I’ve looked in earlier posts at the first publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Tauchnitz in December 1843 (possibly the first printing worldwide of the book), and also at the Schools Edition of the story that followed in 1847. Both editions are scarce today in first printing or even in early printings, although the book continued to sell for so long that later printings are not too difficult to find.
The individual issue of ‘A Christmas Carol’ remained in print with Tauchnitz for many decades, but it was also combined with the next two Christmas stories by Dickens, ‘The chimes’ and ‘The cricket on the hearth’, to form volume 91 of the Tauchnitz main series in 1846. That volume too remained in print right up until the Second World War.
As the Schools Edition was also sold over a long period, Tauchnitz had three different editions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for sale simultaneously. The Schools Edition was probably sold right through until the 1880s, when Tauchnitz expanded the concept into the ‘Students Series’. Not surprisingly ‘A Christmas Carol’ appeared again in this series, as volume 25 in 1888 and remained in print in this format at least through until the First World War in 1914.
During the war, the firm was unable to publish much new material, but instead raided its back catalogue for shorter works or excerpts that could be published in a new series of slim paperbacks. The series started life as ‘English Text-books’ and was later renamed as the ‘Tauchnitz Pocket Library’. And sure enough, there was ‘A Christmas Carol’ again, as volume 45 in the series.
I have no idea how many copies of the story Tauchnitz sold in total between 1843 and 1943, but it must have been an enormous number by the standards of the company. A more normal Tauchnitz novel might only have sold 2,000 copies, but it seems possible that sales of ‘A Christmas Carol’ could have been a hundred times that figure, or more.
It’s worth remembering that Tauchnitz did not pay royalties. He typically paid a fixed lump sum for the continental rights to a novel, a practice he followed right from the start, when there was no international copyright agreement. As there was no obligation on him to pay anything at that time, his offer of a lump sum payment was gratefully received, and he was able to define the terms of business for the future.
The gesture certainly bought him a lot of goodwill with Dickens, who forever after regarded him as a friend and as a trustworthy business partner. It also gave Tauchnitz privileged early access to new work by Dickens, so that his editions were sometimes published ahead of the UK editions. And the terms of the deals were determined by Tauchnitz, not only in terms of the price paid, which Dickens always allowed him to propose, but also in terms of the structure.
A lump sum payment left Tauchnitz open to the risk of lower than expected sales, but with Dickens that was hardly a risk at all. If on the other hand, sales were higher, Tauchnitz would make additional payments, at his discretion. In this way he was able to extend his reputation for fair dealing and for generosity, while still managing his costs and his profits.
In the case of ‘A Christmas Carol’, he could certainly afford to be generous. He had a very valuable property on his hands, particularly after copyright treaties restricted the issue by any other European publishers. So he made the most of it. There’s no record, so far as I know, of what Tauchnitz paid for the initial right to publish ‘A Christmas Carol’, or what later payments he may have made, but for a full length work by Dickens some 20 years later, he offered £35. On that basis, the initial payment for ‘A Christmas Carol’ could possibly have been £20 or less. If so, it must surely have been one of the best bits of business ever done. I feel sure that Tauchnitz would have made regular additional payments to reflect its success, at least over the rest of Dickens’ lifetime. Whether he continued to be as generous to Dickens’ estate after his death may be a little more doubtful.
The phrase ‘Todd & Bowden’ means only one thing for me. It’s a large red 1000+ page book that is practically the Bible of my book-collecting – the bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions. For other people, the same phrase may refer to another 1000+ page tome, the bibliography of Walter Scott editions. Underlying these two monumental works though, there are the two authors, William Todd and Ann Bowden, a husband and wife team of bibliographers, who spent years of their lives producing these two works.
They had the good fortune to work at the University of Texas at Austin, which through the huge collections held at its Harry Ransom Centre and the associated literary research, has become perhaps one of the best places in the world for a bibliographer to work. It was partly they who made it so, William Todd having been recruited by Ransom to work at Austin before there was such a thing as the Harry Ransom Centre.
