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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

AUCTION PREVIEW & RESULTS: A Selection of Inscribed Agatha Christie Firsts.

Updated: Jun 25

Updated 25 June 2024 with auction results (including buyer's premium).


Bonhams Auctions (New York) is holding an online sale of “Fine Books and Manuscripts” that ends on 25th June 2024. It is an online auction that is now open for bids. It features 192 lots of which there are 12 lots that each feature an inscribed Agatha Christie book.


The buyer’s premium is 28% on the hammer price. Shipping is available worldwide. To see recent auction prices realized for similar books please visit my article on the results of the Charlie Watts sale as that also contained many signed, later books (link). For these books, I expect the valuations to be slightly lower as they lack the Watts' shine and many are not inscribed to a specifically known person in Christie's life (though a few are). For more details on this Bonham’s Auction please visit their website for further details (link).


Preview.

Darren Sutherland, Senior Specialist for Fine Books and Manuscripts has advised me that these copies are all coming directly from the collection of Richard Manney. Manney began collecting books and manuscripts as a young man – so parts of his collection he’s had for over 40 years. In October 1991, Sotheby’s sold 600 books from his collection – mostly first editions and autographed copies. However, this was only a small portion of his collection which numbers over 10,000 volumes. In 1991 Mr. Manney said "We are going to move to smaller quarters [and] the rare books need climate control and proper housing, which we will not have in our next home." This sale represents another tranche of his books coming to market.


As a New York businessman, Mr. Manney earned his wealth through selling media time to advertisers. Over the years he also collected art and antiques with his wife, Gloria. His book collection is noted for its focus on high grade copies, complete with jackets and for numerous signed or inscribed editions. He said "When I began collecting rare books, I wanted the best examples. That meant fine copies, signed copies and, if I could find them, presentation copies signed by the authors." This selection of his Agatha Christie books that are being sold are all signed presentation copies consistent with his collecting ethos.


The Online Auction Lots.


Lot 146: Five Little Pigs.

Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000. SOLD: $14,080. London: Published for the Crime Club by Collins, 1942 [correction from auction listing: 1943]. FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "Stephen / from / Agatha / Jan. 1943." Stephen Glanville, the dedicatee of the novel, was a friend and colleague of Christie's husband Max Mallowan. Original red cloth, spine lettered in black, dust jacket. Dust soiling to upper edge, spine creased with wear to head and tail; jacket with light spotting and thumb soiling. Housed in custom orange morocco slipcase with chemise.

With: A TLS of Robert Frew, March 13, 1987, to Peter Stern, confirming that the present copy of Five Little Pigs is inscribed to Stephen Glanville, Frew having purchased the copy from a family member.


CC Comments: This book was actually first published in January 1943 though some sites and resources incorrectly have it being published in the UK in November 1942. Thus, the date of the signature is appealing. Glanville was a close friend of Max Mallowan as they served together during World War II. Prior to the war, he was an assistant in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum in 1924 between two excavation stints in Amarna, Egypt. After the war, he become Professor of Egyptology at the University of Cambridge from 1946 until his death in 1956. He was involved in many archeological expeditions and digs. Glanville was also the source and inspiration for at least two of Christie's works, Death Comes as the End, and the play Akhnaton. These works are both set in ancient Egypt, and Christie herself acknowledged in her autobiography that neither of these works would have been possible without Glanville.


The letter to Peter Stern helps build the provenance chain. Stern is a respected book dealer in Boston who I assume sold the book onto Richard Manney after acquiring it from Frew. However, the connection from Christie or Glanville to Frew is unclear. The signature and inscription is smaller than Christie usually did, and there is no slash mark nor is it in her typical blue ink. Thus, while it appears authentic, a 'B' grade is appropriate. That said, this book is appealing as it is dated the month of its British publication. Also, given that Glanville is the dedicatee of this book, his connection to Christie, and that this is arguably one of her best books, I expect this book to sell well above the estimate.


Lot 147: A Pocket Full of Rye.

Estimate $2,000 - $3,000. SOLD: $4,608. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1953.

FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "For Stephen / from / Agatha / Nov. 1953." Original red cloth, spine printed in black, dust jacket. Spine lightly sprung, sunning and shelfwear to edges and tail of spine; jacket very fine with two small closed tears at lower corners of both panels.


