Tauchnitz Editions


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The blog has moved

Posted by Baronbern on January 14, 2017 at 9:35 AM Comments comments ()

I haven't posted a new entry on this blog for nearly three years now, not for lack of interest, but because I've been developing a new blog at http://paperbackrevolution.wordpress.com/ .   As well as Tauchnitz, this covers a range of my interests in books, particularly vintage paperbacks, and even the occasional post that's nothing to do with books.  Tauchnitz is well represented though and after three years, there must be around 50 posts covering Tauchnitz and related topics.

As a result, I won't be adding any new posts to the blog on this site in future.

It's bound to go wrong

Posted by Baronbern on April 9, 2014 at 5:40 PM Comments comments ()

An unusual book turned up from a collection in Belgium this week. To all outward appearances it’s a paperback copy of volume 4050 ‘The Statue’ by Eden Phillpotts and Arnold Bennett, with first printing wrappers dated July 1908. Inside however are bound the pages of a completely different book - volume 3950 ‘Benita’ by H. Rider Haggard. This also appears to be a first printing copy from over a year earlier in February 1907, and has the catalogue for that month bound in (and the corresponding monthly descriptive list laid in as well).




I can only speculate about how such an error could have happened. The wrong wrappers cannot have been added any earlier than July 1908, which seems to suggest that the pages were at that stage still held in stock without any wrappers. That makes some sense. The initial print run might be larger than the confirmed orders, and any retained copies would only have wrappers added when additional orders were received. You might think though that they would also have catalogues added at the same time, so that all the Tauchnitz advertising was up to date, and other Tauchnitz editions with later dated wrappers tend to follow this pattern. So it seems odd that it still has the February 1907 catalogue.


Then is it relevant that number 3950 has got mixed up with 4950? Is it just a coincidence that the numbers are exactly 100 apart? If they were stored with 100 titles in a row, might 4050 have been above or below 3950, so that the wrong book could easily have been picked up? Or were the numbers just confused in someone’s mind, so that they picked out 3950 when they should have been picking 4050? Was the error made only on a single book or on a whole batch? There’s no record in Todd & Bowden of any other copies bound like this, although there are examples of other binding mistakes.

Shock and Sensation

Posted by Baronbern on August 13, 2013 at 7:40 AM Comments comments ()

It’s of course well-known that there was a lot of discrimination against women authors in the Victorian era. It was difficult for them to get published and authors such as George Eliot, and the Bronte sisters had to resort to male pseudonyms. So it comes as no surprise to find that of the first 100 volumes of the Tauchnitz series, 96 of them were by male authors. The only exceptions were 3 volumes by the Countess of Blessington and one by Lady Georgiana Fullerton. Perhaps at that time female members of the aristocracy were accorded the status of honorary males.


It was not long though before things started to change. The second 100 volumes included only 84 by male authors, with Mrs. Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte making their first appearances, and for the third 100 volumes, the number fell to 68. By the time the series reached volumes 701 to 800, female authors were in a majority, accounting for 51 of the 100 volumes, and broadly it stayed at parity for the next 25 years. Between volumes 700 and 2700, or roughly from 1865 to 1890, I make it 1044 for the ladies and 956 for the men. Rather oddly, after that the pendulum swung back the other way, and for most of the rest of the series, through to the Second World War, male authors were in the ascendancy.




How can we explain this rather odd pattern? It seems unlikely that 1865 to 1890 was the golden age of female emancipation, only for male chauvinism to reassert itself at the end of the 19th century. I’d be interested in any other views, but my best guess is that it’s more to do with the type of novel than the gender of the author as such. This after all was the heyday of the sensation novel, with stories of secret marriages, bigamy, incest, crimes, misdirected letters, disguises and potions. Although male authors such as Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade were prominent in the genre, women authors played a large part too. One leading ‘sensation’ author, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, accounted on her own for over 100 volumes in the Tauchnitz series, and others such as Ellen Wood were scarcely less prolific.


A series of prolific women novelists, including Braddon and Wood, accounted for a high proportion of the volumes by female authors between 1865 and 1890. Others included Charlotte Yonge, Florence Marryat, Ouida, Margaret Hungerford, Dinah Craik and Margaret Oliphant. The work of these authors ranged far beyond sensation novels, but much of it was popular or romantic fiction. They are not much remembered today, although Virago has done much to re-popularise them.


The type of work that these novelists were producing was during that period in demand, and in practice there seems little evidence of authors being discriminated against because they were female. George Eliot took a male pseudonym, not because it was difficult for a female author to be published, but because works by female authors were often prejudged as light romantic fiction. She wanted her work to be taken more seriously.


