The relationship between Charles Dickens and Bernhard Tauchnitz was much closer and friendlier than is often the case between authors and publishers. The letters between the two men were both very numerous and very cordial. They were also preserved for a long time. But where are they now?
“I really do not know what it would be fair and reasonable to require from you.’, writes Dickens in 1846, “But I have every reason to rely upon your honourable intentions; and if you will do me the favour to state your own proposal, I have little doubt that I shall be willing to assent to it …”. Then in 1854, “… It was a matter of real regret to me that I was abroad when you were in London. For it would have given me true pleasure to have taken your hand and thanked you with all heartiness for your friendship. I hope to do so on the occasion of your next visit, and also that it will not be long before you return here. Mrs. Dickens and her sister unite with me in best regards to yourself and family.”.
Bernhard Tauchnitz and Charles Dickens
The two men had known each other since 1843, when Dickens was 31 and Tauchnitz just 26. Dickens was undoubtedly the star author in the Tauchnitz series. The Tauchnitz Editions were the only authorised editions of Dickens’ work to be published in continental Europe in English, and covered all of his novels, as well as a long series of volumes reprinted from ‘Household Words’. So the correspondence between the two men is evidence of a long and trusting relationship.
The letters from Dickens were kept by Tauchnitz, along with correspondence from other authors. When the firm celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1887 by publishing an anniversary history and catalogue, the book included excerpts from letters sent to Tauchnitz from various authors who had by then died, including Dickens. A shorter anniversary publication 25 years later in 1912 gave even greater prominence to the correspondence. This time a dedicated section on letters from Dickens preceded a general section on letters from all other authors.
In 1937 the Centenary publication contained facsimiles of a small number of author letters, with pride of place again going to a letter from Dickens. This was followed by a selection of contemporary letters of congratulation on the centenary from prominent people such as the British Prime Minister and the Archbishop of York. At that point it seems clear that the archive of author correspondence was still in existence. Presumably it remained the property of Tauchnitz, by then legally owned by Brandstetter, the firm that printed both Tauchnitz and Albatross books. However Albatross, based in Paris, exercised editorial control over both firms, so it’s certainly possible that some or all correspondence had moved location.
In December 1943, the printing works of Brandstetter in Leipzig were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid, and it has since been widely assumed that the archive was destroyed at that time. On the 125th anniversary of Tauchnitz in 1962 what remained of the Tauchnitz firm, by then based in Stuttgart, published a final short Festschrift. It again quoted extracts from two letters from Dickens, but as both of these had already been published in the earlier anniversary histories, they do not provide evidence that the archive was still in existence. Instead, rather ominously the Festschrift (roughly translated) says that ‘… most of the documents relating to the history and development of the firm in its old home town of Leipzig were destroyed in 1943, or are currently unobtainable as a result of the unhappy division of our country’.
That unhappy division came to an end in 1990 and with it the first evidence that at least some of the documents had survived. For that evidence we are indebted to Gunter Böhnke, who discovered and transcribed some of the letters from Dickens to Tauchnitz, and to his son, Dietmar Böhnke, a lecturer at the University of Leipzig, who has more recently published them. Gunter Böhnke in 1991 discovered 34 of Dickens’ letters to Tauchnitz and about 30 others by various Dickens family members and other publishers, in the archive of one of the state owned publishing and printing firms that were about to be dismantled following German reunification. He photocopied and transcribed them before handing them back. Unfortunately they have since been lost and there is now no record of what has happened to them.
Other evidence that the archive may have survived comes from a single letter that I was able to buy at auction several years ago – see my post on A letter from Charles Dickens. This letter was not one of those transcribed by Gunter Böhnke, and was not acknowledged in the auction as being from Dickens, so presumably it must have been separated from other letters, probably before 1991.
It appears that at some stage the Tauchnitz archive was broken up. Large parts of it may by now have been lost or destroyed, even if they survived the 1943 attack. But there does remain the intriguing possibility that other letters, including those seen in 1991, still exist and may turn up again some day. That could include not only multiple letters from Dickens, but a treasure trove of letters from other leading authors of the 19th and 20th centuries.
On the title page of early Tauchnitz Editions, the publisher’s name is shown as ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ On any edition published after 1852 it is shown as ‘Bernard Tauchnitz’. That added Jun. is an important indicator of the age of the book. But why and how?
When Bernhard Tauchnitz started his own publishing firm in 1837, he was not even 21 years old. He was certainly young, but’junior’ usually means younger, rather than young. So who was he younger than? I haven’t been able to find any evidence of his father’s name, but it would make some sense if his father had also been Bernhard Tauchnitz.
