The market for English language publishing in Continental Europe existed well before Tauchnitz came along in 1842. It was dominated by two large French publishers, Galignani and Baudry, both of which published the latest English novels without any authorisation or any payment to the author. But there was also a German publisher, Frederick Fleischer of Leipzig with an interest in the market.
Fleischer’s niche seems to have been publishing series of books by particular authors, starting with Edward Lytton Bulwer (later Bulwer-Lytton) in 1834. Bulwer was only 31 at the time, perhaps a bit young for a ‘Complete Works’, but he was at the height of his popularity with already several novels to his name. Fleischer launched the series with ‘Pelham’ (later to be the first novel in the Tauchnitz series as well) and followed up with another five volumes of the series in that first year.
By the end of 1935 Fleischer had more or less caught up with Bulwer Lytton’s published output to date and celebrated with his portrait and signature as a frontispiece to volume 10. This might well have reinforced the impression that the series had his authorisation, which it certainly didn’t.
The publisher would now have to wait for new works – not for long as Bulwer was a prolific writer, but in the meantime it was time to launch a new author. Fleischer now settled on Frederick Marryat, another popular and prolific novelist and particularly a writer of sea stories. He too was given the honour of a ‘complete works’ series, although not the honour of any payment.
Eight novels by Marryat were published in 1836 and three more in 1837 and 1838, taking the series to eleven volumes, while the Bulwer Lytton series gradually extended to 15 volumes over the same period.
But by 1838 there was a new literary star on the horizon. The Pickwick Papers, serialised in the UK in 1836/7 and published in book form at the end of 1837, had been a huge success. Charles Dickens was now the author everyone wanted to read and Fleischer was not going to disappoint them. The Pickwick Papers appeared as the first two volumes of a new Complete Works of Charles Dickens in early 1839.
The suggestion of a ‘Complete Works’ of Dickens in 1839 was even more odd than it had been for Bulwer five years earlier. Dickens was barely 27 years old and had just two or three published works to his name. ‘Sketches by Boz’ had appeared in 1836 and ‘Oliver Twist’ appeared in book form in April 1839.
But Fleischer was far from alone in seeing the potential of Dickens. Both Baudry and Galignani had already published pirate editions of Pickwick in English in 1838 (with Galignani probably the first). J.J. Weber had also published a German translations in parts in 1837/8 and 1839 saw a second translation from Vieweg & Sohn of Braunschweig.
Fleischer followed up with ‘Oliver Twist’ as volume 3, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ as volumes 4 and 5 and ‘Sketches’ as volume 6, so that by the end of 1940 he was up to date with Dickens’ works. Three volumes of ‘Master Humphrey’s Clock’ followed in 1841/2, taking Dickens to 9 volumes, while Bulwer gradually increased to 20 volumes and Marryat to 14.
Then in 1942 the rival Tauchnitz series launched, also in Leipzig, and it was very quickly all over for Fleischer. Even before Tauchnitz in mid-1843 landed the hammer blow of obtaining authorisation from the authors in return for payment, Fleischer had more or less given up. The final volume, ‘The last of the barons’ by Bulwer, appeared in 1843 and Fleischer, one of the last of the pirates, hauled down his Jolly Roger and went back to publishing books in German.
Charles Dickens played a key part in the publishing history of Tauchnitz. The Pickwick Papers was published as volumes 2 and 3 of the Tauchnitz series that eventually ran to over 5000 volumes, and Dickens was one of the first authors to agree to the Tauchnitz proposal of voluntary payment in return for authorisation, in the days before copyright. Almost all the works of Dickens were published in the Tauchnitz series, including 47 volumes of stories reprinted from ‘Household Words’, the magazine edited by Dickens. The two men enjoyed a close friendship, and a long correspondence.
But Tauchnitz also played a key part in the publishing history of Dickens. After that landmark agreement on authorisation, Dickens or his publishers would supply Tauchnitz with early copies of the text of his novels, in the form of proof sheets or part-issues. Tauchnitz was able to bring out a continental edition almost simultaneously with the UK edition, or sometimes even earlier, so that in some cases the Tauchnitz edition is the worldwide first edition in book form. Nobody quite know how many of the Dickens novels this applies to. It needs book historians to carry out a lot more detective work yet. But certainly one example is ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, the first of Dickens’ novels to be published in an authorised edition by Tauchnitz.
The agreement had come in 1843, after Tauchnitz had already published 7 unauthorised volumes by Dickens, including ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ as well as ‘The Pickwick Papers’. The publication of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ had already started in monthly instalments in the UK and would continue through to July 1844 before a complete edition of the novel in book form was published. But by December 1843, in return for payment of £5 10s, Dickens was able to issue the first volume of the book, covering chapters 1 to 25 (almost the first 10 parts). This volume appeared 6 or 7 months ahead of any publication in book form in the UK. The second volume of the book appeared in the Tauchnitz edition in July 1844, almost at the same time as the UK edition.
