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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECT: First Editions by Agatha Christie Mallowan

Updated: Jan 14

The cover of the UK first edition by Collins.

Only two books were published under Christie’s full married name – Agatha Christie Mallowan. They are the 1946 short travelogue Come, Tell Me How You Live and the 1965 collection of short stories and poems Star Over Bethlehem and other stories. As we approach Christmas it seems fitting to draw attention to these books as they often aren’t owned by many fans of Christie. Thus both make excellent gifts and the latter is certainly seasonally correct. In addition, finding a vintage copy of either of these books is relatively easy and fairly affordable compared to other Christies.

The cover of the US first edition by Dodd Mead.

Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946):

Come, Tell Me How You Live is a short book of autobiography and travel literature from her time in Syria during the mid to late 1930s when she accompanied her husband, Max Mallowan, on surveying expeditions.

Images from the UK first edition below:

Agatha wrote the book during World War II while based in London and apart from her husband. Wanting to recapture the "poignant remembrance of our days in Arpachiyah and Syria." She admitted herself that it was "light-hearted and frivolous" but that it was an accurate reflection of the time and events that the book portrays. While she characterizes the book as a ‘meandering chronicle’ and its timeline is unclear, it is an enjoyable read that provides insight into Christie’s time in the middle east – a period that inspired many of her famous novels. Also of note, one of the characters in the book is Robin (Mac) Macartney. As a good friend and talented artist, he designed four of the most iconic dust jackets for Christie’s novels from this period. For the full story click here.

The poorly produced US first edition with all images on the front endpapers.

CTMHYL: Collecting and Values:

Come, Tell Me How You Live was first published in the UK in November 1946 by William Collins and Sons and in the same year in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company. The UK edition retailed for ten shillings and sixpence (10/6) and the US edition at $3.00. Today the values are not that dissimilar for first editions. Both generally range from £150 – £300 UK ($200 - $400 US) for jacketed copies in very good or better condition. Lesser quality jackets lower the price, and unjacketed copies are very affordable. However, it should be noted that the sixteen illustrations (photographs) are far better presented in the UK copy - compare images above - where they have captions and are interspersed throughout the book. Oddly, the US edition places all the images on the inside of the front endpapers and provides no captions.

Later copies are also available and many of them contain some additional photographs of Agatha and Max, along with other individuals. If you are giving this book to a collector of Christie, consider the UK first edition. If you are giving this to a fan of Christie, then consider any of the later editions with the additional images or the 2016 HarperCollins reprint with its reproduction original jacket. All are very affordable.

Star Over Bethlehem and other stories:

This book is a collection of six short stories and five poems in a small, illustrated book. All of the content has a Christian theme and some of the poems relate to the short stories in the book. Agatha did not discuss her motivation for publishing this collection or writing the content. What is known is that she was pleased with Collins' plans for the publication and its illustrations by Elsie Wrigley.

An example of the illustrations in Star Over Bethlehem.

It is one of those titles that is often unowned by fans of Christie and does not seem well promoted. But it is a pleasant read especially during the Christmas holidays – and one with no dead bodies!

SOB: Publishing history & Values:

The first UK and US books were both printed in the UK starting 1 November 1965 and used the same printing plates. The only differences between on the printed pages of the book is the title page which states “Collins, St. James’s Place, London 1965” in the UK edition, while the US edition states “Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. New York”. On the copyright page, both versions state ©Agatha Christie Mallowan 1965 and Printed in Great Britain. The US version states printed in Great Britain twice. It is generally assumed the UK version was printed first.

The exterior boards of the two versions are different, with a more appealing depiction of Bethlehem for the UK version and solid red boards with a single gold star for the US version. The dust wrapper art is identical with the exception of changing the publisher's name on the foot of the spine and flaps. Priced 13/6 in the UK and $3.00 in the US. Copies are affordable for both though the Collins branded dust jacket does seem a little scarcer - likely due to a smaller print run. Copies in very good or better condition, with jackets can generally be found for £30 – £80 UK ($50 - $110 US), though the UK jacket does command a slight premium.

There are many later versions of this title available too, including a 50th anniversary version with replica dust jacket art. There is also an audio recording by Simon Vance. All of these other editions are priced consistent with used books. For magazine collectors, the title story was first published in the monthly Woman's Journal December 1946 issue.

Happy hunting!

The 50th Anniversary Edition wrapper from 2015.

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