However, according to an article written by Tighe Hopkins in 1901, Bernhard’s father had died while his son was quite young, so even if he was called Bernhard, there was probably no need to add ‘Jun.’ to distinguish the son from his father. But if not needed to distinguish the two, it may still have been a way of referencing and paying respect to his father.
Extract from an article by Tighe Hopkins in 1901
Or was it more a way of distinguishing Bernhard from his uncle Karl Tauchnitz, whose name was already well known as a printer and publisher in Leipzig? Bernhard had been apprenticed to his uncle Karl for several years before launching his own firm. It was where he had learned the publishing business. The firm of Karl Tauchnitz published cheap editions of Latin and Greek classics, and had introduced to Germany the stereotype method of printing.
There was certainly some risk of confusion between the two companies, and many of Bernhard’s early publications were also in Latin. But they had different first names, so it’s not obvious that adding ‘Jun.’ to one of them would make much difference. Anyway Karl Tauchitz had died in 1836 (possibly one of the factors pushing Bernhard to start his own business) and the business had passed to his son, also called Karl (or Carl). So in some ways there would have been more justification for adding a ‘Jun.’ to Karl Tauchnitz’s name.
The description ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ is mostly now seen on English language books, but it’s worth noting that it first appeared in 1837 or 1838, some 4 years before the start of the ‘Collection of British Authors’. It was probably first used on Latin books and in that context makes perfect sense. Junior may now be mostly thought of as an English word, but its origin is in Latin, as a contraction of ‘juvenior’ meaning younger. Was that why Bernhard chose ‘Jun.’ rather than the German equivalent, ‘der Jüngere’. I’m not sure how normal it is to use Jun. as an abbreviation in German. It was certainly used by Tauchnitz on German books as well as on Latin and English ones, but on French books he used instead ‘Bern. Tauchnitz Jeune’.
Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. imprint in a Latin book (with a neat monogram as well)
Imprint from a French language edition
At the end of 1852, Tauchnitz dropped the ‘Jun.’ and styled himself simply ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ on all subsequent title pages. He was by then 36 and a very successful publisher, so perhaps Junior was no longer appropriate. Now, 150 years later though, it’s useful that there are these two different descriptions. Tauchnitz Editions are very difficult to date, and they provide a quick way to distinguish early editions.
In broad terms, any book that says ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’ is printed before 1853, and anything that says ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ is no earlier than late 1852. In particular the first printings of volumes 1 to 246 in the Collection of British Authors, all (with the one exception of volume 237) say ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’. Any copy of these books that says ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ must be a reprint, even if there is nothing else to indicate it as such.
It’s the very first thing I look for in any early Tauchnitz, in particular any volume dated 1852 or earlier on the title page. A lot of these books were reprinted many times, over almost the next 100 years, and all still with the original first printing date on the title page. So reprints vastly outnumber first printings, and it’s far more common to see ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ on the title page rather than ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’. But as soon as you see it, you know it’s a reprint.
Pirate publishers in Continental Europe and in America were a constant irritant to Charles Dickens. There was probably no other author who suffered as much at their hands. Dickens’s early works were widely pirated in Europe until the first international copyright treaties, starting with the treaty in 1846 between Prussia and the United Kingdom.
Even many years after that, they were still being pirated in the US and Dickens became a very vocal campaigner for the introduction of international copyright laws. He never succeeded in his lifetime. It was not until 1891 that the US introduced an International Copyright Act, and even then it refused to join the international Berne Convention. Perhaps worth remembering when Americans complain about the lack of copyright protection in China and elsewhere? Trump will not be the first US president to co-operate with other countries only when it suits him.
All this was far into the future when Bernhard Tauchnitz first launched his series of English language novels in Germany in 1841. He was free to publish the novels of British Authors without any restriction or any payment, and he enthusiastically joined the pirate band. To his credit, he realised relatively quickly that the life of a pirate was not for him and set about building relationships with authors, including Dickens. But for the first 18 months or so, Tauchnitz Editions were unauthorised pirate editions.
Dickens was the new rising star of English literature at that time, challenging the establishment of writers such as Bulwer Lytton, G.P.R. James, Captain Marryat and Walter Scott (who had died 10 years earlier). The works of all of these authors were widely available in Europe in unauthorised editions, both in English and in translation. So Tauchnitz was far from the first to publish ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ when it appeared as volumes 47 and 48 of his ‘Collection of British authors’ in 1843.
Dickens wrote the novel in 1838 / 1839, publishing it in monthly instalments from March 1838 to October 1839. Before the final instalment was published, possibly even before it was written, pirate versions of the earlier chapters were appearing. In 1838, Georg Westerman in Braunchweig was already publishing ‘Leben und Abenteuer des Nicolaus Nickleby. Herausgegeben von Boz, dem Verfasser der Pickwicker‘. By 1939 the novel had been published in English by J.J. Weber and Frederick Fleischer in Germany and from Paris had appeared in Baudry’s European Library. In the same year it was published in the US by Lea and Blanchard in Philadelphia and apparently by two New York publishers, William H. Colyer and James Turney. It seems fairly safe to assume that none of these publishers paid anything to Dickens.
