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The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America





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In the twenty-first century, making a literary work readily available and potentially famous worldwide can, via the internet, be accomplished quite easily and almost instantaneously. During the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, however, because works of fiction were published only in paper formats, and the existing means for distributing such materials and information about them were quite limited, this process was much more difficult and took considerably longer. Somewhat surprisingly, the companies that in the past actually made American literary works available to readers outside the United States have thus far received comparatively little scholarly attention. Understanding these firms and the distribution systems they established, though, is essential not only to determining how certain works of American literature—as well as their authors—became well known outside the United States but also to formulating more accurate hypotheses as to the cultural labor they performed. One of the most important facilitators of such popularity between 1841 and 1943 was an English-language reprint series published by the Bernhard Tauchnitz firm of Leipzig, Germany, at first entitled “Collection of British Authors” and, after 1930, the “Collection of British and American Authors” (henceforth simply referred to as the Collection). The former title is actually quite misleading, as American authors were involved from the beginning to the end in this series, which eventually included 5,370 volumes and sold over forty million copies;2 in fact, Tauchnitz published James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy as number 5 in the Collection (April 1842) and Margaret Halsey’s With Malice Toward Some was number 5,362 (1939), making the latter among the last ten volumes published in the series.


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DOI: 10.1086/697479