Todd had made his name through a series of pioneering works, including the standard reference work on Edmund Burke, as well as studies of the Nixon tapes and Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book. He was already almost 60 years old and a well-respected professor and bibliographer, when he and Ann started to collect and study Tauchnitz Editions. It was the beginning of a 10 year project that led to the Todd & Bowden bibliography, published in 1988.
The two of them travelled around Europe and America to inspect all the major Tauchnitz collections that they were able to identify. They recorded in detail 25 collections in Europe, many in National Libraries, and a further 21 in North America, mostly in universities. In doing so, they were able for the first time to create a guide to distinguish different printings and editions and to start to date them. Tauchnitz were notorious for leaving the first publication date on the title page of editions published many years later, leading to widespread confusion over dating. Unfortunately for many of the libraries they visited, Todd & Bowden’s work had the effect of identifying their copies as reprints.
At the same time they were building their own collection, which eventually grew to over 6000 volumes, covering both bound editions and paperbacks, first printings and reprints. After publication of the bibliography, their collection was acquired by a German cultural foundation and presented to the British Library, which had previously held only a relatively small collection. Todd & Bowden moved on to work on the equally comprehensive Walter Scott bibliography, published in 1998, by which time they were both well into their seventies, and Todd nearly 80.
Ann Bowden died in 2001 and William Todd in 2011, at the age of 92. The two major bibliographies they worked on together serve as a monument to them. They also inspired, through their teaching and their example, generations of other bibliographers. And for me too their work has been an inspiration. I might still have been interested in Tauchnitz Editions, but without their bibliography, I would never have embarked on the project to build a collection that has occupied me for the last 25 years and more. And the collection itself is defined both in terms of scope and in terms of first printing status, by the parameters established in ‘Todd & Bowden’.
I have no idea when the first wrap-around bands for books were introduced. But I do know that Tauchnitz were already using them by 1926, so their history is certainly a long one. They typically feature a short blurb about the book or a quote from a review, and are presumably intended to make the book stand out in the shop display. Just another marketing tool, but as they’re still used today, I suppose they must be reasonably effective.
The earliest band I’ve seen on a Tauchnitz book is from August 1926. It exists for volume 4743, ‘The secret that was kept’ by Elizabeth Robins, and it’s in full wrap-around style, glued together at the back. The book can only be opened by either slipping the band up and over the top of the book or by tearing it. Presumably most people tore it off and discarded it. Even those readers who carefully removed it without tearing, would hardly be tempted to put it back on later, so again would end up throwing it away. It’s surprising really that any of them have survived.
But one careful owner of a selection of books I bought a few years ago, slipped the bands in between the pages of the books, perhaps using them as bookmarks, and preserved them. Some are torn, others intact, but overall they’re in surprisingly good condition. I have eight of them, for books published between August 1926 and July 1929. The Todd & Bowden bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions records one other known band in this style, so nine in total are known, but it’s possible that they existed for all 150 or so books published over this period. An alternative is that they were only used to boost sales on slower-selling volumes, but in this case it seems unlikely that they would have been so clearly dated. All the bands in this style are in white, and wrapped around an off white paperback would not have stood out particularly well.
So it was a natural next step to introduce coloured bands, which happened from around February 1930. With this change came also a change in format, so that the band was tucked in under the front and back covers, rather than glued at the back. Crucially this change meant that the book could be opened without removing the band. This allowed prospective buyers to open and look at the book in the shop, without taking the band off. If they were careful enough, they might even be able to leave it on while reading the book. Of course most were still removed and discarded, but more of these later bands survive. They’re mostly on books that were never read, which is the fate of many copies. Few buyers are so uninterested in a book that they will not even want to pick it up and flick through it, which involves taking off a full wrap-around band, but many buyers never get round to reading their book, so a tucked-in band has a better chance of survival.