A pirate German language edition of Nicholas Nickleby, already in 1839, the Second Edition
By early June 1843 when the Tauchnitz Edition of Nickleby appeared, Tauchnitz had already published ‘The Pickwick Papers’ as volumes 2 and 3 of his series, ‘American Notes for general circulation’ as volume 32 and ‘Oliver Twist’ as volume 36. After Nickleby, ‘Sketches by Boz’ followed a month or two later, bringing the number of unauthorised Dickens volumes to seven. But change was underway. Dickens had returned from a six month tour of America in 1842 outraged at the piracy of his works. In May 1843 he chaired a first meeting of the ‘Association for the Protection of Literature’. Six weeks after that Tauchnitz made his move, proposing voluntary payment to authors. His first authorised volume, by G.P.R. James, appeared in August 1843, and by the end of the year he was able to publish a fully authorised edition of Dickens’ latest work, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
So that first unauthorised printing of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ in a Tauchnitz Edition was one of the last few pirate editions Tauchnitz ever published. It can be identified by the lack of any copyright notice on the title page. All later printings still show 1843 on the title page, but say clearly ‘copyright edition’. Any copy printed after about 1853 will also show the later form of the publisher’s name, as ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’ rather than ‘Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun.’
The title page from a later reprint showing ‘Copyright Edition’ and ‘Bernhard Tauchnitz’
It’s not clear to what extent the agreement with Dickens was retrospective, offering payment for works already published and copies already sold. But it would be surprising if Tauchnitz didn’t offer some payment to wash away his previous sins. Certainly he seems to have done enough to earn the gratitude of Dickens and to establish cordial relations with him for the rest of his life. But however much absolution Tauchnitz later received, that first Tauchnitz printing of Nicholas Nickleby still has a tinge of piracy about it.
Tauchnitz Editions sold for around the equivalent of 1s 6d, certainly much cheaper than the typical 7s 6d price for a hardback in the UK in the 19th century, but they were not exactly cheap paperbacks. In the UK paperbacks rarely sold for more than 6d, even for much of the first half of the twentieth century, and were often more like 3d or 4d.
Although the Tauchnitz Editions were mostly sold as paperbacks, the expectation was that many of them would be privately bound and so the quality of the paper, the printing and the binding had to be consistent with this. They had a delicate balance to strike between quality and price – not such high quality that they were too expensive to be bought as paperbacks, but sufficiently high to be privately bound and last for hundreds of years.
But doesn’t every publisher dream of being able to escape from the constraints of price and produce higher quality editions? Tauchnitz certainly did, and the result was a very short series of gift books, known as the ‘Cabinet Edition of English Classics’, starting in 1862.
Two of the volumes, ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ by Byron, and ‘The lady of the lake’ by Walter Scott, were lengthy narrative poems that had already been published by Tauchnitz as part of larger volumes of poetry. The other two were Shakespeare plays, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, available both as individual plays and as part of longer volumes. So all four were already sold by Tauchnitz, and at much cheaper prices. Here each is extracted to form a small gift-book on its own and is given a cloth binding with both gilt and blind-stamped decoration, an engraved frontispiece, higher quality paper and all edges gilded. Everything needed for them to appear like an attractive gift or keepsake.
There is little information on the series in the Tauchnitz bibliography by Todd & Bowden, partly because the authors were able to find just a single copy of two of the books and no copy at all of the other two. This no doubt partly reflects the low numbers produced and the even lower numbers now surviving, but also probably that being unlike most other Tauchnitz editions, they are rarely found in the standard Tauchnitz collections. They are undoubtedly rare, but perhaps not as rare as the evidence of the bibliography would suggest. There are now copies of all four in my own collection, and I have seen evidence of several other copies.
The evidence of the copies I have, contradicts the numbering and the dates assigned to them by Todd & Bowden. The books themselves are not numbered, but the bibliography gives ‘The lady of the lake’ precedence over ‘Hamlet’ on the incorrect assumption that they were published in 1862 and 1863 respectively. In practice the dates were the other way round, so that ‘Hamlet’ was one of the first two volumes, together with ‘Childe Harold’. The final volume was ‘Romeo and Juliet’, published in 1864.
Incidentally the photo above shows each in a different colour cover, but it may not be as simple as this. I have seen ‘Childe Harold’ in bindings of two different colours and with other differences as well, so it’s not clear exactly what else may exist.
