Tauchnitz Edition

aka/ Collection of British Authors (1842-1900)
aka/ Collection of British and American Authors (1900-1943)
aka/ Tauchinitz Collection of British and American Authors

Bernhard Tauchnitz (Leipzig, Germany)
Series dates: 1842-1943
Size: 7″ x 4.5″ (paperbound) and 6.5″ x 4.75″ (clothbound)

The Leipzig publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz was among the most important reprint publishers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were an early innovator in the publishing of paperbound books (the majority of their titles were sold as paperbound, although many were rebound by their owners) as well as an important player in the development of international copyright.

Established in 1837, the firm specialized in publishing foreign (non-German) language titles, especially those written in English. In 1842 the Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors series was established: the first title was Bulwer “It was a dark and stormy night” Lytton’s novel Pelham. The series name was modified to the Tauchnitz Collection of British and American Authors around 1900. This name change was problematic as Tauchnitz managed to keep all of its titles in print until near the end of the series in the 1930s. Something as simple as a series name adjustment meant plate changes for the wrappers and front material for all of the thousands of series titles. Tauchnitz was significantly weakened by factors related to WW1, and increasing competition led to a decline in is fortunes in the late 1920s and 1930s. The series lasted until 1943, when the Tauchnitz facilities were destroyed in a bombing raid. The Tauchnitz name was used, intermittently, through the 1960s, but the heyday of the series and firm ended during WW2.

International copyright was weak during much of the 19th century. English (and American and other English language) books were commonly published and sold throughout Europe (and beyond) without any payment to the authors. Tauchnitz countered this trend, and sought agreements with authors to publish their books and pay royalties. This approach to publishing international authors was both an ethical and smart business move, as it encouraged authors to allow their new books to be issued outside of the UK, colonies and US ahead of Tauchnitz’s competition (who typically paid no royalties).

The Pressler collection of 8000+ Tauchnitz Editions at the National Library of Scotland. Photo from Tauchnitz Editions blog.

While Tauchnitz issued a few other series, the Collection of British and American Authors was the publisher’s focus. When the last book in the series was issued in 1943 (P.G. Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning, published while he was interred by the Gestapo in Berlin) the number of titles issued had reached 5,370, well beyond the 1000 or so ultimately issued by Everyman’s Library and the 900 or so issued by Oxford University Press under the World’s Classics series name.

The vast majority of Tauchnitz series titles were paperbound. The paper bindings are also known as “wraps” or “card bound.” When the term “wrapper” is used in this context, it means the heavier paper cover of a paperbound book (which is glued to the binding). These books were often rebound as hardcovers by their owners, and a panoply of non-publisher bindings can be found. Tauchnitz also sold hardbound copies of titles in the series, in many dozens of styles with little consistency over the years.

Information below is taken from the massive bibliography of Tauchnitz Editions compiled by William Todd and Ann Bowden (see citation below).

Clothbound Tauchnitz Editions:

Tauchnitz offered their own hardbound (cloth, leather, etc.) version of selected titles in the series. These were offered from the start of the series (1842), but were not particularly consistent in style. Some were bound by Tauchnitz, others sent for special bindings by external binders. Many dozens of binding styles are documented in the Todd and Bowden book.

The first larger-scale, consistent series of clothbound Tauchnitz Editions were issued between 1909-1929, in maroon cloth. A more elaborate “gift binding” was also offered. 416 titles were available in these hardcover bindings. German competitors challenged Tauchnitz, including the English Library published by Internationale Bibliothek (Berlin) from 1921-1926.

In 1929, a redesigned leather binding was offered on 71 titles. Soon after, in 1930, red clothbound titles appeared. Series numbers 4928-5169, probably through 5190, were available in both cloth and paperbound versions. These titles were priced at M2.50 (compare to M1.50 for the paperbound books). At this price, they were unpopular, and, today, very uncommon. Sales were largely limited to Germany. A final cloth binding, in blue, known from only one example, was issued in 1937.

Dust Jackets on Tauchnitz Editions: Very Scarce

According to Todd and Bowden, dust jackets were used only near the end of the Tauchnitz series, covering the red clothbound titles, starting in 1930. This is strange, as the Germans had been using jackets on books since the middle of the 19th century. The general rule of thumb with dust jackets is that they were used to protect books intended for retail sale, to protect the binding during shipping and while displayed in a store. If pre-1909 hardbound Tauchnitz titles were largely special orders, they may have not had jackets (they were not going to sit on a shelf for sale). It seems possible that the maroon cloth bindings issued beginning in 1909 had jackets, particularly if they were intended for retail sale. Most series issued in the UK and US had dust jackets, after the 1870s. Alas, Todd and Bowden did not find any examples (which is possible, given the relatively small numbers of these publisher hardcovers issued). I am, however, more than a bit confused by the seeming lack of dust jacket use by Tauchnitz prior to 1930.

The red clothbound titles issued beginning in 1930 (Series numbers 4928-5169, and probably through 5190) had jackets. These were printed on grey paper using the same plates used to print the covers (wrappers) on the paperbound books. The Ellen Glasgow title below (1933) is an example of these clothbound book jackets.