The colours of the bands were not random. They were coded to indicate the genre of the book – red for crime and humour, blue for ‘serious’ books, yellow for novels and short stories of adventure, social life or historical novels, and green for love stories. The colour-coding seems to have been the brainchild of Max Christian Wegner, then Managing Director of Tauchnitz. Two years later, by then in charge of the rival Albatross Books, he developed the idea further, using the entire paperback cover for colour coding by genre, a practice also taken up by Penguin when it launched in 1935.
At Tauchnitz the colour-coded bands continued for over four years, through to mid 1934, at which point the firm more or less collapsed into the arms of Albatross. I’m aware of surviving bands for around 20 volumes, but again they may have been used on all the more than 200 volumes published over that period. The bands did their bit to brighten up the rather drab Tauchnitz books, but they were still unable to compete against the more colourful Albatross volumes.
After mid 1934 the two series were managed jointly by the Albatross management team and Tauchnitz fell into line with the Albatross practice of colour-coded covers with dustwrappers, but no wrap-around bands.
But it wasn’t quite the end of the story. After the end of the war, a number of attempts were made to revive both Tauchnitz and Albatross, one of which involved a short series of 40 volumes published from Stuttgart under the Tauchnitz brand from 1952 to 1955. Dustwrappers on paperbacks had by then gone rather out of fashion and wrap-around bands were again used. As ever, it’s impossible to verify that all volumes were issued with bands, but many of them may have been, with again only a small number surviving.
As a writer, Lucy Clifford is probably best remembered today for ‘Mrs Keith’s crime’, her 1885 novel about a mother, dying of consumption, who decides to kill her also dying daughter. In personal terms she is remembered as the wife of the mathematician and philosopher, William Kingdon Clifford. William died early at the age of 33, but was already a professor at University College, London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and had done ground-breaking work in algebra, geometry and philosophy. There is a type of algebra, still referred to as a Clifford algebra today, in his honour.
The two lives of William and Lucy are remembered in a book by Monty Chisholm and an associated website. They were married for only four years, between 1875 and his death in 1879, but Lucy chose to publish her novels under the name of Mrs. W.K. Clifford. She may well have been writing before his death, but I can’t find any published work before then. When she was left widowed with two small children, financial pressures may then have pushed her to publication, perhaps encouraged by her many literary connections, which certainly included George Eliot, Mary Braddon and Henry James.
A collection of stories for children, ‘Anyhow stories, moral and otherwise’ was published in the UK in 1882, followed by ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ in 1885. But perhaps surprisingly, she didn’t achieve publication in the Tauchnitz Edition (or as far as I can tell any of its competitors in continental publishing), until 1892. This was a particularly productive time in Mrs. Clifford’s writing career and Tauchnitz backed her strongly, publishing five of her books in an eighteen month period. This may also though have had something to do with the pressure that Tauchnitz was under at the time from the rival ‘English Library’ published by Heinemann and Balestier. A significant number of authors were defecting to the new series and Tauchnitz was keen to maintain a large publishing programme, forcing it to search out and back new talent.
The first to appear was an epistolatory novel, ‘Love letters of a worldly woman’, published as volume 2803 in the Tauchnitz series in February 1892. The first printing in Tauchnitz has a quotation on the back of the half-title page, with the back of the title page blank. Later reprints list 6 other Clifford titles on the half-title verso and move the quotation to the back of the title page. I have nicely bound copies of this book and two other later books, with the signature of the author’s daughter, Margaret Clifford. As they are all first printings and Margaret would have been a teenager when they were published, they may well have been first acquired by her mother.
It was followed by ‘Aunt Anne’, published in two volumes as volumes 2857 and 2858 of the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors in September 1892 and by ‘The last touches and other stories’, published in January 1893 as volume 2880. ‘Mrs Keith’s Crime’ appeared as volume 2913 in June 1893 and ‘A wild proxy’ as volume 2930 in August 1893. First printings in paperback should show the appropriate date quoted above at the top of the back wrapper, and bound copies should list only previously published titles on the back of the half-title. So ‘Aunt Anne’ should list only ‘Love letters …’, whereas ‘The last touches’ should list both ‘Love letters’ and ‘Aunt Anne’, and so on. In practice though, of these books, only ‘Mrs. Keith’s Crime’ is recorded as existing with a greater number of titles listed.
