COLLECT: Collins Canadian White Circle Paperbacks
The White Circle Pocket Editions (Canada):
Despite only 5 Christie titles being published under this imprint, they are arguably some of the most difficult Christie paperbacks to find yet are still affordable. This makes them a highly appealing item for new entrants to the world of Christie collecting to challenge themselves to find.
The Canadian Collins:
In response to global paper shortages during World War II, Canada began manufacturing books for international markets in 1941. Over the course of the war, the Canadian branch of William Collins and Sons produced 11 million books for export—everything from pulp adventure novels to Bibles, which were made from plates that had been sent across the Atlantic for safekeeping in case the Glasgow office was bombed.
In 1942 Collins Canada director Franklin F. Appleton established an imprint called White Circle Pocket Editions, which reprinted successful British, American, and Canadian titles in affordable paperback editions—the first of its kind in Canada.
Between 1942 and 1952, Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Canada Ltd. published 429 titles in this White Circle imprint, from a total of 142 different authors. Ten were paperback originals. Some three-quarters of the books were reprints of books originally published by the Scottish-English parent company Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. The rest came from over 40 other publishers. The second most reprinted publisher was the American Duell, Sloan and Pearce with 17. In the first four years, the primary designer on the White Circle titles was Margaret Paull who created 67 of the covers for the White Circle imprint.
The original 1942 books did not have a series number on the cover. This has caused confusion about the number of books published. They are referred to as “NN” ("no number") in guides and there are 50 of them. However, buried within these NN books are letters & numbers that help define a sequence. However, from 1943 onwards it becomes much easier to sequence the publishing as all the covers became numbered. Within these numbered books are five Agatha Christie titles.
The Agatha Christie titles (1948 - 1952):
Given Collins had the copyright to these books and controlled the publishing in Canada, it appears that all five of these paperbacks were likely printed prior to any other paperback version. While they are commonly forgotten in lists that reference printing sequences, it should be noted that there is no data or printing history that indicates these five books were not the first time these titles were published in soft cover, anywhere in the world. In addition, noted specialist Doug Sulipa believes all five pre-dated the Pocket Book US versions given more specific printing histories known with other books in this series. As such, their collectability is further enhanced. Also of note and discussed below in greater detail, these books had very small print runs are very scarce.
#365 - The Hollow (1948)
Published in the same year as Pocket Book #485 (USA), but likely preceded it. Of the five Christie’s, The Hollow is the least scarce. However, with only a few hundred likely extant copies, of which a fraction will be collector quality, it is still a difficult title to find for a collection.
#426 - There is a Tide (1949)
The alternate title for Taken at the Flood. This title had two printings, the second of which states ‘reprinted 1950’, both of which are rare. The first version likely precedes the 1949 USA Pocket Book #617, often thought to be the first paperback edition, though the second printing is obviously later.
#478 - Crooked House (1950)
Also believed to Precede the USA Pocket Book #753 of the same title.
#523 - A Murder is Announced (1951)
Likely precedes the USA Pocket Book #820.
#541X - They Came to Baghdad (1952)
Likely precedes Pocket Book #897.
Scarcity & Values:
The most knowledgeable dealer in these books is Doug Sulipa of Comic World in Manitoba, Canada. With his decades of experience, he knows many collectors who have sought to collect all the White Circles but even after 20 years may still need 100 books for their sets. He doesn't know of a single complete set in existence. Fortunately for the collector of Agatha Christie books there are only the five reference above to collect. He estimates there may be 200-500 copies of The Hollow in existence and for the other four titles he estimates there are between 50-100 extant copies. Of these only a fraction of them are likely in very-good or better condition. Thus, the Agatha Christie paperbacks published in this series are among the rarest paperbacks out there. The print runs for the Christie paperbacks in this imprint are believed to have significantly smaller print runs that the first edition UK hardbacks. However, despite their scarcity they are currently very affordable making them great fun to search for and collect. These books can still be purchased for approximately $25CDN in very good condition. However, finding them for sale is another matter.