At heart the Tauchnitz Editions were paperbacks. That’s almost an article of faith for me, despite the fact that a high proportion of them were taken on a visit to the bookbinder. And because the bound copies survived better, an even higher proportion of the surviving copies are hardbound books, in a bewildering variety of bindings.
But not all Tauchnitz Editions were sold as paperbacks. Almost from the start, Tauchnitz offered books for sale in bound editions as well as paperback. The earliest record of these is an announcement in the Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel on 31 May 1842, that attractively bound copies (schöne Einbände) would be available two weeks after the paperback issue.
The binding this referred to was almost certainly the binding illustrated below and classified as binding x1 in the Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions. I have several of the early editions in this binding, but nothing to rival the magnificent run of almost all the first 100 volumes that exists in the Pressler Collection, now in the National Library of Scotland.
Bindings in this style don’t seem to exist much after volume 100, in 1846, although the bibliography records an unusual copy of ‘Bleak House’ bound in this style from around 1852. There are though many fairly similar bindings that were probably produced by private binders.
The usual rule for recognising that a binding is produced and sold by the publisher, rather than being a private binding attached to a book sold as a paperback, is that it has the publisher’s name on the binding. Few publishers could resist the temptation to add their own name to the binding, sometimes almost with greater prominence than that of the author, but oddly few private binders thought the name of the publisher of any relevance at all. It seems unlikely that bindings without the Tauchnitz name on are produced by the firm, although there are certainly a few private bindings that are marked with it, particularly later on, as ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ became almost a generic product name applied to any continental edition in English.
The example below, which shows a first printing of ‘The Pickwick Papers’, volumes 2 and 3 of the series, alongside the later volumes 36 and 50, is an interesting example. The bindings are clearly very similar, and this applies not only to the spine, but to the boards as well, which are almost identical, as are the endpapers and the marbling of the page edges. The most significant difference between the two is that the later volumes have the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the base of the spine. Is it possible that the first two are an early binding from the publisher, before he developed the vanity to insist on his own name being applied?
However the Pressler collection includes a similar copy of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ in the standard publisher binding, with the words ‘Tauchnitz Edition’ at the foot of the spine. It seems unlikely that the firm would have sold two versions, with and without the publisher name. So my best guess is still that my copy is a private binding, although possibly produced by the same bookbinder, if the Tauchnitz binding work was outsourced, or perhaps by another bookbinder in Leipzig, who worked in a similar style.
Although this early publisher binding was probably not offered for long, other styles followed it and were offered for sale by Tauchnitz at various times, indeed throughout most of their history. I’ll come back to the other types of binding in later posts.
In 1843 Bernhard Tauchnitz signed an agreement with Charles Dickens to publish authorised continental editions of his books. ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, the first of Dickens’ novels to appear in an authorised edition, has already featured in this blog. But his short story ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published almost at the same time by Tauchnitz and may even have got there first.
The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz lists the announcement dates in some detail. Tauchnitz announced both books for issue within the next few days on 4 December 1843, with an official announcement in the Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel on 8 December. ‘A Christmas Carol’ was to be published simultaneously with the London edition, which was eventually issued on 19 December. ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ appeared in the Hinrichs’schen Buchhandung lists of publications on 18-20 December followed by ‘A Christmas Carol’ on 27 December.
That might suggest that ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ was published first, but on the other hand it is dated 1844 on the title page, whereas ‘A Christmas Carol’ is dated 1843. The date of 1844 for ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ could be because this was only volume 1, with volume 2 to appear later in 1844, although Tauchnitz didn’t always follow this practice. On the other hand it seems highly likely that ‘A Christmas Carol’ did appear in 1843, and indeed before Christmas. Even if the Christmas book market was not as competitive in 1843 as it is now, there would have been an obvious commercial imperative to having it published before rather than after Christmas. As books had to be distributed for sale across continental Europe, it could hardly have been left to the last minute either. Could it actually have been published earlier than 19 December, in which case the Tauchnitz edition would be the worldwide first edition?
We may never know the answer to that. Certainly the Tauchnitz Edition was published very close to the date of first UK publication. But as always with Tauchnitz Editions, there’s another problem anyway, which is to identify which copies represent the first edition.
Like all Tauchnitz Editions it was issued as a paperback, and a relatively small one, consisting of just 78 pages on quite thin paper. The half-title identifies it as being part of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors, but it was effectively an unnumbered special edition, too short to justify a series number or the normal volume price. More significantly for its chances of survival, it was too slim a paperback for many purchasers to justify taking it to the bookbinders and having it separately bound. Instead it is sometimes found bound together with another volume of Dickens, or an unrelated volume from another author. But for the most part it has simply disappeared, with surviving copies of the first printing now very rare.
For a copy to be identified as the first printing, it must first have 78 pages (with the preliminary pages not included in the numbering), must show the publisher as Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. on the title page and refer to the book being an ‘Edition sanctioned by the author’. It should also say ‘Printed by Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ at the foot of the final page and have a frontispiece entitled ‘Marley’s Ghost’, described on the title page as being a coloured etching, although according to the bibliography it is really a coloured lithograph. Even with all these qualifications, there remain two variants, one of which (impression Aa) finishes with ‘THE END.’ and the other (impression Ab) with ‘THE E .’ – i.e with the letters ND missing. The bibliography gives precedence to impression Aa, suggesting that the ‘ND’ of impression Ab was ‘apparently dropped in reimpression from standing type’. That may be right, but it’s not clear to me why the alternative interpretation of a mistake in the first impression, quickly corrected in a second impression, could not equally be true. Although printing errors happened only extremely rarely in Tauchnitz Editions, a rush to get the book issued in time for Christmas might conceivably have caused this?
Todd & Bowden in the bibliography identified only a single copy of impression Aa, in their own collection, now held in the British Library, with three surviving copies of impression Ab in Amsterdam, Yale and Munich, the last of these in a private collection now held in the National Library of Scotland. There’s now a further copy of impression Aa in my collection, which may therefore be an extremely rare example of the worldwide first printing of ‘A Christmas Carol’, or may not even be a first printing of the Tauchnitz Edition. That’s the joy of book collecting!