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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECT: Agatha Christie First Editions: 1955-1959

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

This is the ninth instalment on our series on ‘true firsts’ where we review the first time Agatha Christie’s stories were published – including the newspaper or magazine serialisation if this occurred before the hardback book was published.


Part 1: 1920 to 1932 (link)

Part 2: 1933 to 1935 (link)

Part 3: 1935 to 1937 (link)

Part 4: 1938 to 1940 (link)

Part 5: 1940 to 1944 (link)

Part 6: 1944 to 1948 (link)

Part 7: 1948 to 1951 (link)

Part 8: 1952 to 1954 (link)


Part 9: 1955 to 1959:


In this part we will focus on five books first published from 1955 to 1959. While first edition hardback books are the pinnacle of many Christie collections, for others, the less travelled world of magazine collecting is appealing. All of these novels, or the stories collected, first appeared in magazines or newspapers. While magazines are still generally easy to locate, original newspaper printings will be almost impossible to obtain. Also, we do not discuss The Burden, which was published in 1956 under her pen name, Mary Westmacott. For that book, and other Westmacott titles, please click here.


Hickory Dickory Dock (1955)

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull (UK) in six abridged instalments from May 28 (Vol. 97, No. 2552) to July 2, 1955 (Vol. 98, No. 2557).

In the US, the novel was first serialised in Collier's Weekly in three abridged instalments from October 14 (Vol. 136, No. 8) to November 11, 1955 (Vol. 136, No. 10) under the alternate title Hickory Dickory Death. One does wonder though what Christie would have thought of the covers of some of these magazines given 'Women's stockings' was deemend more important that her new novel! Values: all magazines are afforable and range from £10-20 ($15-30) based on condition.

First Edition: Published by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK on 31st October, 1955. Priced 10/6 with the traditional orange boards. Of note, this was the first full length novel to feature Felicity Lemon - Poirot's secretary. Prior to this, she had only appeared in short stories. Value: This book is starting to creep higher in value. A patient buyer should still be able to find a very good Collins for £150-200.

First US Hardback: Published by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, USA in November, 1955 under the alternate title used by Colliers - Hickory Dickory Death. Priced $3.00 on the jacket and with green boards. In general, when the US retitled books is was generally to add words such as murder or death to them - likely to avoid any confusion as to the genre. As with all Dodd Mead printings from this era be cautious of 'book club editions' which often do not have a list of other Christie titles to the left of the title page. Value: A very good Dodd Mead will likely sell for $150-200.


Dead Man's Folly (1956)

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in Collier's Weekly (US) in three abridged instalments from 20 July - 17 August 1956 (Vol. 138, Nos. 2-4). In the UK, the novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull in six abridged instalments from 11 August to 15 September 1956 (Vol. 100, Nos. 2615-2620). Values: all magazines are afforable and range from £10-20 ($15-30) based on condition.


First Edition: Published by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, USA in October, 1956. Priced $2.95, but now with red cloth. Value: Again, be cautious of Book Club Editions that have no price on the flaps and a reference to other Book Club titles on the rear. Value: A very good Dodd Mead will likely sell for $150-200.

First UK Hardback: The first UK printing was by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK on the 5th November, 1956. Priced 12/6 with the traditional orange boards. Value: A buyer should still be able to find a very good Collins for £150-200.


4:50 From Paddington (1957)

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull (UK) in five abridged instalments from 5 October to 2 November 1957 (Vol. 102, Nos. 2675-2679). In the US, the novel was first serialised in the Chicago Tribune in thirty six instalments from Sunday 27 October to Saturday 7 December 1957 under title Eyewitness to Death. Of note for magazine collectors, on the 28th December 1957, an abridged version of the novel was also published in Canada as a supplement to the Toronto Star Weekly newspaper under the title Eye Witness to Death. Of particular note is how the Star described Christie in their brief bio: "Stately, publicity shy ... silver-haired grandmother ... most of the year she lives quietly in three houses in England which she swaps for a mud hut in the Middle East each spring ... she recommends domestic routines for creative thinking".

Prices are similar to magazines as referenced earlier, though the Toronto Star weekly publication is very scarce and can command a premium of up to $100 CDN.