My own experience of collecting Tauchnitz editions suggests that works by women authors are rather more difficult to find than those by male authors. Again, I suspect that this has little to do with gender and more to do with the type of fiction. Sensation novels and romantic fiction are generally harder to find than more ‘serious’ novels, whether by male or female authors. I guess this is because they were seen as more disposable and less often given fine bindings. Most of them were left as paperbacks, and suffered the usual fate of paperbacks over a period of 100 years.


After 1890 sensational fiction was less in demand and the more prolific authors of the following generation in the Tauchnitz series were mostly male – John Galsworthy, Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, P.G. Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace – to name a few. It seems unlikely that this was the result of discrimination against women authors, although it may well have been discrimination against the type of fiction that was being written by women authors. I can’t say whether the change was limited to Tauchnitz or whether other publishers saw a similar shift at this time.


I suspect that if Tauchnitz were still around today, the balance would have swung back to a majority of female authors. My impression is that women today dominate the literary world, not only as authors, but as buyers and readers of books too. At least at the peak of its success, Tauchnitz would have recognised that trend.


A new home for the Pressler collection

Posted by Baronbern on August 13, 2013 at 7:35 AM Comments comments ()

I had a fascinating day trip to Edinburgh this summer to see the Tauchnitz collection recently acquired by the National Library of Scotland. The collection was originally put together by Dr. Karl Pressler, a German publisher and antiquarian bookseller, and is possibly the largest Tauchnitz collection in the world, with something around 8000 books. As well as a unique run of the first 158 volumes in the earliest publisher’s bindings and the earliest printings, it has a second long run of very early editions in beautiful private bindings, and other large sets of books in uniform fine bindings. The range of different editions of the earliest titles is breathtaking. Dr. Pressler researched the early publishing history of Tauchnitz in some detail and published articles on this as well as on the 1930s ‘takeover’ by Albatross. The Albatross books are well represented in the collection as well, with a near complete set.



Cabinet of curiosities

Posted by Baronbern on June 29, 2013 at 5:10 PM Comments comments ()

The ‘Cabinet edition of English Classics’ was one of the shortest Tauchnitz series, and one of the rarest, but also seems to be one of the most puzzling. It ran to 4 books, of which Todd & Bowden were able to find just two copies in total, in all of the libraries and collections they inspected. I have since found copies of the other two books, and details are shown on the bibliography page.


The series was quickly discontinued, presumably after poor sales, and three of the four books are undoubtedly very rare. The first book in the series though, an edition of Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’s pilgrimage’ seems to be a little less rare and I have now seen 6 copies of it in total. The puzzling thing is that all six copies are different.


This remember was a series of gift books, described by Todd & Bowden as ‘each a luxurious bibelot’ and selling for about 3 times the cost of an ordinary Tauchnitz. It seems scarcely possible that it can have followed the usual Tauchnitz practice of being sold in paperback form, for the purchaser to have privately bound. Yet the evidence of the books certainly suggests that there was no uniformity at all in the binding.


Two of the copies I have seen are in what appears to be the standard series binding, in cloth with blindstamped borders, a gilt title medallion on the front cover, gilt title on the spine and all page edges in gilt. Even these two copies though differ in the colour of the cloth, the size of the binding, the colour of the end-papers, and also in that one has the half-title bound in before the frontispiece and title page, while the other has it after.




Three copies are bound in vellum, each with gilt decoration, a red spine title label and marbled end-papers. But again they differ in multiple ways. The gilt decoration is different, the style of the spine title is different, as is the wording, the end-papers each have a different pattern, one has page edges in gilt and the other two in red (different shades), each has a different style of bound-in bookmark. Again there is no consistency in the order in which pages are bound – two have the half-title after the title page, one is before.


Finally, one copy is bound in blue leather over marbled boards, with both end-papers and page edges marbled in a consistent style. There are raised bands on the spine, with gilt decoration and a red title label, and in this copy the half-title is bound first. In short, between them the six copies display almost every variation of binding style, within the range of prestige bindings of the time.




So were they all bound by Tauchnitz and sold as bound editions, or did Tauchnitz just supply the pages, in paperback or semi-bound form, to other binders, or directly to bookshops? Were purchasers able to specify the binding they wanted from a range of different styles?


I have no answer to these questions, but one clue may be in the similarity of the vellum-bound copies to the range of Italian-bound extra-illustrated editions of other Tauchnitz books. These were souvenir editions sold to tourists in Italy, usually books with an Italian theme, as Childe Harold is in part. Although the copies of Childe Harold in this form have no photographs bound in, they appear to me likely to come from the same source, in other words Italian binders, possibly in Rome or in Florence. These bindings though would be considerably later than the original 1862 publishing date, more likely in the 1870s or 1880s. As it happens two of the copies have references to Rome written in on the end-papers and one is dated 1881. Although these could have been written in later, they are at least potentially consistent with the idea of Italian bindings from the 1870s or 1880s.