The identical text and graphics used on the paperbound and clothbound titles at this time makes them indistinguishable in a photo (say, an image on the internet). The dimensions of the paper and cloth bound books are slightly different (the paperbound are 7″ x 4.5″ and the cloth 6.5″ x 4.75″). There is at least one other dust jacket design from this era (below, not in my collection). A copy of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth (#5056, 1932) sports a jacket that is a significant step away from the earlier designs used for Tauchnitz dust jackets and wrappers (and towards the design used on US and UK reprint titles in the 1930s). The jacket even includes a quote from a review at the bottom. A stylized TE (Tauchnitz Editions) is centered on the jacket front and spine.

In 1935 Tauchnitz began issuing paperbound titles in a redesigned format. A pattern of geometric lines printed in seven colors helps distinguish different categories of books. The Hugh Walpole title below (1937) is an example of these paperbound book jackets.

These paperbound titles were issued in dust jackets, over the paper book cover printed with the same exact design. Again, this makes it difficult to tell if a book has a jacket or not in a photograph. The color scheme on the paperbound book covers and jackets:

Red: Adventure and Crime
Blue: Love Stories
Green: Travel and Foreign Peoples
Purple: Biography and Historical Novels
Yellow: Psychological Novels, Essays, etc.
Grey: Plays, Poetry and Collected Works
Orange: Tales and Short Stories, Humorous and Satirical Works

Redesign of the paper wrappers and dust jackets on paperbound titles occurs in 1937 (the centenary of the Tauchnitz firm) and 1938. The design of the wrappers and jackets, with its full color design, is a significant evolution towards the design used on other late 1930s paperbound and clothbound series books. These changes appear to be an attempt to bolster the declining series, pummeled by competition from a growing number of paperback competitors.


Additional resources:

Tauchnitz Editions collectors website is here.

Related website Paperback Revolution is here.

Bibliography: William B. Todd and Ann Bowden. Tauchnitz International Editions in English, 1841-1955, A Bibliographical History. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2003.

Complete Catalog of the Tauchnitz Edition of British and American Authors, 1905. This includes the series titles up to #3812.


Clothbound Tauchnitz Editions in dust jackets are very scarce. Tauchnitz editions were not sold in the US or British Empire, and it seems that few of these clothbound titles left Germany. They were also, as said, made in much smaller quantities than the paperbound versions. The clothbound titles were about a half-inch shorter and wider than the paperbound titles. It is not clear why this particular dimension difference was used (probably having to do with the firm’s binding machinery).

The copy of Ellen Glasgow’s Sheltered Life, below, is dated 1933. This particular book was part of a Glasgow collection owned by Cabell Carrington Tutwiler (information from Ric Zank, Blue Mountain Books & Manuscripts, Ltd.). Tutwiler was married to Glasgow’s younger sister Rebe, and the two travelled together. Ms. Glasgow was, apparently, not fond of Tutwiler, possibly because she missed her sister’s companionship after the wedding (source).

The dust jackets are printed on heavy, greyish paper. As noted, the design is identical to the covers (wrappers) on the paperbound titles. The series name (Tauchnitz Edition | British and American Authors) is at the top of the jacket spine. The author and title are centered on the spine between two cased lines. The volume number (here #5109) and price (M2.50) are below. The jacket front repeats the series name and volume number, title and author. The publisher’s imprint with Leipzig and Paris locations are followed by the note restricting sales in the British empire and US. The front jacket flap is blank.

The rear of the jacket and rear jacket flap is blank.

The books are bound in maroon cloth with gilt title, author, and publisher noted on the spine. A series colophon is debossed on the front cover of the book.

The half title page with the series (sub) name and volume number.

The title, author, publisher’s imprint and date of publication (1933).

The table of contents:

The first page of text:

The printer is noted on the last page: “Printed by the Offizin Haag-Drugulin A.G., Leipzig.


According to Todd and Bowden, jackets for paperbound titles were first used in 1935. Hugh Walpole’s A Prayer for My Son is #5268 in the series, in the paper binding, and is dated March 1937.  The color design, coded to the category for the book in the series, was used on both dust jackets and the book’s covers (wrappers). The series number, title and author, Tauchnitz colophon, and series number again, are on the jacket spine. The series name appears twice on the jacket front, along with the Leipzig | Hamburg | Paris imprint. The book is blurbed in three languages (English, German, French) on the front jacket flap.

The rear flap of the jacket explains the color scheme and categorization of titles in the Tauchnitz series in English, German, French and Italian. The rear of the jacket repeats the geometric color pattern, along with the series name and sales restriction statement.

The paper cover (wrapper) for this paperbound book is identical to the dust jacket.

The half title page with series name, volume number, and book title.

A list of Walpole titles available in the Tauchnitz Edition faces the title page. The title page is framed with a geometric pattern.

The copyright page includes a quote and dedication (from Walpole) as well as a note that the geometric pattern surrounding the title page is set from monotype material courtesy of the Monotype Corporation. The copyright date for the book is also indicated, March of 1937.

The first page of text:

A note on the typography (Baskerville) is inserted near the end of the book. The paper is made by the Bautzen Papermill. The printing and binding were done by Oscar Brandstetter, Leipzig. On the facing page is a list of authors in the series. A note indicates that 3 new titles are issued monthly. The address for the Paris office is included, if one wishes to request a catalog of titles.

The last page in the book includes a list of selected biographical works in the series, with prices (RM, Frs. and Lire).