had worked together in Paris to launch Albatross, first in competition to the old-established firm of Tauchnitz, and then to run the two companies as a joint operation.   Wegner seems to have been more in control of the editorial side in the early years, but relations between the two may have soured, and in 1936 he moved from Paris to Hamburg, taking over the sales and distribution business from Kurt Enoch.  From that point on, Holroyd-Reece ran the editorial side of the business from his home and office on the Ile de la Cité.

When the war came, the two found themselves on opposite sides.   Holroyd-Reece had been born in Germany as Johann Hermann Riess, but had become British and fled to London, with the Nazis appropriating the business and appointing a German manager to run it.   After the war, he re-launched the business from the same offices, although he himself continued to live in London.

Wegner meanwhile set up in effective competition, using the Tauchnitz brand from Hamburg.  His short-term ambitions were relatively modest, and by 1948 he had re-issued about 10 of the previous Tauchnitz books in a new series, with no new publications at all.  Those 10 were selected from the more than 5000 previously published by Tauchnitz.  On the face of it, it’s quite odd to publish them as a new series, rather than under their original Tauchnitz series numbers, but it probably reflects the lack of clarity over rights to the Tauchnitz brand and copyrights.  Wegner had no ownership of the original Tauchnitz firm and had simply created a new company, Tauchnitz Edition GmbH in Hamburg, taking advantage of the uncertainty over property rights in post-war Germany, as Holroyd-Reece was doing from Paris.

Tauchnitz New Series 2 Saint Joan   Tauchnitz New Series 3 The good earth

The post-war conditions in Germany however meant that the books were printed on poor quality paper and did not look attractive, either in comparison with the pre-war publications or with some of the same books being issued from Paris under the Albatross brand.  Perhaps not surprisingly they don’t seem to have been a great commercial success.

Of even more concern for Wegner though was that by 1948 Wolfgang Brandstetter, the owner of the firm Oscar Brandstetter, had succeeded in re-establishing his ownership rights over Tauchnitz.   Wegner was effectively forced into a short term partnership with Brandstetter as joint Managing Director.   As well as extending the series further to an eventual total of 18 titles, they also created a new Students’ Series aimed at German schools, again using texts that had already been published by Tauchnitz in its pre-war Students’ Series.

Tauchnitz Students Series Hamburg 1   Tauchnitz Students Series Hamburg 2

The partnership between Wegner and Brandstetter was short-lived, and by 1950 Wegner was moving on again, forced out of Tauchnitz for the second time in his career.   The Tauchnitz name and business was sold off, although the Students’ Series continued for several more years under a Brandstetter imprint.

Tauchnitz and Albatross – the post-war division of the spoils

At the end of the Second World War it was unclear exactly what remained of the combined Tauchnitz and Albatross publishing business that had been so successful before the war.  Albatross had been owned by Sir Edmund Davis, who had died in 1939, and Tauchnitz had been owned by the printers Oscar Brandstetter, whose premises in Leipzig had been destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in 1943.  The editorial office in Paris of the combined business had been taken over by the Nazis during the war, and although it continued to sell existing stock for a surprisingly long time, as well as launching a number of other ventures, the business had effectively disappeared by the end of the war.

What did remain though were the rights to a backlist of almost 6000 volumes, containing the cream of English literature from the past century.   For anyone who could establish their rights to this backlist, and to the goodwill and brand recognition that went with it, there was the possibility of re-creating a significant business.  At least two men – Max Christian Wegner and John Holroyd-Reece – were interested in doing so.   They had both worked for Albatross before the war, although relationships between the two seem to have been difficult at times.

Albatross 516 The legacy (post-war)

An early post-war Albatross

Holroyd-Reece chose to re-launch using the Albatross brand and series with the backing of Collins in the UK, and using the previous Albatross office in Paris, while Wegner attempted to revive Tauchnitz from Hamburg.   It is unclear whether either of them could genuinely claim rights to the brand name or the Tauchnitz backlist, but in the chaos of post-war Europe, with uncertain property rights in Germany, that was perhaps not totally untypical.

Wegner started with a short series of 18 books, published between 1946 and 1949, all of them previously published by Tauchnitz. From 1948 to 1950 he added a Students’ Series of a further 12 titles, again drawn from the Tauchnitz backlist, and probably largely aimed at schools in Germany.

Tauchnitz New Series 3 The good earth   Tauchnitz Students Series Hamburg 1

Early post-war Tauchnitz editions from the main series and the Students’ Series

Holroyd-Reece had rather larger ambitions, resuming the Albatross series with new titles as well as re-issuing pre-war titles.   More controversially, he also re-issued books previously issued by Tauchnitz, in Albatross branding and format, but with their original Tauchnitz numbering.   Some of these books were, at much the same time, being re-issued by Wegner in his Tauchnitz series.  So for instance Hemingway’s ‘A farewell to arms’, originally issued by Tauchnitz in 1930 as volume 4935, also exists as Albatross volume 4935, issued in 1947, and then as volume 9 of the new Tauchnitz series, published in Hamburg in 1948.

Tauchnitz 4935  Albatross 4935 A farewell to arms  Tauchnitz New Series 9 A farewell to arms

Wegner took steps to legitimise his claims to the Tauchnitz brand in 1948, by appointing Wolfgang Brandstetter, the owner of Tauchnitz, as joint chief executive.  Holroyd-Reece on the other hand could claim that when Brandstetter had bought Tauchnitz in 1934, it had ceded editorial control to Albatross. Indeed the evidence suggests that the purchase by Brandstetter may have been little more than a political fig-leaf to cover the embarrassment of a German firm being acquired by a Jewish-owned business, shortly after the Nazis came to power. Brandstetter at the start probably had no interest in running a publishing firm, or ability to do so. However it’s doubtful that an agreement entered into in 1934 in Germany, was still valid in 1947, with all that had happened in the meantime. Even if it was, some payment would presumably have been due to Brandstetter.

Of the two rival ventures, Albatross seems to have been the more adventurous and probably the more successful, launching a number of partnerships with other publishers.   These led for instance to local language series under the Albatross brand in Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Germany.   By 1950 though, both businesses were in terminal decline.   Tauchnitz was sold and enjoyed a brief final resurgence in the 1950s, but in the end they were not really in competition with each other, they were both in competition with Penguin and the other new paperback publishers in Britain.   The world of paperback publishing had changed for ever by the end of the Second World War and the conditions in which Tauchnitz and Albatross had flourished would never return.