Is it then possible that Tauchnitz supplied pages to one or more Italian binders, who bound them up in this way for sale to the tourist trade, or perhaps supplied pages to a single Italian entrepreneur who used various different bookbinders? Did Tauchnitz perhaps have an unsold stock of pages, ten years or more after initial printing, with this being a convenient way to dispose of them, or did it reprint them specially for this purpose? Perhaps it had printed far too many copies of this first book in the series, before it became evident that sales were disappointing, whereas the later books were produced with a much shorter print run. Or perhaps only this book was seen as relevant to the Italian tourist trade, and spare stock of the later titles was destroyed (although the fourth book, Romeo and Juliet of course also has an Italian theme).

Reverting to type

Posted by Baronbern on June 16, 2013 at 9:25 AM Comments comments ()

I’ve never paid much attention to the typeface used in Tauchnitz editions, other than to note that the early editions (1841 – 1847) used what looked like a relatively cramped and old-fashioned font that was replaced by a more ‘modern’ font in 1847. Todd & Bowden refer to some criticism of the appearance of the early editions in comparison with French rivals in particular.


Beauty however is in the eye of the beholder, and the original font used by Tauchnitz has now become the inspiration for a new font designed by a young graphic designer for his diploma. Examples of the Bertau font can be seen at http://jimi-neko.com/134431/1476231/gallery/bertau-font-family . It’s not really designed as a suitable typeface for novels, but for a variety of other uses, the new font has a distinctive elegance.




Battle of the Bands

Posted by Baronbern on February 13, 2013 at 5:40 AM Comments comments ()

This is the third in a series of blog posts on Tauchnitz advertising materials, and I admitted in the first one to a long interest in this kind of ephemera. There are times though when I feel that it's a bit absurd to be collecting odd bits of paper from 100 years or more ago that were designed to be disposable. It's the same absurdity that comes when the value of a book with its dustjacket is more than twice the value without dustjacket, so that the value of the dustjacket is apparently more than the value of the book. That's not too much of a problem with Tauchnitz Editions, relatively few of which had dustjackets anyway. But I feel much the same way about wrap-around bands, the small strips of paper that were wrapped around books to help them catch the eye of bookbuyers.


The Todd & Bowden bibliography records 60 of the coloured bands, used from February 1930 through to April 1935, when the introduction of colour-coded wrappers made them unnecessary, and speculates that there may have been many more than this, covering more or less all books issued in this period. It also notes a single copy of an uncoloured band from December 1929, shortly before the introduction of colour-coding.


I now though have copies of several more uncoloured bands, going back as far as August 1926. Far from being a brief prelude to the coloured bands, it seems that uncoloured bands may have been used for almost as long as the coloured ones. This also means that the bands themselves were not introduced during Max Wegner's period as General Manager, but date back to the period of Curt Otto. Wegner of course can still claim credit for the introduction of colour-coding to Tauchnitz, which he went on to develop further at Albatross.


Uncoloured bands from volume 4743 'The secret that was kept' and from volume 4823 'The woman who stole everything'.

Coloured bands from vol. 4956 'A gallery of women' and from volume 5148 'Gretchen discovers America'


There is one key aspect of the uncoloured bands, whch has probably contributed to their rarity. Whereas the later bands folded into the wrapper with flaps at front and back, in the same way as a dustwrapper, the earlier ones wrapped tightly around the entire book. As soon as anybody wanted to open the book, the band would have to be removed and would usually be torn and discarded. Preserving the band would have needed to be a very deliberate act. In comparison the later bands at least alowed the books to be opened without removing or destroying them, so the chances of survival were greater.

Bookmark this page

Posted by Baronbern on January 4, 2013 at 5:55 AM Comments comments ()

As well as the Tauchnitz Periodical Record (see previous blog post), another recent ephemera find is worth noting. A bookmark dated April 1893 is not only slightly older than any of the previously recorded Tauchnitz bookmarks, but also differs from the later bookmarks in a number of small ways. The earliest bookmark recorded by Todd & Bowden is dated July 1894, with the latest in this series dated June 1914, leading them to hypothesise the existence of a series of 240 monthly bookmarks, although they found evidence of just 56 of these. From my own collection I can verify the existence of bookmarks for over 50 more months and I know that other collectors can take the total of confirmed months to over 150. With evidence now though that the series may stretch back to April 1893 or earlier (and extend to January 1915 or later) the likely total number in this series is over 260.