After this rush of titles (and with Heinemann and Balestier largely defeated as a serious rival), there seems to have been a pause, not just in Lucy Clifford’s appearances in the Tauchnitz series, but in her writing more generally. ‘A flash of summer’ was published in November 1896 as volume 3168 (listing five previously published works on the back of the half-title) and then nothing more until September 1901, with the publication of ‘A woman alone’ as volume 3525 (listing 6 other works). Both volumes were later reprinted. ‘Woodside Farm’ followed in June 1902 as volume 3584, ‘The modern way’ in February 1907 as volume 3945, ‘The getting well of Dorothy’ in May 1907 as volume 3967 and ‘Mere stories’, another collection of short stories, in October 1909 as volume 4146.
That brings us up to the First World War and another pause, certainly in the output of Tauchnitz volumes from 1914 onwards, but again as far as I can tell, in Lucy Clifford’s writing as well. By the time Tauchnitz was back up and running again after the war, it was in a very different political, social and literary landscape. ‘Eve’s Lover and other stories’ appeared in June 1924 as volume 4644, by which time its author was nearly 80 and from a different world to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.
But Tauchnitz was slow to recognise the changing literary fashions, and still willing to publish two further works – ‘Sir George’s objection’ in April 1925 as volume 4680, and ”Miss Fingal’ in July 1928 as volume 4840. As with all Tauchnitz Editions, these 20th Century volumes are more commonly found in the original paperback form, rather than the bound editions from the 19th Century.
Lucy Clifford died in 1929, some 50 years after her husband, leaving behind a substantial body of work. The success of most 19th Century and early 20th Century writers can almost be measured by the volume of their output in Tauchnitz Editions, and on that measure Mrs. W.K. Clifford did pretty well. Fifteen volumes of her work were published over a period of more than 35 years, and no doubt tens of thousands of copies sold in Continental Europe. Most of them though are not easy to find today.
I looked in an earlier post at the first 1843 edition of Shakespeare plays in the Tauchnitz Edition. Although sold in large quantities over a period of 25 years, the publication was rather discredited by being based on the text of John Payne Collier, a noted Shakespeare scholar, but one who was later shown to be a forger. Collier’s name was dropped from the title page in later printings, and the decision was eventually taken to re-issue all the plays in an alternative text edited by the Rev. Alexander Dyce.
In correspondence with Tauchnitz, Dyce was insistent that ‘no alterations are to be introduced, which are not authorised by, Dear Sir, your very truly, Alexander Dyce’. Perhaps not surprising in the circumstances. He also noted that ‘I should prefer my name to appear on the title-page of the proposed Shakespeare’.
Dyce had been a friend of Collier’s, but had turned against him, notably with his publication of ‘Strictures on Collier’s new Edition of Shakespeare’ in 1859. His own edition of the plays had first been published in 1857, with a Second Edition in 1866 and this was to be the basis of the new Tauchnitz Edition of 1868. In his preface to the Tauchnitz Edition Dyce refers to his First Edition having ‘too timidly adhered to sundry more than questionable readings of the early copies’, which may well be a reference to Collier’s influence.
The Tauchnitz volumes with the new text appeared in 1868 as volume 40 to 46 of the Collection of British Authors, using the same series numbers as the original issues, but with the 1868 date on the title page of each volume. Although this seems entirely sensible, it was actually very unusual for Tauchnitz ever to change the date on the title page. Usually the original first edition date remained on the title page of all later printings, even many decades later. Here the 1868 date distinguishes the new edition, but in line with the usual practice, later reprints of this edition then retained 1868 on the title page, even well into the 1930s.