Like all Tauchnitz editions, it was published as a paperback, but the tradition on the continent was that many of the buyers would have the books privately bound by a book-binder. It is very rare for early editions to survive in paperback form, but easier to find copies in a variety of private bindings. Unfortunately most bookbinders would discard the paper covers, and often the half-title as well, which provided the only reliable evidence to identify first printings. So many of the remaining copies of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in the Tauchnitz Edition cannot be reliably identified as being from that very first printing in 1843/1844.
Certainly if the publisher’s name on the title page is shown as ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ rather than ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’, it is not a first printing, and comes from 1852 or later. If the title page refers to ‘Copyright edition’ rather than ‘Edition sanctioned by the author’, again it cannot be a first printing and comes at the earliest from 1846, when the first copyright treaty between Britain and Germany came into force. So first printings must show ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ and ‘sanctioned by the author’ on the title page. But there is no way at present of telling whether more than one early printing share these features, so the only way of being absolutely sure that a book is a first printing, is if the original paperback covers survive.
Fortunately there is at least one copy where they have survived, and it’s a rather unusual copy. It seems to have been acquired by a circulating library in the town of Solothurn in Northern Switzerland, effectively a small business that acquired books and lent them out for a fee. The German term is ‘Journalzirkel und Leih-bibliothek’, which seems to suggest that it circulated journals or magazines as well as lending books – almost a cross between a library and a reading group. The books are in a rough binding and the first volume has their bookplate inside the front cover. Crucially it also has the original paper covers bound in. The back cover shows a list of the other books printed in the Tauchnitz Edition, and includes only those books printed before December 1843. The reference to ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in the list mentions only volume 1 as having been printed. The similar list on the back of volume 2 refers naturally to both volumes and also includes a further 5 volumes printed between December 1843 and July 1844. This looks to me like fairly conclusive evidence that both volumes are from the earliest printing, and in particular that volume 1 pre-dates any UK edition other than the monthly parts, and any other edition in book form anywhere in the world.
The back covers of both volumes – more titles listed on volume 2
Volume 2 does not have the library bookplate, although it does have the same binding and the library number on the cover. Instead it has an ex-libris bookplate for ‘Valentin Nueschi’, who presumably acquired the book from the library when they no longer wanted it. Circulating libraries had to be responsive to consumer preferences, acquiring the latest novels and selling on those that were seeing less demand.
The firm that ran the library, Jent & Gassmann, seems also to have been a small publishing firm and linked to the printing and publishing firm of Gassmann, founded in Solothurn in 1780, and still existing today, now run by the 7th generation of the Gassmann family. They are presumably proud of their family’s history, but may not be aware of the small but significant part they played in the publishing history of Charles Dickens.
The Tauchnitz ‘Collection of British Authors’ started in late 1841 with ‘Pelham’ by Bulwer Lytton. Neither the book nor the author are much remembered today. But it was followed by what has surely become one of the best-known and best-loved books of the entire 19th century, written by the century’s most famous author. ‘The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club’, or as it’s better known today, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens was published in two volumes as volumes 2 and 3 of the Tauchnitz series.
Dickens was only 24 when he started to write the Pickwick Papers, which appeared in monthly instalments over 1836 and 1837, with the first publication in book form in 1837. It was a publishing sensation in Britain and not surprisingly, rapidly attracted the attention of continental publishers. By the time Tauchnitz published it at the start of 1842 (or possibly late 1841), it had already appeared in English language editions published by Galignani and by Baudry in Paris and by Friedrich Fleischer in Leipzig. It had also been published in German language translations by Weber in Leipzig (from 1837) and by at least two other publishers (Eduard Leibrock and Vieweg und Sohn).
All of these, and the first Tauchnitz publication too, were pirated. There was no international copyright agreement and none of those publishers would have paid Dickens a penny for the right to publish his work. Although Tauchnitz went on to make his name and fortune by offering payment to authors, notably Dickens, for the right to publish authorised editions, he too started off by effectively stealing their work. He went on to publish 5 further pirated volumes by Dickens, before finally offering payment for the publication of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in 1844.
So the earliest Tauchnitz editions of The Pickwick Papers carry no reference to authorisation on the title page. As the book went on to be reprinted many times by Tauchnitz over the next 100 years, later printings are described as ‘copyright edition’, and the vast majority of copies now found are of this type. But at least the first two editions are distinguished by having no mention of copyright on the title page. The first edition had 446 pages in volume 1 (and 427 in volume 2), but the first volume was quickly re-set with 432 pages, so few copies have survived of the very first printing. I have one in my collection and there are two copies in the Pressler collection, now in the National Library of Scotland. The bibliography records no other copies, although there are surely some out there. It’s certainly possible though that not a single copy in the original paperback state has survived. If anyone has a paperback copy, or even has ever seen one, please let me know.