The price they were sold at, according to Todd & Bowden (referencing the 1880 German Book Catalogue) was 3 Marks (or 1 Thaler) for each of the poems, and 2 Marks (around 0.70 Thaler) for the Shakespeare plays. As far as I can tell, this price sounds reasonable for what they are, but the individual Shakespeare plays sold in paperback for 0.1 Thaler, so they may have looked expensive in comparison.
Anyway as the series extended to only these four volumes, it seems safe to assume that they were not a success. At least one of the books though seems to have enjoyed a second life as a tourist souvenir in Rome. A range of Tauchnitz books with Italian themes or settings were produced by or for the Italian tourist trade in the 1870s and 1880s, bound in vellum and mostly extra-illustrated. ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ was too small to be extra-illustrated with postcards, but it is now found in a variety of vellum bindings that seem to come from Italy. They’re likely to be quite a bit later than the original issue of the book. Did Tauchnitz have left over copies that they were happy to recycle in this way? Or did Italian bookbinders order new sets of printed pages for binding?
Bookdealer Jeremy Parrott hit the headlines last year when he discovered a remarkable set of bound volumes of ‘All the Year Round’, the periodical founded and owned by Charles Dickens. The volumes had been annotated by Dickens himself to show the names of the authors of each contribution.
All articles, stories and poems had originally been published anonymously, with only Dickens’ own name appearing as editor. The authors of many had remained unknown for well over 100 years. It had become one of the great literary puzzles that scholars debated endlessly, and at one stroke Jeremy Parrott seems to have solved it. It’s hard to imagine the excitement that he must have felt when he realised what he had discovered.
But a small dent had been made in this puzzle much earlier. One of the many firsts that the German publisher Tauchnitz achieved, was to be the first to identify who had written what in some of the Christmas numbers of ‘All the Year Round’. Here’s how it happened.
It had become a tradition for Dickens each Christmas to publish a special Christmas number of ‘All the Year Round’ (and before that ‘Household Words’), which contained a series of short stories by different authors linked into a single overall framework. Dickens himself would write at least one story, as well as forming the framework, and other contributors would write the other stories, or chapters. As usual, contributors other than Dickens were mostly anonymous.
In 1862 Tauchnitz reprinted the stories from ‘All the Year Round’ of 1859, 1860 and 1861 as volume 609 of the Collection of British Authors, under the title ‘Christmas Stories’. The paperback wrapper described the stories as being by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins etc., but the title page, listed all the separate authors for each story. Dickens and Collins are given precedence in each case, followed by the other names, so it is not made clear exactly which parts were written by which author. But at least the names are there, and according to research by Neville Davies in 1978, this is believed to be the first time that they had been identified.
Tauchnitz had been caught out before by reprinting works from ‘Household Words’ and seeming to attribute them just to Dickens. In 1856 he had started a series of ‘Novels and Tales reprinted from Household Words, conducted by Charles Dickens’, where most of the writing was by other authors. This was in the tradition of ‘Household Words’, but it became a bit much when all of volume 4 of the series and most of volume 5 were devoted to a single novel, ‘The dead secret’, written by Wilkie Collins. Although Collins was credited on the contents page, the only author’s name on the title page and the wrappers of the first printing was that of Dickens, and this really did seem unfair. On later printings, Collins was properly credited. Once bitten, Tauchnitz may have been twice shy. When it came to reprinting the Christmas stories, he wanted all authors credited.
Five years later in 1867, he brought the series up to date by publishing the Christmas stories from 1862, 1863 and 1864 as volume 888 in the series, and those from 1865 and 1866 as volume 894. Perhaps surprisingly, this time the title page shows only the name of Dickens, although it does add ‘and the authors named at the head of the stories’. Although this is in some ways a step backwards, the real difference here is that at the start of the stories, each chapter has the name of the author against it, so that we can now see exactly who wrote what. Again this is believed to be the first time that this information had been revealed. Presumably it was done with the approval of Dickens, and the same information appeared in Britain the following year, after the final Christmas story of 1867, when a Collected Edition of all the 9 stories from 1859 to 1867 was published.
That final 1867 story – ‘No thoroughfare’, which was written by Dickens and Collins only, was published in a Tauchnitz Edition in June 1868, as volume 961, and both authors are fully credited. But the story was not long enough to fill a volume on its own and so another story that had been published in ‘All the year round’ was included with it. ‘The late Miss Hollingford’ had been written by Rosa Mulholland, but was published anonymously, leaving the rather unfortunate impression that it too had been written by Dickens and Collins.