In the original paperback, the volumes initially said ‘Second Edition’ clearly on the front wrapper, which presumably meant the Second Tauchnitz Edition. On the title page though they refer only to ‘the Rev. Alexander Dyce’s Second Edition’, which is a rather different thing. Dyce also wanted to make clear that the dedication to John Forster was the dedication of his second edition rather than just the Tauchnitz Edition, so had it dated 1866 rather than 1868, and inserted a note at the top saying ‘Dedication to the Second Edition’. This serves only to confuse, as it could equally well refer to the second Tauchnitz Edition.
As with the 1843 edition, the books appeared not only as seven volumes in the main Tauchnitz series, at half a Thaler per volume, but also as individual plays, numbered from 1 to 37, selling for 1/10th of a Thaler each. Unlike the 1843 edition though, there is no dual numbering of pages. The individual plays all have their own page numbering, suggesting that they may have had their own stereotype plates. It would presumably have been a relatively small task to change the page numbering after taking a first mould from the original page of type, and then take a second mould. Each mould would be used to create a stereotype plate that would then be stored for use on reprints.
And there were many, many reprints. Shakespeare plays were a steady seller for Tauchnitz for almost a century in total, and distinguishing the date of reprints is a puzzle of enormous complexity. With bound copies it can be almost impossible, although a first clue is that earlier printings have the series number on the half-title in roman numerals, later printings in standard arabic numerals.
With paperbacks it’s a bit easier, and for the individual plays it is often the paperbacks that survive, as few of them were individually bound. They’re distinguished most easily by the price shown on the wrapper – 1/10 Thlr. for the first printing, then M. 0,30 from around 1871, modified to M 0,30 from 1892, increased to M 0,40 from 1916 and so on. Full details in the Todd & Bowden bibliography. In my experience the earliest paperbacks, showing the price as 1/10 of a Thaler are difficult to find now, but copies from the 1870s / 1880s are much more common.
Around the time of the First World War, a new format for the individual plays was adopted, slightly smaller and more like the volumes of the Tauchnitz Pocket Library sold in wartime. Variants of this format (still with Dyce’s name on the title page) continued to be sold right through until the Second World War put an effective end to Tauchnitz.
Rather sadly, Alexander Dyce never saw the longevity achieved by the edition that he gave his name to. He died in May 1869, shortly after the first publication. His displaced rival, John Payne Collier, surviving to 1883, could only watch and grit his teeth.
The launch of Albatross books in 1932 was a key moment in the paperback revolution, even if not fully recognised as such at the time. It signalled the imminent demise of Tauchnitz, which had dominated English language publishing in Continental Europe for almost a century. It was to be the inspiration for the launch of Penguin Books three years later. And it was in some respects the moment that paperbacks came of age in the twentieth century.
A lot of planning and preparation had gone into the launch, which brought together three remarkable men, John Holroyd-Reece, Max Christian Wegner and Kurt Enoch. Their stories are too long and varied to cover here, but all three played important roles in publishing history, even apart from their time at Albatross. It was important for them that the first list of Albatross titles made a statement about the ambitions of the new series.
It was a mixed list, establishing the principle that the series would cover a range of genres and styles. A crime story and a romance rubbed shoulders with more literary fiction. A volume of short stories was published alongside the first volume of an historical family saga. There was something for everyone, and importantly, with colour coding by genre, the mix of types of book was reflected in a mix of colours for the first six books.
The choice of the first three authors – James Joyce, Aldous Huxley and Sinclair Lewis, seemed to say that the series would be more at the cutting edge of modern literature than Tauchnitz had been in recent years. It also said something about the ability of Albatross to attract authors away from Tauchnitz.
James Joyce in particular had been neglected by Tauchnitz. They had eventually published ‘A portrait of the artist as a young man’ in 1930, some ten years after being offered it, but had shown little interest in his other works. So for Albatross, publishing ‘Dubliners’ as volume 1 was an open goal.