CC Comments: There is no supplemental provenance to confirm that the dedicatee is Stephen Glanville, though I expect it likely is, especially since it is dated the month of publication. It is unlikely that there were many other Stephen’s in Christie’s life that she would provide a signed copy to in November 1953. However, he is not the dedicatee and it is a later book that Five Little Pigs, so it’s estimate is likely correct. As with my prior notes, there's no direct chain of provenance, but the features are more consistent than lot 146, but it is still a 'B' grade.


Lot 148: Destination Unknown.

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000. Sold: $3,840. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1954.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED by Christie: "To Stephen / with love from / Agatha." Original red cloth, spine lettered in black; dust jacket. Minor shelfwear and dustsoiling to edges; very mild toning to jacket spine and edges.


CC Comments: My thoughts re: Glanville are consistent with the lots above even though this is not dated. I would expect it to sell at the top end of the estimate or slightly above.


Lot 149: Hickory Dickory Dock.

Estimate $1,500 - $2,000. Sold: $3,840. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1955.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To / Winifred Robinson / Agatha Christie / Oct. 1955." Original red cloth, spine lettered in black, dust jacket. Mild toning to pastedowns.


CC Comments: Perhaps a more knowledgeable reader can inform me so I can update this comment regarding who Winifred Robinson was. I do know that in the book Postern of Fate there is a character – Winifred Griffen – whose birth name in the story was Winifred Robinson. Thus, I assume Agatha had a friend she gave this book to who she also then integrated into that novel. Given that the book is dated October 1955 – the month of publication – it is likely this was a close friend. Again, while the provenance chain is not complete and thus it garners a 'B' grade, I expect this to sell at the top end of the estimate or slightly above as all the other attributes are correct.


Lot 150: Ordeal by Innocence.

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000. Sold: $3,840. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1958.

FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "Best Wishes for Xmas / from / Agatha Christie." A penciled dealer's note indicates that the inscription was for Winifred Robinson. Original red cloth, spine lettered in black, dust jacket. Upper right corner bumped, tail of spine lightly rubbed; jacket with price clipped, light wear at head and tail of spine.


CC Comments: It is likely that Richard Manney acquired this from the same vendor as lot 149, 151 and 152 – thus the notation that it was from Winifred Robinson’s collection. However, this is ultimately just a signed / inscribed book. Part of the appeal is it is unnamed – so it could be to you! The book was published in November 1958, so a ‘Best Wishes for Xmas’ implies it was to a close friend and signed shortly after publication. While the provenance chain is broken, and the signature has a double 'r' attribute (something that shows up in many forged signatures), overall it appears authentic. However, I would assign this a lower grade because of it and a buyer should be conscious of that variance.


Lot 151: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a selection of Entrees.

Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000. Sold: $3,840. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1960.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To / Winifred Robinson / from / Agatha Christie / Nov. 1960." Original red cloth lettered in black, dust jacket. Very light thumbsoiling to lower jacket panel, otherwise very fine. In custom tan morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: The book was published at the end of October 1960, so a November date is likely as close to issued as you’ll find for this title. Since it is dated it is slightly more valuable than 150 and the signature attributes are less concerning. A 'B' grade.


Lot 152: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.

Estimate: $1,200 - $1,800. Sold: $4,352. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1962.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To Miss Robinson / Agatha Christie / Nov. 1962." Dealer note indicates dedicatee is Winifred Robinson. Original red cloth, spine lettered in black, dust jacket. Very light thumb-soiling to lower panel of jacket, otherwise very fine. In custom green morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: The book was published in November, so being dated then is appealing. I expect it to sell for above the high estimate – perhaps up to $2,500 US. Also a 'B' grade.


Lot 153: A Caribbean Mystery.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200. Sold: $6,400. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1964.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper to her typist: "To Mrs. Jolly / with best wishes / for Xmas / from / Agatha Christie." Original red and black cloth, spine gilt, dust jacket. Minor shelf wear to head and tail of spine, light smudge to title page; upper corner of upper jacket panel bumped. In custom black morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: Mrs. Elsa Jolly was Agatha Christie’s typist in later years. With this book being released in November, its ‘Xmas’ dedication is appropriate. Given the contemporaneous signature and the association, I expect this to sell for double the high estimate. The only flaw is a broken provenance chain, so a strong 'B' to low 'A' grade.


