INSIGHTS: The 1926 Dodd, Mead & Co. edition of Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Updated: Feb 5
In this article we will explore a collectible, but less well known, printing of a Christie – but from a well-known publisher - Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, USA.
Christie's First Book:
While Dodd, Mead & Co. was essentially the exclusive publisher of Christie’s first editions in the United States, they did not publish Christie’s first novel. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was first printed in the U.S. by John Lane Company, New York, in September 1920. The U.K. edition was published the following year (January 1921) by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London. Both of these books are incredibly scarce and original dust jackets are essentially non-existent and, if found, unaffordable to all but a few. Of note, the US and UK jackets for these first printings used the same cover art though printing nuances caused the colour of the lettering to vary slightly.
In the U.S., John Lane Company authorized the National Book Company to issue a reprint of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Their edition, generally accepted as the 2nd U.S. edition, utilized the same printing plates and cloth binding design as John Lane Company. They didn’t even change the copyright or published date within the book, so this edition is often listed by sellers as a 1920 printing. However, it is more likely to have been printed in 1922-1923 as copies that do show for sale generally have gift or ownership inscriptions in them from this period. Given the almost identical format, it is likely that it had a similar dust jacket – though we have never seen one.
For Agatha Christie’s second book, The Secret Adversary, and onwards, Dodd, Mead & Co. became her U.S. publisher. After the initial print run, Dodd, Mead & Co. often awarded the reprint rights to Grosset & Dunlap. Most, but not all, of these early books were reprinted. While Grosset & Dunlap generally used the same printing sheets and format, their cloth covers differed and the dust jackets did not always use art from Dodd, Mead’ &Co.'s first editions.
Images below: The first Dodd Mead & Co. book and rear panel of the jacket.
By 1926, Dodd, Mead & Co. had acquired the copyright and thus the reprint rights for Christie’s first book. When they first published The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in July 1926 they also printed The Mysterious Affair at Styles. While the third U.S. printing of this title, it was the first Dodd, Mead & Co. printing and is assumed to have been published in either July or August. This book, particularly in jacket, is highly sought by collectors because it utilizes the unaltered first edition artwork on the front panel – the same art that covered the John Lane Company (US) and The Bodley Head (UK) first editions. In addition, there are many Christie collectors in the U.S. and globally who desire a complete collection of first Dodd, Mead & Co. printings of Christie titles, making this 1926 imprint an essential addition.
Images below: The title and copyright pages of Dodd, Mead & Co.'s first printing.
Dodd, Mead & Co. did reprint The Mysterious Affair at Styles in both [Jan-Feb] 1927 and in March 1927 (now dated). On both of these 1927 printings it is unclear whether the cover art was still unaltered, or now included the added text “Author of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”. We have not seen a jacket still on either 1927 edition but expect that if it was unchanged from the 1926 version all have likely been married off. These would be the fourth and fifth US printings, and the second and third Dodd Mead printings of this title. For the March 1927 edition, Dodd Mead refers to it as the 'Fourth printing' - but they are failing to acknowledge the existance of the National Book Company printing - possibly because it wasn't actually a second print run, but a re-shod first printing.
Images below: The 1927 Dodd, Mead & Co. printing title and copyright pages.
The success of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd really put Christie in the mainstream. The demand for this title was so strong that between Dodd Mead and Grosset & Dunlap it was reprinted six further times in 1926 alone. As demand for Christie grew, Dodd Mead & Co. focused their efforts on the full priced new titles and the two early 1927 printings of Styles were the last time it was printed under their name.
By now the cover panel of the jacket had been altered to promote The Murder of Roger Ackroyd making it less appealing to collectors. From this point on all reprints had this reference on the cover, including the ubiquitous World War II period edition under the Madison Square imprint.
The first Grosset & Dunlap reprint of Styles was dated March 1927 but was likely issued later in the year. Also, this reprint incorrectly retained the 'Fourth Printing' line from the prior Dodd Mead plates.
Images below: The title and copyright pages from the first Grosset & Dunlap book.
In addition to leaving in the old 'Fourth Printing' notation, neither Dodd Mead nor Grosset & Dunlap acknowledged the National Book Company version in the printing sequences. Errors in printing sequences continued to be common all the way through the 1980s with many of Christie's books.
U.S. Printing History:
First Edition: John Lane Company, October, 1920. States 1920 on the copyright page. Dated MCMXX on the title page.
Second Edition/Printing?: National Book Company, [1922-1923]. Only states 1920 on the copyright page. No change to the title page. Shod in different cloth but appearing to use the same plates it is possible this was rebound original first edition stock. For now, the assumption is it was a second printing that just reused the original plates.
Third printing: Dodd, Mead & Co., [July-Aug], 1926. Date on the title page. Copyright page states 1920.
Fourth printing: Dodd, Mead & Co., [Jan-Feb], 1927. Date on the title page. Copyright page states 1920.
Fifth printing: Dodd, Mead & Co., March, 1927. Year on the title page. Copyright page states 1920 Copyright, and 'Fourth Printing, March, 1927.'
Sixth printing: Grosset & Dunlap, March, 1927. States “Fourth Edition March 1927” under the copyright. No date on the title page.
There is no recent public sale history of either the first (John Lane) or second US edition (National Book Club) in a dust jacket of this title that can be referenced. Given other sales, one can estimate that the first edition would likely command $75,000 - $125,000 US in very-good condition, while the book itself is worth ~10% of this. A jacketed NBC edition has never been seen by us but it is assumed to be almost identical. If this is correct, it is likely it would command $10,000 - $20,000 US in jacket in very good condition, though the book by itself is perhaps worth 5%. The Dodd, Mead & Co. 1926 version (1st Dodd, 3rd edition) periodically shows for sale as a book only and is fairly priced at ~$200 US. Using the 5% - 10% range, it is fair to consider a very-good jacketed copy would be worth $1,000 - $2,000 US. The later 4th edition Dodd is likely worth ~$500 US jacketed, while the 6th (stated 4th) edition Grosset & Dunlap is worth ~$200 US jacketed. The later Madison Square versions are worth under $50 US.
Happy hunting... may you find the above!