Henrik Wilfred Christensen

The Danish Jules Verne Society

Newsletter no. 2. November 2006.


“A change of identity”

In my frequent search on the Internet for Jules Verne editions to complete my collection of Danish books, add to my Scandinavian collections or just searching interesting examples, I stumbled across a somewhat intriguing description of a book set for sale by an American antiquarian bookshop “Sumner & Stillman”.

The description of the book was as follows: 

“Verne, Jules. REISE TIL JORDENS CENTRUM. Chicago: Johnson, Anderson & Lawson, 1874. Bound in brown cloth with black leather spine label.

First edition in the Dutch language of JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH – published in double-column format in Chicago, with the same title page date (1874) as Scribner Armstrong´s first American edition. This edition was probably originally issued in wrappers; this copy was at some point bound in brown cloth with a leather spine label (it is ex library from a Wisconsin public library). Condition is very good (waterstain at the bottom of some leaves). Quite uncommon – in fact, to the knowledge of several major Verne collectors (as well as ourselves), this is the only known copy (though there must be another few somewhere!) of what was assuredly an extremely small printing by the little-known local publisher. See T&M V002.” 

The title reminded me of a book in my collection: Jules Verne. “Reise til Jordens Centrum”, P. F. Steensballe, Christiania 1873.
As this is a Norwegian edition with the exact same title as the Chicago-edition, I was wondering whether there could be a misinterpretation.
The common Dutch title of “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” is “Naar het middelpunt der aarde” – which is far from the title of the Chicago-edition.

I therefore asked the bookseller for further information concerning the language of the text in the book. Mr. Rick Loomis from Sumner & Stillman willingly delivered the required information. Sending him a scan of the title page and the first page with text of the Norwegian edition he answered:

First text page of Norwegian and Chicago editions.

“This is definitely the same language, same translation, etc. The title page of the Chicago copy is identical to yours except for the line at the very top and, of course, the Chicago publisher imprint. The beginning of the text is likewise identical – though not from the same printing plates, as the Chicago volume has double-column text (and thus only 131 pages).
You are right – the Taves & Michaluk “bibliography” is completely wrong – and it was this copy they were referring to!”

(He also mentioned his earlier doubt about the language and the Taves & Michaluk reference.)
The last sentence refers to a clause in “The Jules Verne Encyclopedia” by Brian Taves & Stephen Michaluk, Jr.

They write on page 107 of their book: “In 1874, Johnson Lawson of Chicago published a Dutch edition entitled Reise Til Jordens Centrum in a double-column format book”.

This information was used by Sumner & Stillman in their description. The former owner of the book had told, that this copy was the source used by Taves & Michaluk. Furthermore that this was the only copy known by major collectors.

I was now almost certain that this was a Jules Verne edition in a Scandinavian language and I purchased the book.

About the book

With the book in my hand I have been able to confirm that it is indeed a Scandinavian-American edition. The language is Norwegian – almost similar to Danish at that time.
By comparison with the Norwegian 1873-edition it is established, that the text is exactly the same. Both editions have 43 chapters.
On the title page of both editions is printed: “Efter den franske Originals 11te Oplag” (which means: “After the 11th printing of the French original”).
As the Norwegian 1873-edition was the only Norwegian or Danish translation of Jules Vernes “Voyage au centre de la terre” at that time – it is, in my opinion, beyond doubt that the Christiania-edition has been used by the Chicago publishers for their edition.

On the top of the title page of the Chicago-edition is printed: “Følgeblad til “Skandinaven”” (which means “Supplement to “Skandinaven””). About “Skandinaven” see below.

The book is printed in 2 columns on cheap relatively thin paper – often used for newspapers.

On the last fly-leaf is stamped in red ink: “Officially discarded – Public Library – Black River Falls, Wis.”

Furthermore, there are 2 identical stamps with the text: “Permanent Loan”.

A slip of paper pasted on the last fly-leaf bears the text: 15M – Apr. 1937. This book is to be returned on the last date given below.”
But there are no dates written on the slip!
There are traces of glue indicating 2 earlier slips.

Last fly-leaf  of Chicago edition.

The binding is brown full-cloth without decorations. Not typical for bindings from the 1870s.
There is a black leather spine-label with author and title in gold – possibly from an earlier binding, as it is rather unprofessionally cut.

“Skandinaven” and its editors (4,5)

“Skandinaven” was a newspaper in Norwegian for the numerous emigrants of Norwegian and Danish origin living in the Midwest.

