INSIGHTS: Agatha Christie's Italian "Styles"!
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
As the most widely published author of all time, Agatha Christie’s books have been translated into over 100 languages. Most readers of Christie’s works naturally read books published in their own language and published in their home country. Collectors may stray a little further, seeking true first printings which were either from England or the States. However, publications from other English-language or foreign language countries can be just as appealing to learn about or collect – even if you can’t read the language.
Cover art varied significantly around the world as did the literal translations of the titles. The cover art can be enjoyed by all fans of Christie world-wide and we can gain insights into how Christie’s stories were marketed in each region. In this article we share numerous different artistic portrayals of Christie’s first book as issued in Italy. Books were often retitled for one of two primary reasons – either because the English words wouldn’t translate clearly or because the publisher wanted to highlight the genre. In our opinion, not enough information is widely available about the foreign language books for anglophone collectors or fans. One of our most widely read prior articles provided insights into the first French printings by Le Masque. In this article we head south-east from France to discuss a selection of Italian printings – but with a twist.
Italian printings of Agatha Christie’s novels naturally had Italian titles. However, Italian publishers seemed to enjoy excessive tinkering with the actual title used. For the 66 novels, a total of 87 different titles in Italian are known. While there were 55 books that only ever had one title, there were 11 books that were published under multiple titles. Yet there is a definite winner for the book with the most titles – The Mysterious Affair at Styles. So far, this book has had at least 9 different titles and numerous different translations! In addition, Agatha Christie’s name was misspelled multiple times – either on the jackets or in the book. Needless to say, collecting all of them can be quite a challenge.
The Different Italian Titles & Editions of The Mysterious Affair at Styles:
For each book, we provide the Italian title, the translated title, and the spelling of Christie’s name as published if in error.
We are particularly grateful to Tiziano Agnelli who has provided insights, images and guidance on this article. He collaborated with Professor Robert Pirani, distinguished Italian bibliographer of Florence, about the “Dizionario bibliografico del giallo” (Italian “Yellow novels” Bibliographic Dictionary) and with “Delitto & Paura” to provide them with articles and information about their different collections.
Un Delitto Misterioso a Stylen Court (A Mysterious Crime in Stylen Court).
Image at the top of the page. Published by Mediolanum, Milano, Italia (30 November 1932). This is the first Italian edition, first printing. Translated by L. Graziani. Priced 1 Lira. In the publisher’s series, I Romanzi Gialli, this was No. 6.
Il Delitto di Styles Court (The Crime of Styles Court) – Agatha Christhie.
Published by L’Italgrafica, Milano, Italia (10 December 1932). This is the second edition, first printing. Translated by Renato Jacchia. Priced 1 Lira. It is somewhat surprising that so many different publishing houses obtained the rights to publish this book. Note that this edition is published less than 2 weeks after the first Italian edition.
Il Misterioso “Affare Styles” (The Mysterious “Styles Affair”) – Agata Christie.
Published by Ediziano Alfa, Milano, Italia (15 December 1932). Third edition, first printing. Priced 2 Lira, this soft back printing is number 8 in a series of books sold under the brand ‘The Yellow Magazine’ all part of their collection focusing on criminals and police. This is therefore the third edition, published only five days after the second, by yet another publisher.
Morte Misteriosa a Styles Court (Mysterious Death in Styles Court) – Agatha Christie (on the jacket), Agata Christie (on the title page).
Published by Giuseppe Carabba, Lanciano, Italia (September 1933). Translated by Maria Napolitano Martone. While in some circles there is debate as to whether this was the 4th or 5th printing, the record of publisher's rights (below) confirms this is the 4th version of Styles.
Il Misterioso Affare di Styles (The Mysterious Affair of Styles).
Published by Edizioni Argo, Milano, Italia (registered on 31 October 1933, but printed earlier in the year). Translated by L. Graziani (thus same translation as the first edition). Priced 2 Lira. The documentation below confirms this was published after the Lanciano Edition. Thus the 5th edition.
Un Delitto a Stylen Court (A Crime in Stylen Court).
Published by Mediolanum, Milano, Italia (15 June 1934). This was a weekly magazine posted to subscribers. Volume III, No. 38. Priced 1 Lira. Not actually the sixth Italian edition, but rather a reissue of the first edition where the publisher solely changed the cover art and title.
L’Affare Misterioso di Styles (Styles’ Mysterious Affair).
Published by Edizioni Impero, Milano, Italia (5 July 1937). In the collection “I Gialli Moderni”. Issue No. 16. Anonymous translation. Sixth Italian edition.
Image credit: http://www.delittopaura.altervista.org/
This book was reprinted again by Editrice “Impero” (May 1940) as No. 2 in a collection named “I Gialli Moderni”. Priced 2 Lira.
The next reissue of this book by Editrice "Impero" was in August 1942 (images below).
Il Mistero di Styles Court (Styles Court Mystery)
Published by Edizioni Attualità, Milano, Italia (12 April 1939). In the collection “I capolavori polizieschi” (Detective Masterpieces), No. 7. No credit for the translation, it appears they used the first Ed. by L. Graziani. The seventh Italian edition.
For several decades there were no new translations or publishers for The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It wasn’t until 1974 that a new translation was published.
Poirot a Styles Court (Poirot at Styles Court).
Published by Mondadori, Milano, Italia (1974). Paperback version image on right (1975). Translation by Diana Fonticoli. Eighth Italian edition. It should be noted that while Mondadori (Christie's primary Italian publisher) states it is a reprint, it is the first Mondadori printing.
Poirot e Il Mistero di Styles Court (Poirot and the Mystery of Styles Court).
Published by Gruppo Newton, Roma, Italia (1993). Translated by Bruno Armondo. Priced 1,000 Lira. Edition No. 1. The ninth known edition, again a new translation and the 10th title to date!
Below are the floorplans included in the 1933 Carabba edition.
As noted above, there were numerous translations. Various Italian articles have explored how these translations varied. One of the more interesting observations with foreign translations is that some references in a book may be unique to the time, place or culture of the people where the book is set that does not translate without added explanation. In The Mysterious Affair at Styles one such example is the reference to Land Girls – something very specific in the UK where, as a result of World War I, women started farming the land. Translators often had to add text Christie hadn’t written to provide more insight or clarity to the dialogue explaining such items.
Foreign books are generally significantly less expensive than their UK or even US counterparts. Many of these early Italian editions were ‘pulp’ – cheap paperback or magazine style printings – resulting in many poor copies. The hardback jacketed early versions are particularly scarce. Expect to pay €1,000 for the first edition, in jacket in Very Good or better condition. The next few editions would likely be €200 - €400 for collector quality copies. After that prices fall significantly. Collectors seeking to collect these books should look at all the usual online sites, including Italy’s country specific eBay site (eBay.it). Books also periodically show up at auctions and Biblio.com has a detailed list of independent booksellers, many with online inventory.
If you have collected Italian printings of Christie’s novels please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We have been working on an article that will document the correct first editions of Christie’s works as published in Italy.