French pirate edition of 'Monsieur Vieuxbois' by anonymous artist, 1839
The original edition by Toepffer only had a very small printrun , so this rather awful pirate copy was made in Paris. What makes this extremely important is that it got into the hands of a British publisher who again made a copy of it. This British 'copy of a copy' was made by a better artist than the perpetrator of the stuff below. And it became the first long comicbook in England, and indeed America, because an American edition with the British printingblocks was made soon afterwards.
It's not quite correct to see in this the beginning of US comics literature, because the main inspiration came from later artists, who were probably inspired by the original versions of Toepffer . (This needs more research.)

Page 2 and 3 advertise further Aubert products:

The 'preface', without the many figures in the background. (Which are a wonderful example of Töpffer's draughtsmanship)

Page 2 -12 . Notice the missing soldiers: making fun of the military is one thing in liberal Switzerland, but quite another in Paris. Compare with the original.

Comparison of key sequence in Vieuxbois (second version, 1839) and the Aubert pirate version (1839) and the Obadia Oldbuck US version (1842)

These enlightening comments were sent to the Platinumcomics discussion group (Message 6980) by Leonardo di Sá

Chronologically we have:

1837: first Swiss Rodolphe Töpffer edition of his "Histoire de Mr. Vieux Bois".
1839: early this year were published the first Aubert versions of three Töpffer albums, including "Vieux Bois".
1839: in April, in Geneva, Töpffer released the second improved edition of his "Vieux Bois" in reaction to the bootlegs.
1839: by the end of the year Töpffer's protests against the bad quality of the fakes had apparently Aubert do second editions of the three stories, now closer to the originals.
1841: late this year "The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck" was published in Great Britain by Tilt & Bogue, in London.
1842: the British edition was reprinted in the USA in another format by Wilson and Company, New York, dated September 14, 1842, as a supplement to "Brother Jonathan" Extra no. IX.

One should note that a mid-nineteenth century reprint or copy is not photographically the *same* as the original printing. We have talked about this before and this Töpffer case is exemplary. A manual copy redrawn by some artisan is just that: A COPY. The result can be one of three things:

- the almost exact duplication of the original, which is not very likely or common;

- the simplified version of the drawings as compared to the original, which is what happens in most instances;

- and finally, the copy can add some sort of detail as compared to the original, which just goes to show that engravers had a fair amount of liberty.

Now, what we first have here is a somewhat crude (simplified) Parisian copy of the Töpffer originals. Then we have another Brit / American copy which apparently adds some flourishing to the drawings. As far as it goes, this doesn't seem at all impossible.

From the comparison of Töpffer's 1839 version of "Vieux Bois", the known Aubert bootleg and the Brit / American editions I would say that was exactly what happened.

And this is what Andy has plainly shown us.

We know that Töpffer had a private distribution *network* that allowed for copies of his albums to be sold by book-dealers abroad: Cherbuliez in Paris, Jules Gerster in Neuchâtel, in Tübingen (Germany), in London, etc. But we also know that there weren't really enough Swiss copies to go around. Even Paris, sharing the same language, didn't get an adequate amount of copies - and this permitted the appearance of the Parisian counterfeits. Most probably very few original Töpffer editions made it to England.

On the other hand we know that Aubert had it's authorized agent in London, Delaporte's in the Burlington Arcade (remember we are talking about the first half of the nineteenth century, when any educated Englishman had at least some knowledge of French...) and the Parisian publisher was in contact with Tilt & Bogue. We also have George Cruikshank's assertion that the frontispiece for the British edition was "copied from a French book by my Brother."


The problem is that I at least do not know the Töppfer 1837 published version which was the direct original for the Parisian bootleg. Nor do I know anyone who has that edition, which was also NEVER reprinted.

To further complicate matters, there were the different Aubert versions of the three albums. Reportedly, the first versions published in early 1939 deviated from the originals (inverted drawings et al) whereas the second editions had corrections introduced. Andy's copy is surely a second bootleg edition, not a first. For one it does not have any inverted drawings and besides the publisher's catalog has two of Cham's comic strip albums which also came out in 1839 but only AFTER the first Töpffer counterfeits ("Mr. Lamélasse" and "Histoire de Mr. Lajaunisse").

It *could* well be that Obadiah is CLOSER in detail to the 1837 Töpffer version than to the 1839 Aubert edition, but this can only be deduced if we can compare all versions.

In conclusion: in all likelihood, the British Tilt & Bogue edition (and hence the American) was indeed taken from the Parisian Aubert. But we will not know absolutely for sure until we have seen the missing versions.

I have discussed this problem some months ago with Michel Kempeneers and Thierry Smo., namely the possibly of having copies made from some library in Switzerland. Unfortunately nothing has yet surfaced.