The name of Eustace Clare Grenville: Murray is hardly well-known these days, and so far as I know no photo of him survives. But between 1871 and 1883, ten of his books, accounting for a total of 17 volumes, were published by Tauchnitz in its Collection of British Authors. Although the first three were published initially under a pseudonym, he clearly became a well-enough known writer to sell significant numbers of books on the European continent, as well as in Britain.
One of the reasons for his relative lack of public profile, then as now, was that much of his work, both as an author and as a journalist, was published anonymously or under pseudonyms. And with good cause. A lot of his output was highly satirical, or even scurrilous, mocking public figures mercilessly. He almost single-handedly invented, or at least developed, the style of journalism that in today’s Britain would appear in Private Eye. In his own day though, he wrote extensively for ‘Household Words’, the journal edited by Charles Dickens, as well as for various newspapers and briefly for his own publication,’The Queen’s Messenger’.
For much of his life he combined his writing with work as a diplomat, based in Vienna, Constantinople and Odessa amongst other places, and he didn’t hesitate to lampoon his colleagues and even his direct superiors in the diplomatic service. The Ambassador in Vienna became Lord Fiddledee in Grenville Murray’s writings, while the Ambassador in Constantinople was immortalised as Sir Hector Stubble. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he failed to progress in the service, and was shunted into various diplomatic backwaters before being dismissed in 1868.
The cover of anonymity failed again to protect him from trouble the following year, when he published an article satirising Lord Carrington and mocking his late father. Carrington attacked him physically, outside the Conservative Club, leading to a series of court cases, and eventually to Grenville Murray’s exile in France. That was far from the end of his journalistic career, but it was the stimulus for his career as a novelist, and as a Tauchnitz author.
His first novel to appear was ‘The member for Paris: a tale of the Second Empire’ written under the pseudonym of ‘Trois-Etoiles’ and published in 1871 in two volumes (vols. 1183 and 1184). It was followed by two other novels under the same pseudonym, the partly autobiographical ‘Young Brown’ in 1874 (vols. 1444 and 1445), and ‘The boudoir cabal’, in 1875 (vols. 1514, 1515 and 1516).
Grenville Murray had arrived in Paris shortly before the Franco-Prussian War, the siege of Paris in 1870/71 and then the repression of the Paris Commune with much bloodshed. It was the worst of times, but for a journalist and an author, it was also the best of times. There was both a wealth of material and intense public interest, in Britain and on the continent, in the events of the time and in the regime that had preceded it.
He followed up those first three novels with two series of sketches of French life, called ‘French Pictures in English Chalk’, for the first time published under his own name, and now acknowledging his authorship of the earlier volumes as well. The first series appeared in 1876 (vols. 1612 and 1613) and the second in 1878 (vols. 1770 and 1771). In-between, ‘The Russians of Today’, a satirical review of Russian life drawing on his experiences in Odessa, was published as volume 1742. A single volume of ‘Strange Tales’ (vol. 1793) was his third publication in 1878, followed in 1879 by another two volume novel ‘That artful vicar’ (vols. 1820 and 1821).
Astonishingly, as well as those three books published by Tauchnitz in 1878, he was also able in the same year to have a fourth book issued in the rival ‘Asher’s Collection’ then published by Karl Grädener in Hamburg. Another series of sketches of French life, ‘Round About France’ appeared as volume 145 in Asher’s Collection. This seems though to have been the only title he denied to Tauchnitz.
Grenville Murray died in Paris in 1881, but there must still have been the appetite in continental Europe for more of his writings, as two posthumous volumes followed. ‘Six months in the ranks’, a novel of military life, was published in 1882 as volume 2064, and ‘People I have met’, a series of comic character sketches, as volume 2129 the following year.
Like all Tauchnitz Editions, the books were originally published as paperbacks, but few first printing copies remain in their original wrappers. Most surviving copies have been rebound, and are found now in the usual variety of bindings.
I can’t finish this post without first acknowledging the biography of Grenville Murray written by Professor G.R. Berridge, called ‘A diplomatic whistleblower in the Victorian era’. And secondly I have to deal with the question of that odd name.
At his birth in 1824 his name was recorded simply as ‘Eustace, son of Richard and Emma Clare’. But Clare seems to have been an invented surname to cover up his illegitimacy. The actual parents were Richard Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, and Emma Murray, an actress. He grew up with his mother and first took her surname, becoming Eustace Clare Murray. Only later did he add his father’s surname as well, to become Eustace Clare Grenville: Murray. The colon seems to have been nothing but an affectation. In the long run, as in the short run, his true fate was to become anonymous.
Before the Tauchnitz series started in 1841, there was a flourishing market of pirate editions of English language novels in continental Europe. Indeed Bernard Tauchnitz himself started off as a pirate before eventually turning to the straight and narrow. The novels of writers such as Charles Dickens, Walter Scott and Bulwer Lytton were widely published in France and in Germany, both in English and in translation, without any authorisation and with no payment to the author.
