Tauchnitz Editions


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Identifying first printings

Posted by Baronbern on October 13, 2010 at 4:08 PM Comments comments (47)

In their Tauchnitz bibliography, Todd & Bowden seem to have worked on the reasonable assumption that copies with fewer other titles listed on the back of the half-title pre-date those with a larger number, unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Such evidence could for instance come from paperback copies.


There are a number of cases though where the order of precedence looks questionable. Take for instance the sequence of M.E. Braddon novels, starting with volume 722, the first volume of ‘Henry Dunbar’. Tauchnitz had issued four other Braddon titles before this one, and the first printing would normally be expected to show these four titles. Copies in this format exist in several libraries. However the British Library has an early paperback copy (but not a true first printing) that lists no other titles, and so Todd & Bowden give this precedence. That may be right, but given that such a version is out of line with normal Tauchnitz practice, is there really any reason to suppose that it was issued first?



'Henry Dunbar' with no other titles on the half-title verso.  Todd & Bowden issue a -  but is it really a 1st printing?


Much the same situation exists for the next Braddon title, volume 748 ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. Copies exist both with five other titles issued (which is what you would expect to see in the first printing) and with no other titles. There is again no conclusive evidence to show which is earlier and so Todd & Bowden give precedence to the version with no other titles. The next Braddon title, volume 778 ‘Only a Clod’, exists with 6 other titles listed, and then volume 816 ‘Sir Jasper’s Tenant’, exists with 7 other titles. No copies with no titles listed have been identified for these two volumes. But the position reappears in volume 843 ‘’The Lady’s Mile’, which exists both with 8 titles and with no titles, again with no clear evidence to show which is first.


The existence of copies with no other titles listed for three of these five books suggests a deliberate policy rather than a mistake, but doesn’t explain why or when such copies were issued. Is it possible that both versions were issued simultaneously for some reason, perhaps in different markets? Might there also be versions of ‘Only a clod’ and ‘Sir Jasper’s tenant’ with no titles listed, as yet undiscovered?


The same problem exists for at least one Dickens title, volume 888 ‘Somebody’s luggage’. The natural number of titles listed for this volume would be 20 and copies exist in this form, including a paperback copy that is at least a very early printing, if not definitely the very earliest. But Todd & Bowden identified single hardback copies with no titles listed, and with 10 titles listed, and recorded these as the earlier printings.


'Somebody's luggage' with 20 other titles on the half-title verso.  Todd & Bowden issue c - but is it really a first printing?


Does any of this really matter? As far as the market for second hand books is concerned, probably not, as few dealers can identify first printings anyway. There’s little discernible difference in the prices for first printings or reprints. Maybe it’s of some importance though to collectors of Dickens or Mrs. Braddon.


For my own collection, I’m aiming to find first printings as far as can be identified, which usually means following Todd & Bowden. For these few titles though, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I’m happy enough to treat copies with the ‘right’ number of other titles listed, as being as good as first printings. Even Todd & Bowden may just occasionally have been wrong.

Rarity and price

Posted by Baronbern on September 25, 2010 at 4:56 PM Comments comments (27)

Tauchnitz Editions are not rare. At the time of writing there are over 13,000 of them offered for sale on the ABEbooks website alone, and at any one time eBay will usually have over 1,000 of them up for auction. You can go into almost any second-hand bookshop anywhere in Europe and have a pretty good chance of turning up at least one Tauchnitz edition.  And yet, many individual Tauchnitz Editions are undoubtedly rare. I have spent over 20 years searching for them, and there are still around 2,000 that I have been unable to find in first printing at a reasonable price.


Many are genuinely rare, and some, from particular authors, are much sought after. But part of the answer is in that last phrase, ‘at a reasonable price’. There is no consensus at all about what the appropriate price is for Tauchnitz books, either in first printing or in reprints, and of course there is no right answer. Todd & Bowden commented only that prices in the 1980s varied between the ‘irrational extremes’ of 50c and $1500. They expressed the hope that partly as a result of their bibliography, an equitable price might eventually be established, and more temperate language used in describing copies for sale.  Unfortunately this has not happened. Copies offered on the internet are still routinely described as first printings when they are evidently not, and rarity is often ascribed to copies that are anything but.


One of the most extreme examples is ‘Transformation’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Tauchnitz volumes 515 / 516), possibly the most common of all Tauchnitz editions. This was produced in particular in a vellum bound edition with additional albumen photos bound in, and sold as a tourist memento in Italy, probably no earlier than the late 1860s. Todd & Bowden (page 197) record 29 copies of this in US institutional locations. On ABE at present there are another 23 such copies amongst a total of 40 copies of this book in the Tauchnitz Edition for sale. All of these copies are likely to be reprints.




Realistically it is hard to see, on the basis of supply and demand, why anyone should pay more than $2 or $3 for a copy of this book. Copies that are offered on eBay, if they sell at all, sell for this kind of price. Yet most dealers on ABE price the book at $50 or more, and of course the book remains unsold. There are currently 14 copies of the tourist edition offered for sale at over $100 on ABE and 5 over $250. The most optimistic dealer, one James F. O’Neil in Boston, offers it at a price of $500.


One difficulty is that ABE has become the easiest way for lazy dealers to establish the ‘value’ of a book. If you know nothing about a book it’s easy enough to look it up on ABE and see what price other dealers are offering it for. Unfortunately, by definition, the copies on ABE are the copies that have not sold, usually because they are over-priced. Copies that are sensibly priced are sold and no record remains on the website. The result is that more and more over-priced and unsold copies accumulate on the internet and provide more and more weight of evidence to demonstrate the ‘market price’.


Update 13 October

The distinction of being the most optimistic dealer to offer 'Transformation' on ABE has passed to Ursus Rare Books of New York, who are now offering a copy for a mere $1250.  Oddly they do so after having consulted Todd & Bowden, recognising that it's a late reprint in the 4th setting, and even quoting the comment from Todd & Bowden that this is the book 'most often found' in this format.


Posted by Baronbern on August 30, 2010 at 10:29 AM Comments comments (46)

This website is really a tribute to William Todd and Ann Bowden. I already owned a good number of Tauchnitz Editions before I ever came across Todd & Bowden. At the time though I was more interested in the Albatross Editions, which became a part of the Tauchnitz story only towards the end, and it was only when I first discovered the Todd & Bowden bibliography, that I started to take a greater interest in Tauchnitz.


They made it possible to start to identify, with at least a reasonable degree of accuracy, whether volumes were first printings or reprints. They also listed the known copies in existing collections around the world, and by exception, the considerable number of volumes, of which there was no known copy in first printing in any collection. In the 20 years since then my own collection has grown to well over 3000 copies in first printing, as far as can be determined, and many of those missing volumes have now been tracked down. I aim to record on this website, some of what I’ve learned over that period, and in so doing, add to the work of Todd & Bowden.