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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

Christie Paperbacks: Pan's Photographic Covers 1966-1968.

Updated: May 6

For many fans of Christie today, the books that introduced us to Agatha Christie were well read paperbacks from the 1960s through to the 1980s.  While Tom Adams’ covers for Fontana are beloved by many from this era, another imprint from that time likely evokes similar memories – the Pan paperback. For me, it is these early photographic covers discussed in this article that I remember as being many of the early Christie books I read.


A Brief Pan History:

Pan Books is a publishing imprint that first became active in the late 1940s and is now part of the British-based Macmillan Publishers. Founded by Alan Bott, a British World War I fighter ace, on the 1st September 1944, his goal was to build a successful paperback reprint company to make affordable versions of then-modern books for the UK and international markets. In the first few years only a few books were published. It wasn’t until 1947 that the Pan books we are more familiar with today took shape. Over the years Pan became a serious rival to Penguin Books.  One of the significant differences was Pan's decision to use art on their covers - a significant divergence from Penguin's 'white stripe' books, with no art. 


Pan's Early Years: 

Up until 1966, the covers of Pan paperbacks were created by illustrators.  Many of these artistic covers for Pan had a pulp feel – a damsal in distress, a man with a gun, or someone with a bit of ‘come hither’ in their eyes. In a future article, I’ll provide a more detailed review of the Christie books published by Pan from 1947 through 1965 with art on the covers.  In an earlier article, I did a deep dive look at the first five Agatha Christie books published by Pan, all part of the initial 100 numbered books. If you’d like to read that article, please click here.


The New Photographic Covers:

Starting mid-way through 1966, Pan’s art department changed their design aesthetic by using photographs on the covers of their books.  In the same vein that Tom Adams was creating art that integrated themes and clues from the novel, Pan’s photographers were now doing the same but through the medium of photography.


The X-Series Photographic Covers: 1966 - 1968.

A few other things to note with these Pans is that they are all part of their “X-Series” which were books to be sold for 3/6.  As Pan’s total catalogue grew, they decided to institute a blend of letters and numbers to make the cataloguing easier and clearly differentiate between price points.  Many of the X-numbers (books sold for 3/6) started out with art-based covers before converting to photographic covers.  Pan kept the same number which is why the chronology below may appear out of sequence solely when looking at the X-number.


While the first Christie published by Pan in 1966 used art on the cover, I’ve included it for two reasons. One to show how the aesthetic changed and refresh ones memory of the style of these pre-photo Pans. But secondly, because this specific book has special meaning to me.  It was the first Agatha Christie paperback I read in the late 1970s. I was around 12 years old and I was sitting of the floor of my father’s study looking at the books on his shelf. I remember pulling out this paperback and its cover intrigued me. I asked my father what is was about and if I could read it. He gave his approval, and the journey into the world of Agatha Christie began.

 

1966

X468: Dead Man’s Folly.


X521: Peril at End House.


1967

The Pan Christie's published in 1967 likely made it into many early reader libraries because Fontana did not have the rights to publish the titles that The Bodley Head had published initially from 1920-1925. Thus, these first six books below were really essential to acquire for people wanting to read Christie's early novels as Fontana couldn't publish them.


X241: The Murder on the Links.


X242: The Man in the Brown Suit.

X243: Poirot Investigates.

X265: The Secret Adversary.


X283: The Secret of Chimneys.

X284: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.


X598: Hickory Dickory Dock.

X721: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas.


1968

X736: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?


Collecting:

First of all, if you just enjoy the covers then acquire whatever you find that is in an acceptable condition. If you’d enjoy a little more challenge to building your collection of photo-Pans, then seek out the first printings.  You’ll have fun doing so as its not quite as easy as you may think and will take a little patience.


For all of the books shown above, the first photo-Pan printing would have the X number in the top right corner of the front cover and on the spine.  Pan did reprint these titles several times with that X number there, but this is the first leading indicator you potentially have a first photo-Pan printing.  On the copyright page, Pan is consistent in showing the date of the printing.  While it may state multiple printings, Pan does not differentiate between their first printing that may have had artwork on the cover, and their first printing with a photo on the cover.  For example, the first photo-Pan of The Murder on the Links (X241) is the 9th printing by Pan. So, to locate the first photo-Pan, initially look for the X number on the cover, and then look to see if the printing date aligns with the year referenced above for the first appearance.  Lastly, all the first printing photographic covers were priced 3/6 for the UK market, clearly displayed on the rear cover. Later reprints that were priced differently would not be an 'X' series book.


Values:

All of the these books can be found for normal used paperback pricing. Thus, seeking out the first printing of the photo-Pans just makes the endeavour a little more challenging and is an excellent introduction into the world of collecting and becoming conscious of printing dates. 

 

Other Resources:

If the world of Pan books interests you, then I recommend you buy the excellent book Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books: 1950 – 1965 by Colin Larkin. It is a wonderful book richly

illustrated and a strong focus on the cover art and artists for all the genres and authors Pan published over this 15 year span. 


I also recommend the comprehensive website www.tikit.net managed and authored by Tim Kitchen. It focuses heavily on the first 45 years of Pan books.


Closing Thoughts:

Thank you for reading and comments are always most welcome. I'd love to know if these covers evoke memories for you or if you have a favourite one. 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.


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.


I have lots more articles I'm working on but if there's something you'd like me to consider do let me know by writing to me at: collectchristie@gmail.com 

 

 

 

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