Jane Austen however seems to have been of little interest to the pirates. Her novels were translated into French and later into German, but I can find no evidence of her work being published by any of the main English language publishers in Germany or France. The copyright on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ expired in 1841, so after that she could have been published freely anyway, even with the introduction of international copyright agreements. But still there seems to have been little interest.
Once Tauchnitz got into his stride, his interest was mainly in publishing contemporary English literature. Most of his publications came out very quickly after first UK publication, and for many of the more established authors, publication in the UK and in the Tauchnitz Edition happened almost simultaneously. But he still found room in the series for earlier novels and out of copyright works, often using them to fill gaps in the publishing schedule and keep the printing works busy. Over a period of 20 years he published almost all of the works of Walter Scott, who had died in 1832, and of course he included the works of Shakespeare in the series and other early novelists such as Swift, Smollett, Defoe and Sterne. But for the first 20 years, no Jane Austen.
Perhaps she was too English to be of interest to continental readers? That seems unlikely to be the whole story though, as a significant part of the Tauchnitz market was selling to British and American travellers on the continent. The more likely explanation is that she was simply out of fashion, even with British readers. Although her works had been reprinted several times, sales were slow in Britain and they were not yet seen as classics of English literature.
In 1864 though, Tauchnitz decided to dip a toe in the water, with publication of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ as volume 735 of his Collection of British Authors. Like all Tauchnitz Editions it was originally issued in paperback and the first printing is distinguished by reference on the wrapper to the 15th edition of the Tauchnitz English-German dictionary. Later paperback printings will generally have a date at the top of the back wrapper. Most surviving copies though have been bound and first printings can only be identified by the absence of any other works by the same author listed on the back of the half title.
Presumably sales were sufficiently encouraging, because ‘Mansfield Park’ followed in 1867 as volume 883 of the series. Publication seems to have been planned for March of that year, but the book did not appear until June, after volume 893, probably again being used to fill in a gap in the schedule of more up-to-date works. The paperback 1st printing referred to the 17th edition of the English-German dictionary and again the half-title showed no other works by Austen.
Still there was no hurry to issue ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but it did eventually appear in 1870, as volume 1112, almost 30 years into the Tauchnitz series and over 50 years after first publication in the UK. Arguably publication was long overdue, but in the end the timing was good. Jane Austen’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, had published ‘A memoir of Jane Austen’ in 1869 and it sparked a renewed interest in the author, with her novels being republished in Britain as well.
The paperback first printing of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is identified by its reference to the 21st edition of the English-German dictionary and the half-title lists the two other works previously published by Tauchnitz. Later printings list 4 works. As with most Tauchnitz Editions of this period, first printing copies are of course rare, and paperback first printings particularly so.
Tauchnitz followed up the increased interest in Austen by publishing a combined edition of ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ as volume 1176 in October 1871. The bibliographers were unable to find a single copy of the first printing in paperback, so I can’t confirm any identifying marks, but it might be expected to refer to either the 21st or 22nd edition of the English-German dictionary. Certainly on bound editions, the first edition should list only three (rather than four) other works by the same author on the half-title verso.
The set of Jane Austen editions in Tauchnitz was still not completed until finally ‘Emma’ was published in 1877, 13 years after ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and over 60 years after first publication of the novel in the UK. The volume number is 1645 and the first printing in paperback is dated February 1877 at the top of the back wrapper. Later printings exist dated April 1900 and December 1905, possibly amongst other dates. For bound editions though there is no easy way of distinguishing first editions. All copies list the four other books by Austen on the back of the half-title, and the only other clue to date is likely to be the binding.
I don’t quite understand why it took so long to get all of Austen’s novels published in the Tauchnitz series, but I can only assume that sales had been slow. Given Tauchnitz’s aspirations to include all the best of English literature in his series, he would surely not have passed up the opportunity to publish all the Austen novels, now well out of copyright, if the early ones he published had been selling well.
After the publication of ‘Emma’ though, the other books were all reprinted, with the reprints in each case showing all four other books on the half-title verso. Over time sales must surely have built up and been profitable for Tauchnitz. At least three of the novels were still in print in Tauchnitz Editions in the 1930s although surprisingly ‘Emma’ seems not to have been.
Reprint copies of most of the books are probably not rare now in comparison to other Tauchnitz Editions. They do though seem to be more sought after and so prices are higher, in some cases much higher. Presumably Jane Austen collectors are either very numerous, or have particularly deep pockets – perhaps both! Since the Tauchnitz Editions of Austen are effectively all reprints 50 to 60 years after first printing anyway, it’s not obvious that they should feature highly in an Austen collection.