The Jules Verne novel was a “supplement” to the newspaper readers and may have been serialized. This can only be confirmed by studying the original newspapers from that time.
(A microfilm of the “Skandinaven” from 1866-1941 is available at the university library in Trondheim and in the national library in Oslo – according to www.BIBSYS.no)

“Skandinaven” was founded in Chicago in 1866 by three partners John Anderson, Knud Langeland and Iver(Ivar?) Lawson(former Larsen) all of Norwegian origin. In the year 1873 the newspaper was reorganized with John A. Johnson, John Anderson and Victor Fremont Lawson(a son of Iver Lawson who died in 1872) as publishers.
In December 1876 they opened a bookstore “Skandinaven´s Boghandel”.
The firm was dissolved in 1878 and Anderson became the sole proprietor of “John Anderson & Co.” The firm prospered through the 1880s as many new emigrants arrived from Norway and Denmark.

The firm had developed as newspaper publishers, book publishers as well as booksellers.
Unfortunately the business records for the company has not survived which means that there is no bibliography of the books printed and published. But from catalogues and libraries more than 400 titles are known. (I have not (yet) found a source to this list of titles)
Frequently a book – especially fiction – was first printed as a serial in the newspaper.

John Andersons business is described as one of three large scale urban businesses (of Scandinavian origin) – the other two were I. T. Relling and Christian Rasmussen.
In the 1860s and the beginning of the 1870s they prospered from books imported from Scandinavia.

I. T. Relling came from Norway in 1866 and had an editorial position with “Skandinaven”. In 1869 he returned to Norway. He made contact with publishers in Christiania(todays Oslo) and Copenhagen. He then returned to Chicago and established a bookstore in 1870. In 1874 he started publishing a weekly newspaper “Norden” and he also published books.

As import duties were high (for protective reasons) in the 1860s and 1870s in America the price of an imported book had to be “unnecessarily” high.
Johnson wrote a letter to Lawson May 8th 1874 about (amongst others) marketing of Jules Verne´s Journey to the Centre of the Earth (!!) where he wrote that the book “was 90 c at Rellings stitched, but that is too much. I think 75 c is all it will bear. The sales will be mostly with the paper cover. I would run that, get 500 bound and push it at 75 c.”


A hitherto unrecognised Jules Verne edition of “Voyage au Centre de la Terre” in a Scandinavian language printed in America is found and described.
Alas a Dutch edition consequently has to be omitted.

This is an addition to the very few known Jules Verne editions printed in America in a Scandinavian language  intended for the Scandinavian emigrants in America.

The edition is brought as a supplement to a well known Scandinavian newspaper “Skandinaven”  from Chicago.
The publisher was at that time a well known and successful Norwegian company, which issued a newspaper, imported and sold books, printed its own books and later established a bookstore.

One other Jules Verne title issued by this company is known: “No 9672: Fortælling fra Norge”(“Un Billet de Loterie”), “Skandinaven´s Boghandel”, Chicago, Illinois, 1889”.

It is possible that the book was published as a separate book - not only as a “supplement” to the newspaper “Skandinaven”. An indication is found in a letter from one of the editors to another, where it is mentioned, that 500 books should be bound and that more unbound copies could be sold.
It is possible that this is one of these, but it is likewise possible that another printing have been made. The finding of other examples would be useful in order to answer this question.

The same letter indicates, that another printing company J. T. Relling sold an edition of the same title in 1874. This edition is not known. It is not certain that the editions mentioned in the letter are American printings – it may be imported books from Scandinavia.
Another Jules Verne title published by J. T. Relling & Co. is known: “Paa Vejen til Frankrig” (“Le Chemin de France”), 1889.

The book described is indeed one of a very few surviving Scandinavian-American Jules Verne editions  known by The Danish Jules Verne Society. 
Hopefully more will appear in the future.

It may well be that the book has been bought by the “Black River Falls Library” directly from the publishers. Small libraries are mentioned as frequent customers in the Scandinavian publishing companies.
It is probable that the book has been preserved in the library until at least 1937 – may be some more years.
Recently it has been in the possession of an American Jules Verne collector – where it has been for at least 10 years as “The Jules Verne Encyclopedia” was published in 1996. 

It has been very interesting to inquire into the history behind this book. I am certain that much more information on the subject is or will be available. 
Especially the list of 400 titles published by the Anderson company could reveal additional Jules Verne titles!


1.  www.BIBSYS.no
2.  www.jules-verne.dk
3.  https://rex.kb.dk

4. Orm Øverland: “Skandinaven and the Beginning of Professional Publishing”. Norwegian-American studies, Volume 31, p. 187. (NAHA online)

5. Jean Skogerboe Hansen: “Skandinaven and the John Anderson Publishing Company”.   Norwegian-American studies, Volume 28, p. 35. (NAHA online)

6. Brian Taves & Stephen Michaluk, Jr.: “The Jules Verne Encyclopedia”. Scarecrow Press, 1996.

7. www.sumnerandstillman.com

Henrik Wilfred Christensen, November 2006.