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Sherlock Holmes in Tauchnitz Editions

The Tauchnitz Edition included almost every significant novel written in English over a hundred year period, including of course the novels of Dickens, the Brontes, Hardy, George Eliot and a host of others, many of them now almost forgotten.  But surely some of the most significant, and the least forgotten, are the Sherlock Holmes novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   They played a key role in spawning a whole genre of writing that still seems as popular as ever, had a lasting influence on a much broader range of English literature and continue to fascinate and stimulate new works.

So it goes without saying that they were published by Tauchnitz.  Not immediately, it should be said.  ‘A study in scarlet’, the first of the Holmes novels, was published in 1887 in a magazine, and initially attracted relatively little attention.  It was followed in 1890 by ‘The sign of four’ (originally titled ‘The sign of the four’) and it was really only after that that interest in the stories started to build.  The first book publication of ‘The sign of four’ was in October 1890 and the Tauchnitz Edition followed in February 1891.   Tauchnitz then published two other non-Holmes novels by Conan Doyle and a collection of short stories, before ‘A study in Scarlet’ appeared in March 1892.   The first printing of ‘A study in scarlet’ is therefore identified by the list of the 4 previous books by Conan Doyle on the back of the half-title, starting with ‘The sign of four’ and finishing with ‘The white company’.   Later editions list many more titles.   The first printing of ‘The sign of four’ of course lists no other Conan Doyle titles.

Tauchnitz 2812 A study in Scarlet title page

The first printing of ‘A study in scarlet’ lists 4 other Conan Doyle titles

After that, Tauchnitz published all the new Sherlock Holmes stories as quickly as it could get its hands on them.   ‘The adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ appeared in March 1893 (6 other Conan Doyle titles listed), ‘The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ in April 1894 (9 other Conan Doyle titles listed), ‘The hound of the Baskervilles’ in April 1902 (20 other Conan Doyle titles listed) and ‘The return of Sherlock Holmes’ in March 1905 (22 other Conan Doyle titles listed).   From the growing number of other titles, it’s clear that alongside these, Tauchnitz were also publishing other non-Holmes books by Conan Doyle.  There were also regular reprints of the Sherlock Holmes books, as always with Tauchnitz retaining the original publication date on the title page, but identified by higher numbers of other titles listed on the back of the half-title, or in the case of paperback copies, by the date at the top of the back wrapper.

The first printing of 'The hound of the Baskervilles' lists 20 other Conan Doyle titles

The first printing of ‘The hound of the Baskervilles’ lists 20 other Conan Doyle titles

Conan Doyle produced no further Sherlock Holmes books until ‘The valley of fear’ in 1915, by which time Germany was at war with Britain and Tauchnitz was no longer in the market for the publication of English novels.   The book was instead published on the continent in the Nelson’s Continental Library, based in Paris.

When ‘His last bow’ appeared in 1917, it appeared in the other main series that had sprung up to replace Tauchnitz, the Standard Collection, published by Louis Conard.    So it was not until ‘The case-book of Sherlock Holmes’ was published in 1927 that Tauchnitz could add another Holmes title to its list.  This final title (volume 4790) listed only 23 other titles by Conan Doyle, although it was the 32nd title to be published, probably because several of the books had gone out of print.   For much of its existence, Tauchnitz had listed all previous publications and tried to keep them all in print as well, but by this time some pruning of the backlist had become almost inevitable.

Tauchnitz 3796 The return of Sherlock Holmes vol. 1    Tauchnitz 4790 The case-book of Sherlock Holmes

19th century Tauchnitz editions are easier to find in hardback, 20th century ones in paperback

So sadly, despite a near 40 year publishing relationship with Conan Doyle, the entire Sherlock Holmes series is not available in Tauchnitz editions.   There are nonetheless 10 volumes, as part of a total of over 40 volumes by Conan Doyle, so the great detective gets rather more than an honourable mention in the history of Tauchnitz.

Tauchnitz Sherlock Holmes spines 2

All originally issued as paperbacks, but 19th century books were bound in a huge variety of styles

The forthright saga

Bernhard Tauchnitz prided himself on the relationships that he had with many of the leading British authors of his time.  His relationship with Charles Dickens for instance was based on friendship, trust and loyalty, and almost all of Dickens’ works were published by the firm.  Other authors may not have been quite so loyal, and many were tempted away to one or other of the competitors that sprung up from time to time in the European market.   As most of  these competitors were relatively short-lived, the authors often returned later to Tauchnitz, perhaps a little shame-facedly.