Lot 154: By the Pricking of My Thumbs.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200. Sold: $3,072. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1968.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To Helen [Gilbertson] / With best wishes for / Xmas from / Agatha Christie." Original green cloth, spine gilt, dust jacket. Some spotting to edges, light rubbing the head and tail of spine, jacket lightly bumped at flaps. In custom tan morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: Again, if anyone knows who Helen Gilbertson was, do let me know as this and the following three lots are all inscribed to her. Consequently, I assume she was a friend as they are not all dated at the same time but spread out in alignment with publication dates – in particular see my comments re: lot 156. While not a unique cover nor one of her best books, signed Christie’s are arguably worth far more than this high estimate. A solid 'B' grade signature solely lacking a complete provenance chain.

Lot 155: Passenger to Frankfurt.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200. Sold: $3,072. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1970.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED: "To / Helen Gilbertson / with love from / Agatha Christie / Greenway / Sept. 1970." Original red cloth, spine lettered in gilt, dust jacket. Spine slightly cocked, very minor shelfwear to head and tail of spine, jacket lightly thumbed. Housed in custom black morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: The notation of ‘Greenway’ in the inscription line is certainly appealing and helps elevate this collectible despite the book being less appealing. The book was first published by Collins in September 1970 so the date is appealing so it is likely worth well above the high estimate. A solid 'B' grade signature, solely lacking the complete provenance chain.


Lot 156: Nemesis.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200. Sold: $4,352. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1971.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To / Helen Gilbertson / with best wishes / from / Agatha Christie Mallowan / Oct. 1971." Original red cloth, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, dust jacket. Very minor shelfwear at head and tail of jacket, fore-edges, and spine. In custom blue morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: There is some added appeal here as the book was not released until November 1971 so this was an advance copy Christie received. This helps elevate the relationship between Agatha and Helen to be likely a very close friend. Any book signed by Agatha in advance of publication has additional appeal to collectors. In addition, Christie was commonly signing correspondance around this time as solely 'Agatha Mallowan' yet here we see the full name - ACM - which is less common in books. Thus, I expect this to sell well above the estimate and in the $2,000-$3,000 range. A solid 'B' grade signature solely lacking the complete provenance chain.


Lot 157: Elephants Can Remember.


Estimate: $800 - $1,200. Sold: $3,584. London: The Crime Club by Collins, 1972.

FIRST EDITION, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED on the front free endpaper: "To / Helen Gilbertson / with love from / Agatha Christie." Original red cloth, spine lettered in gilt, dust jacket. Spine lightly cocked, light shelfwear, head of jacket spine lightly rubbed. In custom green morocco slipcase with chemise.


CC Comments: Undated, so a little less appealing but still likely to sell well above the high estimate. The signature is a 'C' grade, lacking the complete provenance chain and with some variances to it, though likely consistent with her age.


Summary.

While the prices realised in the Charlie Watts auction likely had a bump in valuation due to his association, all recent sales of signed Christie books confirm that they have appeal and meaningful value. As my article “Fake or Fortune” discusses (link), there are many forged Christie signatures in the marketplace and on bookshelves, so being confident about the provenance is important. But also, any buyer should look at the signature and make sure everything looks right when there isn’t an explicit direct connection to Agatha. These books all have a provenance chain that is fairly strong but not airtight. However, in my own opinion these signatures appear authentic. If you choose to bid, good luck. There are some lovely books here, though for me the Five Little Pigs is the highlight with A Caribbean Mystery close behind.


Corrections / Input.

If you have any insights on the dedicatees or if you see any errors, do get in contact with me (email: CollectChristie@gmail.com ). I view all my articles as collaborative efforts and want them to be an accurate resource for collectors.


Podcasts.

Reminder: I was recently invited onto the podcast "Tea and Murder" - part interview show and part book club. While I provided some comments and insights into the world of collecting, the host (Rebecca Thandi Norman) and I dove deep into Christie's wonderful novel The Hollow. I hope you'll find some time to listen to it and that you enjoy it. You can find it on any podcast platform (Season 3, Episode 1) or by clicking this link. In July, I will be on the "All About Agatha" podcast with Kemper Donovan talking about the world of collecting. I'll notify all my subscribers once that goes live.


Subscribe & the Socials:

If you are not a subscriber to my website, please consider subscribing here: link. This ensures you receive an email any time I write and post an article. Also, consider following me on X (formerly Twitter) @collectchristie and on Facebook (link). The content varies across platforms.


2024 International Agatha Christie Festival:

Also, tickets are still available for my presentation at the 2024 International Agatha Christie Festival, though the remaining slots are starting to dwindle down, so if you do plan on coming please consider acquiring tickets soon. I hope to see you there. For more details or to obtain tickets go to this link: Festival Link.

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