Bookmarks from April 1893 and December 1895 for comparison - front and back


The basic design of the 1893 bookmark is almost identical, but the colour is blue (similar to Todd & Bowden’s ‘second state’ rather than ‘first state’), there is no reference to the price of the books and there is no leaf decoration at the bottom of the rear side. Perhaps most significantly though, it is rather larger than the later bookmarks. At 17 x 6.7 cm, it is slightly longer than the standard Tauchnitz book size and so cannot be kept within a book without projecting slightly. From a utilitarian point of view this may be an advantage for a bookmark, but (as with the Periodical Record) it may have resulted in fewer copies surviving. The best hope for a bookmark to survive for over 100 years is for it to lie completely hidden within the pages of a book.


Another record

Posted by Baronbern on January 2, 2013 at 3:45 AM Comments comments ()

I have always been interested in the various brochures, bookmarks, leaflets and catalogues that Tauchnitz used to advertise their wares. As well as providing a wealth of background information on the firm, they add variety and interest to a collection. So far as I can judge from the Todd & Bowden research on other collections, my own collection is richer in this type of material than any of the other major collections. I have copies of many of the Monthly Descriptive lists, and of the general catalogues and other special lists, and there are photos of a selection of these in the Photos section of the website.


As with the books though, my guide to what I’m looking for has been the Todd & Bowden bibliography, which in sections L8 and L9 gives a detailed record of the various types of advertising that exist. Comparison with this guide reveals that after well over 20 years of collecting, there is still one significant gap in my collection. I have never found a copy of the Tauchnitz Quarterly Record issued in 1876 and 1877. Todd & Bowden (in section L8b) record at least 5 quarterly issues, although they too were unable to find any surviving copies, either for their own collection, or in any of the other collections that they inspected.


I have recently though come across 3 examples of an apparently similar ‘Periodical Record of the Tauchnitz Edition’ dating from 1892/3. Could these be a direct successor of the Quarterly Record? Although coming 15 years later, they appear to fit the description applied to the Quarterly Record, and they are dated in March and December 1892 and March 1893, so seem to fit a possible quarterly schedule. Did the firm perhaps continue to issue similar lists on an intermittent basis for many years while failing to issue them quite regularly enough to justify the title of a quarterly record?



One clue to explain why so few of these catalogues have survived is their size. At roughly 22 x 14cm they are considerably larger than most Tauchnitz catalogues and lists, and in particular are too large to be kept within the pages of the books themselves. Most of the other lists and leaflets that have survived, have done so comfortably pressed between pages. Larger leaflets like these have had to make it through the last 100 years or more on their own.

Branding and Social Networking 1930s style

Posted by Baronbern on June 3, 2012 at 5:50 AM Comments comments ()

What were the Albatross Crime Club and the Albatross Mystery Club? Were they really clubs in any meaningful sense of the word? The branding clearly came from the Collins Crime Club in the UK, which was not a traditional book club, but more of a mailing list. Occasional newsletters were sent out to anyone who registered an interest, although so far as I know there was no fee to join. In modern terms, it was more of a Facebook Group than a real club.


The Albatross Crime Club not only took its name and logo from the Collins Crime Club, but almost all of its titles as well. As far as I can see, all but one of the books had already been published in the Collins Crime Club before appearing in Albatross, although it may be that in rare cases the Albatross edition had precedence. The one exception seems to have been Agatha Christie’s ‘Parker Pyne investigates’, which for some odd reason was initially published as a Collins Mystery rather than in the Crime Club series, although it did eventually get there many years later.



That still means that all the books came via Collins. That seems to have been a qualification for entry to the series, as a small number of crime novels from other publishers continued to be published in the main Albatross series, even after the launch of the Crime Club.

So it looks as if the Albatross Crime Club was effectively the continental arm of the Collins Crime Club, and was similar in being essentially just a mailing list. Readers were invited to join the Club by returning a small card inserted in the books. It cost nothing to join, but members were promised regular lists of the selections made for the Club. The only evidence I've seen to confirm that anything was ever provided to members is a leaflet from late 1933 listing the Crime Club books. It may be that copies of this were sent out to the mailing list as well as being inserted into new volumes.



The Albatross Mystery Club is more of a puzzle, as there was no equivalent branding on the Collins Mystery books in the UK. Albatross seem to have created a new name and a new logo to go alongside the Crime Club, although again it seems that books were only given the Mystery Club branding if they were published by Collins in the UK. So for instance Albatross published three crime books by Dorothy L Sayers in the main series (i.e. not Crime Club) but then two others in the Mystery Club series, and the only distinction seems to be that Collins had acquired reprint rights in the UK for the latter two.



Whatever the thinking was behind the marketing of these series, it seems to have been successful. The Albatross Crime Club ran to over 100 titles in 6 and a bit years, and included quite a high proportion of the UK Crime Club titles over this period. There were a further 23 Mystery Club titles in the later period. Although some of the books from both series are now quite a bit harder to find than the main series Albatross titles, I suspect that’s because the survival rate of crime books is lower than that of literary fiction rather than because sales were lower.