The First World War however brought a new situation, with Tauchnitz unable to publish new works by British authors and two major new series starting up in Paris.   The authors who submitted their latest works to either the Nelson’s Continental Library or The Standard Collection from Louis Conard, could hardly be accused of lack of loyalty in wartime, although it’s interesting to note that George Bernard Shaw was not among them, and was back with Tauchnitz by 1919.  Amongst the authors though who did jump ship was John Galsworthy and it’s worth looking at his behaviour in the light of his later role in changes that had a significant effect on Tauchnitz.

John Galsworthy
John Galsworthy

At the peak of his fame, John Galsworthy was a literary giant.  He had honorary degrees from a string of universities, was awarded the Order of Merit in 1929, after earlier turning down a knighthood, and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932.  He was known for his plays as well as his novels and both enjoyed enormous commercial as well as critical success.   The critical reputation has not really survived and I’ve never seen any of his plays being revived, but his novels in ‘The Forsyte Saga’ are still popular, at least amongst television producers.   So it’s no surprise to see him with a long list of publications in Tauchnitz.

It took a while for Tauchnitz to identify him as an author deserving a place in their series.  He already had several successful works to his name before he got his first Tauchnitz publication with ‘Man of Property’ in 1909.  After that though they came rapidly, and by the time war broke out in 1914, there would have been a row of 12 Tauchnitz Galsworthys on his shelf.   He was then quick to seek alternative publishers and his novel ‘The Freelands’ was in the first batch of titles issued in the Nelsons Continental Library in 1915, before he moved again to have ‘The little man’ published in Conard’s ‘Standard Collection’ in 1916.

This was followed by four other volumes in this series, but in 1920 he offered a new collection of plays first to Conard, and only later to Tauchnitz, who published it as ‘A bit o’love and other plays’.   Todd & Bowden seem to suggest that the prior offer to Conard was because of contractual obligations, which he was then able to free himself from, in order to return to Tauchnitz.  I’m not sure how this fits though with his subsequent decision to withhold from Tauchnitz the next two volumes of the Forsyte saga.  ‘In chancery’ and ‘To let’ were published instead in the Standard Collection in 1921 and 1922, now run by Collins rather than Conard.   By 1923 this series had ended and he was back again with Tauchnitz.

From then on Galsworthy stayed with Tauchnitz and the number of titles continued to grow, although he never seemed to be quite comfortable with them.  Corresponding through his literary agent, he was always forthright.  By March 1926, perhaps regretting his decision to publish elsewhere, he was pushing Tauchnitz to issue a combined edition of The Forsyte Saga, which they did in volumes 4733 to 4735.   ‘In chancery’ and ‘To let’ were new to Tauchnitz, but ‘A man of property’ was already in the series and I can’t think of any other instance where the same book on its own was republished in the series under a different number.

At the same time he was pushing Tauchnitz for higher payments, with some success, and complaining that in his foreign travels, he had not seen enough of his books on the shelf.   By September though a more significant issue was being raised.  After his agent had already sent the text of ‘The silver spoon’ to  Tauchnitz for publication, Galsworthy intervened to insist on a year’s delay before the book was issued.  He was concerned to allow sufficient time for his British publishers to sell their higher-priced hardback edition in Europe before permitting a paperback edition.  The same proposal was then raised with the Society of Authors, who agreed that the year’s delay should apply to all works.  This significantly undermined the position of Tauchnitz, who saw near simultaneous publication as essential to their success.   It was one of many factors that weakened the firm throughout the 1920s, although it should be said that it was later no barrier to the success of Albatross.

By the time of his death in 1933, Galsworthy had some 28 volumes to his name in the main Tauchnitz series, and extracts from them had also been published in the Tauchnitz Pocket Library and the Students Series.   Further volumes were published throughout the 1930s including ‘The Freelands’, the first novel he had taken elsewhere, so that by the time the series ended, it featured almost all of Galsworthy’s works, even those he had originally withheld from Tauchnitz.  Maybe Tauchnitz had the last laugh after all.

While the cat’s away …

Nelson were not the only publisher to try to take advantage of the enforced absence of Tauchnitz from at least part of the European market during the First World War.   Louis Conard, another publisher in Paris, saw the opportunity too, and was quick to act.   ‘The Standard Collection of latest copyrighted works by British and American Authors’ launched in 1915 with an impressive list of authors.  The first 10 volumes included works by H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and E.F. Benson, all of whom had previously been published by Tauchnitz.   Later volumes included works by Kipling, Galsworthy, Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, Katherine Mansfield and G.K. Chesterton, amongst others.  As the Nelson’s Continental Library was launched at almost the same time, there must have been quite a scramble to sign up authors.

