COLLECT: Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
For the last few years Agatha Christie Limited has promoted reading (or re-reading) Christie books through their Read Christie campaigns. Each month a different novel is selected that will be a focus on an online book club, trivia and quizzes. To further build on this focus Collecting Christie is providing insights into collecting the chosen book – from first editions to recent paperbacks. In January 2021, we We explored collecting Agatha Christie’s The Hollow in January 2021 and Parker Pyne Investigates in February 2021. This month, Agatha Christie Limited has selected Lord Edgware Dies as their March 2021 book of the month.
Lord Edgware Dies is a pre-war Agatha Christie murder mystery, starring Hercule Poirot. First published in magazine form under the title “13 For Dinner”, then in the UK in book form by Collins’ The Crime Club in September 1933 under the title “Lord Edgware Dies”, and at the same time in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company under a third title “13 At Dinner”. Despite both the UK and US books being published almost simultaneously, it is broadly accepted that the Collins printing is the first edition, first impression.
UK Hardback Printings:
First edition, first impression: Collins, September 1933. 252 pages plus 4 pages of advertisements following. Priced 7/6 on the spine.
Second impression: Collins, September 1933 published in the same month implying the first print run was small. Also, several second impressions are known to be ex-library implying some of this print run may have been to satisfy library orders.
Third impression: Collins, October 1933
Fourth impression: Collins, May 1934. For this print run, the cloth was changed to a smoother material.
Fifth impression: [1934/1935]
Sixth impression: 1935. Collins, The Crime Club. Known to exist in black cloth.
Values: The UK first edition is exceptionally rare in dust jacket and the book is uncommon in collectible quality. Expect to pay £1,000 ($1,400 US) for a very good condition book and £20,000 - £30,000 ($28,000 -$42,000 US) for a very good book in very good dust jacket. For example, in the 2021 February Sotheby’s Auction, Lot 43, a first edition in jacket sold for £27,720 ($37,976). Prices for 2nd – 6th impressions plummet, though anything with an authentic jacket would still command premium pricing. Given other book titles that have sold with 3/6 priced jackets, expect a 3/6 jacket of Lord Edgware Dies, should one appear, to command anywhere from £3,000 – 5,000.
Other UK Hardback Editions of Note:
Seventh impression: 1936. Collins’s 1/- cheap edition. This thinner book in blue cloth has the Kolynos Teeth Whitener cream advert on the rear boards. Value: £200 in jacket.
The “uniform edition” (though unstated as such): 1938.
Priced “2/6 Edition Net” was published by Collins in 1938. Its jacket was the generic plain green & yellow cover with text only – no art. Value: £50 in jacket.
In 1953 Collins’ The Crime Club reprinted the title with new cover art (picture at top of this article). This slimmer format book no longer has a printing reference other than “This Edition”. The jacket cover is adorned by a Lady dressed in black and holding a dagger, with a green with yellow stripe on the backstrip. Value: £40 in jacket.
In 1960, Collins, The Crime Club, reprinted this newer version. Priced 8/6 on the flap, with the same cover art as 1953 but now with a solid green backstrip. The edition is also unnumbered. Value: £30 in jacket.
1987: HarperCollins: With blue & black art deco look in the style of Geoff Appleton. Value: £10 in jacket.
2002: Planet Three Publishing: Generic collection branded cover. Part 54, accompanied by an illustrated book specific magazine. Value: £10.
2007, February 5th: HarperCollins facsimile edition. Value £15 as new in jacket.
First US Edition, First Impression: [September] 1933. Published under the Red Badge Mystery imprint of Dodd Mead & Company, New York, priced $2.00 on the flap.
The Second Edition: Also published in 1933, but by Grosset & Dunlap, who consistently reprinted books for Dodd, Mead.
As it does not appear there was any 2nd printing by Dodd, Mead & Co, it naturally means there was no reprinted jacket that could be married with first edition books as the Grosset & Dunlap jacket had distinct differences, including the publisher’s name, despite the cover art being similar. As a result, the first edition jacket is surprisingly uncommon.
Values: The US first edition is much more affordable but still uncommon in jacket. For a very good book in very good jacket values today are likely to be $1,500 - $2,000 (£1,100 - £1,500 UK). Without a jacket the book can be acquired for $50. For example, in April 2020 on eBay, a USA Dodd Mead first edition of Thirteen at Dinner with original jacket sold for $850 (US) on 22-April-20 from a "Buy It Now" listing. This was unpriced and quickly bought. A few months earlier, at the Heritage Auction in the States, a slightly better copy sold for $1,500. USA Dodd Mead firsts from the 1930s still offer tremendously good value – whether jacketed or not - and will likely appreciate well in the years ahead.
The First Magazines:
The true first appearance of this novel was in the USA in The American Magazine.
Here it was published under the title “13 For Dinner” in six installments from March (Volume CXV, Number 3) to August 1933 (Volume CXVI, Number 2) with illustrations by Weldon Trench.
Values: Issues of The American Magazine are fairly common and can generally be found for $5-10 (£4-7 UK) per issue in collectible condition. The challenge for any collector will be finding these specific issues which can prove tricky and time consuming.
The First Paperbacks:
There are two early paperback versions of note for collectors.
1933 [September – December]: The Albatross Crime Club #115, Europe (above). First paperback. Specifically stated that it was not to be introduced to the British Empire or the USA. As we’ve discussed in previous articles Albatross was essentially a Collins Crime Club imprint in disguise, publishing books in Europe in paperback form at the same time as the hardbacks appeared. They are very rare to find and acquire.
1939, October 16th: Red Arrow Books, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (above). Under the title 13 At Dinner. Purportedly exists in four variants: two text only covers, one illustrated cover and one book club version. However, aside from the true first version (text only, red cover), the other three have remained elusive to find.
Values: For both of these paperbacks, values are £75 – £125 for the Albatross and $50 – $100 for the Red Arrow, depending on condition. Expect significant upside potential in values as scarcity of both of these titles is more understood.
A sampling of the more collectible British paperback editions:
1948: Penguin number 685 – “White stripe” edition (above)
1954 – 1962 (multiple editions): Fontana Books. Cover art matches the hardbacks of this period, but with the dagger removed!
1965 - 1980 (multiple printings): Fontana: Tom Adams. Dagger allowed!
A sampling of the more collectible American paperback editions:
All published under the title Thirteen At Dinner.
1944: Dell “mapback” #60 (above)
1955: Dell #770
1961: Dell #D404
1965: Dell #8742
Values: None of these later paperbacks is particularly unique or uncommon. Most can be found in very good or better condition. Near fine copies would sell for £10 ($14 US). However, the US Dell Mapback has a strong collector base and may command a slighty higher price.
As avid collector of Christie’s works and items associated with the world of Christie myself, I feel it only appropriate to share one of my personal highlights of my own collection related to this book – the original painting by Tom Adams for the Fontana cover. In addition, after Tom’s passing, his wife Georgie was most gracious in giving to me the original paper knife that Tom used as a prop for this painting. It brings back a wonderful memory of a time I was with Tom and we posed for a photo stabbing me in my head with it!