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Early Tauchnitz publisher’s bindings

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.

Publisher binding x1 1

Publisher binding x1 2

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?

Publisher binding x1 3

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.


A Christmas Carol – the first printing?

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?

A Christmas Carol impression Aa Frontispiece

The frontispiece to the Tauchnitz Edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’

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.

A Christmas Carol impression Aa Half-title

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.

A Christmas Carol impression Aa Title page

The title page of the first edition

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?

A Christmas Carol impression Aa page 78

The final page of impression Aa

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!

The first Tauchnitz – an early example of vapourware?

The Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ series eventually ran to 5370 volumes, published over a period of just about 100 years, but the very first book, volume No. 1, was ‘Pelham’ by Bulwer Lytton.   Publication was announced in September 1841, but when did the book first appear?

Tauchnitz 1 half-title recto

Tauchnitz had the habit of showing the year of first publication on the title page of their books and leaving this unaltered even on reprints many years later.  All known copies of ‘Pelham’ are dated 1842.   However publication was announced in the trade press in September 1841, in the list of ‘new books … arrived in Leipzig between 19 September and 25 September’.   There was a further announcement on 2 November 1841 for ‘books received 24-30 October’.  As it’s known the book was quickly re-set, this might even refer to the second edition, well before the end of 1841.  Which would leave it a bit of a mystery as to why the book should be dated 1842.

Tauchnitz 1 title page

The title page, dated 1842, has no mention of authorisation or copyright in the early printings

Karl Pressler, who made a particular study of the early editions of Tauchnitz Books, suggested that it might be because the early volumes were sent to booksellers on approval and only entered into the firm’s accounts for 1842, when firm orders were confirmed.  He also points out that it was (and is) not unusual for books issued towards the end of  year to carry the following year’s date.

But why would the accounting records dictate the year on the title page?  Why would a book selling so quickly that it had to be reprinted within a couple of months, not be entered into the accounts for four months anyway?   Why would Tauchnitz use the following year’s date on this one occasion, when it doesn’t seem to have been their practice in other years, even for books published in December, never mind September?

Could there actually be a first printing dated 1841, as yet undiscovered?   It certainly seems possible that no copies of the very earliest printing have survived, given that the books were originally issued in paperback and the print run was probably quite limited.  But for a copy to be dated 1841 would go against the otherwise consistent practice of retaining the date of first publication on the title page for subsequent reprints.  It would be very odd indeed to keep the original date on all other books but to use a year after the original date for all reprints of volume 1.

So is the alternative conclusion that 1842 is in fact the true first publication date, and the earlier announcements were anticipating publication?   Companies nowadays often announce the release of new products many months before they actually appear in the shops – known in the consumer electronics industry as ‘vapourware’.   Was Tauchnitz an early adopter of this practice?

My best guess is that they were and that the book was never actually issued until the start of 1842, or at least very late 1841.  Certainly a second edition followed very quickly, as two versions with a different number of pages exist, each in the format used only in the early years of the series, where there is no reference to the edition being ‘sanctioned’ by the author or subject to copyright.   The assumed first printing has 34 pages of preliminaries, followed by 477 pages of text.   All other printings, right through to the 1890s have the preliminaries extended to 36 pages by the addition of another preface and the text restricted to 467 pages.   I have a copy of the first setting and there is also a copy in the collection recently acquired by the National Library of Scotland, but almost all other copies in the collections in National libraries and University libraries are reprints, including an early paperback copy in the New York Public Library.

Tauchnitz 1 final page

The 1st printing ends on page 477.

It’s likely that all copies of the first edition were sold as paperbacks, with the company only starting to offer hard bound editions later in 1842.  It was common practice for buyers though to take paperbacks to a bookbinder and have them privately bound, and it’s the bound copies that are more more likely to survive.   The New York copy dates from around August 1843 and is the earliest known surviving paperback copy of this book.  I have a handful of earlier paperback copies of other books in the series, but they’re certainly not easy to find.  Paperbacks don’t survive well over 170 years.

Tauchnitz 1 frontispiece

What about the book itself?   I haven’t read it yet, and I’m not sure many people have.  I don’t think anybody much reads Bulwer Lytton these days, although in his time he was an extremely popular writer.   His books account for 12 of the first 25 books in the Tauchnitz series, and other German publishers were also issuing pirated copies of his novels, both in English and in translation.   I’ll see if I can get round to reading it soon.