Huxley and Lewis had been treated better, with Tauchnitz publishing six volumes of Huxley and three from Lewis, arguably including their most important works. But that was far from comprehensive coverage and as with Joyce, Albatross was able to target earlier works, overlooked by Tauchnitz, before later publishing new works. Sinclair Lewis had in 1930 become the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, so it was a good time to be revisiting his earlier works.
The next three titles were perhaps a bit lighter, but Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole was a significant prize. It was the first of the Herries Chronicles, a trilogy of books set in the Lake District, and probably the work for which Walpole is best remembered now. He too had to be attracted away from Tauchnitz, which had published several of his earlier works, as did Warwick Deeping. As Tauchnitz had had a near monopoly on publishing English literature in Europe, it was almost inevitable that the authors Albatross wanted to publish would already have had dealings with Tauchnitz.
The launch of the first six titles was also marked by the issue of a boxed set of the six books. I have little idea how many of these were produced or sold, or indeed the price at which it was offered. I have only ever seen the one example, illustrated below, and that is in less than perfect condition. Although the box has no Albatross branding, I am pretty sure that it was produced for Albatross, rather than just being a home-made affair. It’s possible though that it was produced only for presentation copies, offered to business contacts and colleagues.
Just one of the books in this box still has its transparent dustwrapper, and that is in poor condition, but all the books would originally have had them. They were easily damaged and after a year or so, new titles were instead given paper dustwrappers in the same design as the books.
By 1928, when Aldous Huxley’s work first appeared in the Tauchnitz series, he was already a well-established writer. Tauchnitz was still the dominant English language publisher in Continental Europe, but it had struggled during the First World War and the difficulties that followed in Germany. It was no longer quite at the cutting edge of English literature, where it had been for most of its long existence, and British publishers were becoming reluctant to allow continental reprints as soon after UK publication as they previously had. Still, to join the near-5000-volume-strong Tauchnitz series was recognition that you had reached a certain level in your profession. The honour was as much to Huxley as it was to Tauchnitz.
‘Two or three graces’, a collection of Huxley’s short stories appeared in early 1928 (or possibly late 1927) as volume 4810, and the satirical novel ‘Those barren leaves’ followed shortly after as volume 4816. Although both volumes are dated 1928 on the title page, the first printing of volume 4810 is dated December 1927 at the top of the back wrapper, while volume 4816 is dated January 1928. There are multiple reprints of both books, identifiable by later dates on the back wrapper.
Sales must have gone well, and having identified Huxley as a promising young writer, Tauchnitz were keen to extend the relationship. The following year they published his new novel ‘Point Counter Point’, a longer work that stretched over two volumes, numbered 4872 and 4873, and dated March 1929 in the first printing. That was followed up by ‘Brief candles’, another collection of short stories, (volume 4958, dated October 1930) and by ‘Music at Night and other essays’ (volume 5017, dated October 1931). Both works appeared in Tauchnitz very shortly after first UK publication.
Tauchnitz though, by this time, was in turmoil. Hans Christian Wegner had been appointed to manage the firm in late 1929, after the death of Curt Otto, and was keen to modernise the series, encouraging writers such as Huxley, D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce. But his ideas were too radical for the Tauchnitz board and he left in 1931, becoming one of the key founders of the rival firm Albatross. At last, Tauchnitz had a serious competitor.
Wegner would have had a relationship with Huxley’s agent and UK publisher and been well aware of which works had already been published by Tauchnitz. He wanted Huxley for his new Albatross series, and saw an opportunity to win him over by publishing some of the earlier works that had been ignored by Tauchnitz
‘The Gioconda Smile and other stories’ appeared as volume 2 of the Albatross series in 1932. It brought together most of Huxley’s short stories from the two collections published in the UK as ‘Mortal Coils’ (1922) and ‘Little Mexican’ (1924). ‘Antic Hay’, another early work from 1923, followed as volume 24, with ‘Crome Yellow’, his first novel from 1921, published as volume 64 in 1933. Inbetween though came the real prize. Having won Huxley over and published his early work in far more attractive editions than the drab Tauchnitz volumes, Albatross was rewarded with his latest new work, ‘Brave new World’ published early in 1933 as volume 47 of the series.