First Edition: Published by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK in November 1957. Priced 12/6 with traditional orange boards. While the US printing appeared in the same month, the specific print dates aren't known so precedence is generally given to the UK version as the true first. Value: A buyer should still be able to find a very good Collins for £125-150.

First US Hardback: Published under the alternate title of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! by Dodd Mead & Co., New York, USA in November 1957. Priced $2.95 with red cloth. It references on the copyright page that is was first published under the title Eye Witness to Death. Given the more oft-used approach by Dodd Mead to use titles such as this, it is odd that they shifted to the rather obscure title they did which really says nothing about the books content. Value: A very good Dodd Mead will likely sell for $100-150.


Ordeal by Innocence (1958)

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull (UK) in two abridged instalments on 20th and 27th September 1958 (Vol. 104, Nos. 2725-2726).


In the US, the first publication was in the Chicago Tribune in thirty-six parts from Sunday, February 1 to Saturday, March 14, 1959, under the title of The Innocent. Following on from the last book, the Toronto Star also published this novel in an abridged version on the 21st February 1959 in a supplement to their paper (image courtesy of J. Farrell). Values: all magazines are afforable and range from £10-20 ($15-30) based on condition.


First Edition: Published by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK on the 3rd November 1958. Priced 12/6. It was shod in traditional orange cloth. Value: A buyer should still be able to find a very good Collins for £75-100.

First US Hardback: The US edition was published by Dodd Mead & Co., New York, in February 1959. Priced $2.95 with red boards. Value: A very good Dodd Mead will likely sell for $75-100.


Cat Among the Pigeons (1959)

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull (UK) in six abridged instalments from 26 September to 31 October, 1959 (Vol. 106, Nos. 2771-2776).

In the US a condensed version of the novel appeared in the November 1959 (Volume LXXVI, Number 11) issue of the Ladies' Home Journal. Values: all magazines are afforable and range from £10-20 ($15-30) based on condition.


First Edition: Published by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK on the 2nd November, 1959. Priced 12/6. Traditional orange cloth. Value: A buyer should still be able to find a very good Collins for £40-50.

First US Hardback: The first US edition by Dodd Mead & Co, New York was published in March 1960 but solely shows a 1959 copyright date. Priced $2.95. Again, be cautious of Book Club Editions. Above is the correct rear panel for a first jacket. Value: A very good Dodd Mead will likely sell for $50-75.


Summary:

It used to be that Christie’s books from the 1950s were fairly ubiquitous. This has changed in the last few years and collector quality copies of all these titles with complete jackets will require patience – perhaps more so for collectors of the US editions surprisingly. For US editions, ensure the copy you are buying is the correct first and not the book club version. There are online sites that sell facsimile jackets and these can be used as reference. For UK versions, all domestic books below had their price on the front flap. In all cases, identical but unpriced jackets were produced for the export market. These are generally worth 5-10% less. Many of the UK books also had later printing jackets with cheaper prices. Often these prices are clipped off and the jacket is then married to a first printing. As such, price clipped jackets are often worth at least 10-15% less. For the magazines discussed, collector quality copies are quite affordable though patience may be needed to assemble complete sets when serialised. Newspaper printings will be incredibly rare as they were rarely, if ever, retained.


The information provided is believed to be accurate. Any corrections, enhancements or additional points are clarity are most welcome. Email them to collectchristie@gmail.com


Other News: The International Agatha Christie Festival: September 2023.

Now only two months away... if you haven't made plans, consider attending this year's festival in Torquay, Devon. More events have recently been added and there are still plenty of tickets available to most of them. I will be presenting a ‘Collecting Christie Live!’ event at the 2023 International Agatha Christie Festival at 3pm on Friday 15th September (yes – Christie’s birthday!). My presentation will be about Christie’s stage plays, with insights into collecting playscripts, programmes and other theatre memorabilia. Tickets are required with proceeds supporting the Festival’s Charity. For more details click here.


I will work on a way to share my insights and findings with those who can't attend. Be certain to subscribe/register (link) on this website so that you receive announcements of new articles as they are written. For those who are coming I will be at numerous other events, including the numerous talks, the cocktail night on Wednesday, the Towards Zero play event on Friday and the Greenway dinner on Saturday. I hope to connect with as many of you as I can at these events.

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