First printings however are undoubtedly rare, as with almost all 19th Century Tauchnitz Editions. The combination of that rarity, together with the demand from Jane Austen collectors, can sometimes push prices very high. Over the last 25 years I have seen several first printings of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ offered for sale (and many more reprints masquerading as first printings), but they have never been at prices that I’ve been prepared to pay. So for the time being my Tauchnitz collection includes only a later reprint. I’ll keep looking!
My first post on ‘The English Library’ published by Heinemann and Balestier in the 1890s looked at the story of the partnership between William Heinemann and Wolcott Balestier and of some of their authors. But what of the books themselves?
Physically they looked much like the Tauchnitz Editions that they were set up to compete with. They were of course paperbacks, and of the same size and with the same buff-coloured typographic covers. Nothing particularly to make them stand out in the shops they were sold in, presumably in most cases alongside Tauchnitz books. Like the various publishers of the Asher’s series before them, they saw no advantage in distinguishing the look and feel of their books.
That’s a common enough strategy today for any business challenging a market leader – often followed for instance by supermarket own-brands. Make your product look very similar to the market leader’s product in the hope that buyers will believe it’s of the same quality and can be bought with the same confidence. The other part of such a strategy though is to charge a lower price. Heinemann and Balestier instead offered volumes of the English Library at 1.60 Marks or 2 Francs, exactly the same as the price of Tauchnitz Editions at the time.
Perhaps they hoped to compete simply on the attraction of the titles and the authors. Asher’s had signed up George Eliot to launch their series with ‘Middlemarch’, whereas Heinemann and Balestier chose Kipling to launch the English Library and were aggressively signing up other authors. They were successful in attracting some popular and high profile authors, but others stayed with Tauchnitz and some even split their works between the two publishers. Comparing the lists now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not obvious that either publisher had a more successful publishing programme.
The books published by Heinemann and Balestier that have become best known in the 125 year since then, are probably ‘The Jungle Book’ by Kipling, ‘Three men in a boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome, and ‘Diary of a nobody’ by George and Weedon Grossmith – certainly all classics, but perhaps a little on the lightweight side rather than literary blockbusters. Certainly these are books that Tauchnitz would have been disappointed not to publish, and there are relatively few other classics of English Literature that Tauchnitz missed out on throughout its entire history. Oddly the English Library also included ‘Hedda Gabler’, which was certainly a minor coup, although not one really within the remit of either series.
In comparison though over the period from mid-1891 to the end of 1892, which was the main period of competition between the two series, Tauchnitz published Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, the Sherlock Holmes novel ‘A study in scarlet’ and ‘New Grub Street’ by George Gissing, as well as other works by Hardy, Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Frances Hodgson Burnett. There’s no clear winner in terms of either literary quality or popular appeal and the eventual withdrawal of Heinemann and Balestier was probably more to do with financial strength, or with the consequences of Balestier’s death.
Tauchnitz though had the huge advantage of a strong back catalogue of over 2500 volumes to support its new works. It had continuing sales of many titles by Dickens, Hardy, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, Henry James, Mark Twain, Wilkie Collins and a host of other writers, most of which had been acquired for a single payment rather than continuing royalties. This must have been a daunting prospect for any competitor.
In terms of identifying first printings, the English Library books share some of the same complications as Tauchnitz. Copies surviving in the original wrappers can be dated by reference to the other books listed on the wrappers, but inevitably most surviving copies have been privately bound and the wrappers discarded. As with Tauchnitz the title page date is not a reliable indicator, often left as the date of first publication even on later reprints. The only evidence of reprints may be the presence of later-published titles by the same author listed on the half-title verso. By this evidence Kipling’s books in the series seem to have been reprinted frequently, and the first volume, ‘The light that failed’ is often seen with other, later titles listed. Given the relatively short life of the series though, many books may never have been reprinted.
One of the oddest features of the series is that as well as turning up in the usual variety of 19th century private bindings, English Library volumes are also found in several of the standard bindings used by Tauchnitz, so that they would have looked almost identical in the bookshops. The Todd & Bowden bibliography classes various generally ‘art nouveau’ bindings from the 1890s and 1900s as Tauchnitz publisher bindings in series x7. But as the same bindings exist on English Library volumes, they were presumably produced by a bookbinder independent of Tauchnitz, even if sold directly by the firm. Tauchnitz did not start its own in-house bindery until 1900.
Kipling’s ‘The light that failed’ in The English Library, alongside George du Maurier’s ‘Trilby’ in Tauchnitz
Other examples of ‘Tauchnitz style’ bindings on English Library volumes
By the end of 1892 the series was in decline, although it limped on for some time. It reached volume 199 by 1894, but the last title I have been able to identify is ‘The mystery of the sea’ by Bram Stoker, published as volumes 210 and 211 in 1903.