Standard Collection 1

Conard clearly modelled their series on Tauchnitz, as Nelson did.  The books are the same shape, the same buff colour and the same price, at least to start with.   In comparison with Tauchnitz, their market would have been restricted geographically, but did the war itself create a new market?  Over 5 million British soldiers served in France and Flanders during the war.  They would have had little opportunity to visit bookshops, but it seems possible that at least some of these volumes might have found their way into battledress pockets.

By the end of the war the series had extended to over 100 volumes.  The price had risen steadily to 3.50 Francs by 1919 although this was described as a temporary price, and the quality of the paper had declined.   Conard persisted though and by 1920 was heading towards 200 volumes, as Nelson, with fewer than 100, was winding its series down.  The market dynamics were inevitably changing with the end of the war and the return of Tauchnitz to the market, and Conard too decided to move on.

Standard Collection 199
Same format, but now published by William Collins in Brussels

This though was not the end of The Standard Collection.  Some time around 1920, the series was taken on by the Scottish publisher William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. from a base in Brussels, and the price increased again to 4.50 Francs.   They continued it for another 2 years or so, and up to at least 230 volumes, before finally ending it.  The last volume I have seen is G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Eugenics and other evils’ published in 1922.  This is also the only volume I have seen with an illustrated dustwrapper, following the example of the Nelson series, although it is quite possible that there are many others.

Standard Collection 230 dustwrapper
Illustrated dustwrapper for volume 230 – ‘Eugenics and other evils’

This is the second in what I intend to be a series of posts about the publishers in competition to Tauchnitz.  I looked at Thomas Nelson a few days ago.  Louis Conard and William Collins Sons represent competitors two and three.

Taking advantage of an absence

I looked last week at how Tauchnitz just about coped with World War I – a war that placed it on the opposing side to most of its customers.  There were many more trials to come, but it did at least survive the war, and could return to its main business of publishing contemporary English literature for the European continent.

The recovery was slow.   Before the war Tauchnitz had been publishing around 70 new volumes a year in its main Collection of British Authors.  In 1919 it published just 6, followed by 12 in1920, 23 in 1921, 25 in 1922 and 29 in 1923.  Many of the books printed in this period were on poor quality paper, and the company also had to deal with the problem of hyper-inflation in Germany.  It also faced new competitors, who had taken advantage of the enforced absence of Tauchnitz from much of Western Europe, to launch new series.

Nelson Continental Library 50

Amongst these new competitors was Thomas Nelson and Sons, a Scottish publisher, which had set up a Paris office in 1910 and very successfully launched a series of French language novels, which was to continue for over 50 years.  Seeing the gap created by the absence of Tauchnitz from the market in France and other European countries, they launched the ‘Nelson’s Continental Library’ in 1915 and quickly recruited several authors who had previously contributed novels to Tauchnitz, including Marie Corelli, Rider Haggard, John Galsworthy and Jack London.  They were also able to call on works from John Buchan, who was a Director of the firm.

Nelson Continental Library 9

The books looked very similar to Tauchnitz edition, the same size and the same buff colour, and could easily be mistaken for them – in fact they still often are.  There was though one major difference, that would have made them stand out.   Many of the Nelson books had brightly illustrated dustwrappers.  I don’t know whether these were used on just some, or on all the books – I suspect maybe not on the earliest issues, but on all the later ones and on reprints.  Tauchnitz did eventually use dustwrappers on their paperbacks, but only many years later, and much less garish than these.  Like Penguin later on, Tauchnitz seem to have had an aversion to illustrated covers, fearing they would project the wrong image – perhaps attract the ‘wrong’ type of customer.

The initial price of the books was 2 Francs, the same price at which Tauchnitz had sold before the war.  But by volume 43 it had increased to 2.25 Francs, and after that there was a steady increase to 4.50 Francs for the later titles.   Unhelpfully the books carry no date or printing history, so it’s difficult to be sure about the dates or about first printings.  Usually the list of other titles on the back cover is the best guide, and the price can also be an indication.  As far as I can tell though, the series didn’t last long after the end of the war. The final titles may have been issued around 1921. The last volume I have is volume 88, by now with an illustrated wrapper attached directly to the book and no separate dustwrapper, but there is some evidence of later volumes, possibly up to volume 99.   Whether the series ended because of falling sales or increased costs, or the desertion of their authors back to Tauchnitz, I don’t know.

Nelson Continental Library 88

When Albatross, the company that eventually toppled Tauchnitz, launched in 1932, they were reported to be around the 40th competitor that Tauchnitz had faced in its long history. I can’t identify anything like that number at the moment, but I intend to look at as many as I can of them in this blog. Nelson’s Continental Library is the first of those.