A further volume of short stories appeared under the title ‘Uncle Spencer and other stories’ later in 1933, as volume 87. It combined the two remaining stories from ‘Little Mexican’, with five stories that had appeared in Huxley’s first collection ‘Limbo’ in 1921. So in the first 100 volumes and the first two years of Albatross, five Huxley volumes had been published. The tally at that point stood at six Huxley volumes in Tauchnitz and five in Albatross. Not bad for a writer who was still in his thirties.
But then two other events intervened that were to have significant effects on Huxley’s continental publishing history. The first was the near collapse of Tauchnitz, unable to compete with its much more modern rival, and the second was the rise to power in Germany of the Nazi party. I’ll come back to the effects of those two events in my next post. (See part 2)
Tauchnitz made its name publishing contemporary English literature in Germany and selling it throughout continental Europe, in a series that ran to over 5000 volumes over a period of 100 years from 1841. Publishing contemporary French literature might have seemed a natural brand extension, but they never tried it.
In modern day terms, the reasons may seem obvious. English is much more widely spoken than French, particularly as a second language, so the market for French literature would be much smaller. But it’s not obvious that would have been so much the case 175 years ago, when Tauchnitz launched. You only need to read Tolstoy to know that in the early 19th century, French was the second language for many educated Europeans. And the Napoleonic Wars had left much of Europe under French control, barely 30 years before Tauchnitz started publishing.
Nor is it obvious that French literature would have been any less popular, or less widely read. The romantic novels of Walter Scott had been successful in Europe and with the rise of Charles Dickens, English literature was perhaps entering a golden age. But in France, writers such as Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas were similarly popular. Was there not a market for publishing their works in the original language in other countries in Europe, including Britain as well?
There almost certainly was a market, but not it seems one where Tauchnitz felt he could achieve any competitive advantage. The difference seems to have been that French literature was already widely available throughout Europe in cheap editions. These were often pirated by Belgian publishers, but even the French originals were significantly cheaper than British novels. Given the very public stance that Tauchnitz had taken on paying authors for copyright in respect of English language novels, they could hardly take a different approach with French authors, and they perhaps saw no easy way to compete.
Instead Tauchnitz tried for a period to sell classic French works, from long-dead authors, where the question of copyright payments was no longer relevant. Their series ‘La France Classique’ was launched in 1845, just 3 years or so after the ‘Collection of British Authors’, but ran to just 18 volumes over a 14 year period, so presumably was not a success.
Half of those volumes appeared in the very first year, 1845, including works by Racine, Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as an edition of the fables of La Fontaine. 1846 saw a four volume edition of the works of Molière, but after that there was nothing further until two single volumes in 1849 and 1850. It was clear by then that there was little interest in extending the series, although a two volume edition of Corneille was published in 1852 and a final volume of Voltaire’s ‘Henriade’ in 1859.
The first printings of all bar the final volume showed the publisher’s name on the title page as ‘Bern. Tauchnitz Jeune’. The final volume and reprints of earlier volumes show the publisher as ‘Bernard Tauchnitz’ (using the French, rather than German spelling of Bernard). I haven’t seen enough copies to be able to distinguish any other variants, although as always paperback copies can be distinguished by which other volumes in the series they advertise on the wrappers. It seems likely that the series continued to be sold even after the final volume appeared in 1859, although possibly only until stocks were exhausted.
Like other Tauchnitz Editions, the French volumes are now found in a wide variety of bindings
Having failed to achieve any competitive advantage in publishing French literature, Tauchnitz then retired from the fray and concentrated on English literature. The firm did eventually return to publishing in French many years later, but not until the Second World War. By then the circumstances were very different, and that’s another story.