Even that was not the end, as sometime shortly after this, the rights to the back catalogue seem to have been acquired by the publisher F.A. Brockhaus, also in Leipzig, who had previously been the main wholesale distributor for the series. Reprints continued to appear under their imprint, sometimes combined with that of Heinemann & Balestier, right through almost until the Second World War, although only a small number of the titles were reissued. Most of the Kipling titles were reprinted by Brockhaus, but as time went on, it seems to have been really only ‘The jungle book’ together with ‘Three men in a boat’ that continued to sell. For these editions it is much easier to date them, as the title page is updated. With the decline in private bookbinding, they also mostly exist in paperbacks, usually with a bright cover illustrated with poppies.
Brockhaus reprints from 1928 (above) and 1921, 1922, 1924 and 1937 (below)
If you spend some time looking for, or looking at, Tauchnitz Editions, it won’t be long before you come across one or two that are bound in vellum, with old albumen tourist photos of Italy bound in at various places throughout the text. They’re often attractively decorated on the front cover, sometimes very elaborately, and often still in relatively good condition for books that are well over 100 years old. Booksellers seem to have very little idea of how to value them, and I’ve seen them for sale at prices varying from two or three pounds to many hundreds of pounds.
From a book collector’s point of view they’re a nuisance. The same titles are found over and over again, almost all Italian-themed novels or travel books, almost always reprints and usually with the half-title page missing. Or anyway from my point of view, as someone who collects Tauchnitz first printings, they’re a nuisance. I guess there may be some book collectors who find them more interesting than the standard unadorned Tauchnitz editions. I assume most of the copies priced in the hundreds of pounds go unsold, but there may be some buyers out there to justify the high prices.
The most famous Tauchnitz collectors of all, William Todd and Ann Bowden, who compiled the Tauchnitz bibliography, did have some time for them, if only as a curiosity. Alongside their main Tauchnitz collection, which ended up at the British Museum, they put together a separate collection of the extra-illustrated editions, which is now at the Princeton University Library.
The books seem to have been produced and sold as travel souvenirs, to some extent almost as guide books, with tourists visiting the sites mentioned in the stories. Although produced in huge numbers, each book seems to be almost a one-off, with no two copies identical. The cover designs all seem to be slightly different, and the choice of photographs is always different too, as is the number of photographs, which can range up to almost 100. Did customers design their own book in some way, making their own choice of photographs and of design, possibly pasting photographs onto blank leaves inserted into the binding?
The choice of books though seems to be much more limited than the choice of designs. The most common title by far is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Transformation’, which has an alternative title of ‘The romance of Monte Beni’ on the title page but is often referred to as ‘The marble faun’ on the covers, the title by which the book is known in America. This book alone accounts for 37 of the 53 books in the Todd collection at Princeton, and there are around another 30 copies of it currently offered for sale on ABE, at prices ranging from £10 to £450.
The story of ‘The Marble Faun’ is set in Rome and it’s usually found illustrated with postcards of Rome. The next most common title, ‘Romola’ by George Eliot, is set in Florence and usually found illustrated by postcards of Florence. Other titles include ‘Pictures of old Rome’ by Frances Elliot, ‘The last days of Pompeii’ and ‘Rienzi’ both by Edward Bulwer Lytton, and ‘Lays of Ancient Rome’ by Macaulay.
For Tauchnitz, the trade must have been a blessing, massively increasing sales of titles that might otherwise have sold relatively few copies. ‘Romola’ had been one of George Eliot’s least successful novels, when first issued in 1863, but probably ended up as one of Tauchnitz’s best selling titles after being taken up by the Italian tourist trade some 20 years later.
Not all of the Italian vellum bindings have postcards bound in. Some like the copy of ‘The divine comedy’ illustrated above, look similar externally, but have no photos. There is also another range of elaborate custom bindings, almost all on Italian themed books, that I’ll come back to another time.
One of the most intriguing titles to have been given the Italian travel souvenir treatment is ‘Childe Harold’s pilgrimage’ by Byron, which was issued in 1862 as the first book in the short series of Tauchnitz ‘Cabinet Editions’. These were, for Tauchnitz, ‘de-luxe’ editions in a smaller format than usual, nicely bound with gilt edges, and selling at a premium price. They were not a success. The series ran to only four titles, and most are now very difficult to find. Like ‘Romola’ and ‘Transformation’ though, ‘Childe Harold’ seems to have enjoyed a second opportunity when it was discovered by the Italian binders. Too small to have postcards inserted, it was nevertheless given a wide variety of vellum bindings and is now signficantly easier to find than the other volumes in the series.