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Setting the record straight on Albatross

Posted by Baronbern on October 31, 2010 at 6:20 PM

For much of the first 70 years of their existence, Tauchnitz were the dominant producer of English language books in Continental Europe. There were many other publishers who tried to break their dominance, but few had much success really until the First World War. The more or less enforced absence of Tauchnitz from the market for 4 years then allowed at least two other series to flourish briefly, but neither lasted for long after the war. So the rise of Albatross in the 1930s and its success in taking so much of the market from Tauchnitz was a considerable achievement. They were believed to be the forty-third known rival of Tauchnitz, but the first to really succeed, to the extent that they effectively took over the ailing Tauchnitz in 1934, just two years after their own launch.

 

    

 

Todd & Bowden give little credit to the achievements of Albatross and are particularly scathing about John Holroyd-Reece, one of its two key managers, accusing him of ‘systematic manipulation’, ‘gross malfeasance’ and even ‘outright thievery’. Fortunately Holroyd-Reece’s reputation has been restored by work done more recently by Alistair McCleery, who also gives appropriate credit to Max Christian Wegner, who had briefly managed Tauchnitz before being dismissed by them and going on to found Albatross with Holroyd Reece.

 

Perhaps the key element overlooked by Todd & Bowden, but researched in detail by McCleery, was that the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s not only restricted what could be published there, but was a particular issue for Albatross, owned by Sir Edmund Davis, who was Jewish, and partly run by Holroyd Reece, whose father was a German Jew. In this context their achievement was all the more remarkable.

 

I hope on this website to redress the balance a bit and give Albatross some of the prominence that they deserve, starting with an Albatross page to be created shortly.

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