ART / PLAY: Christie's Murder On The Nile
Overview: The play, Murder On The Nile, was based on Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile, which in turn came from a draft play, Moon On The Nile. As with most plays, the public printed version for purchase appeared several years after the professional production began. In 1944 the play was known as Hidden Horizon for its first professional performance. When it opened in 1946 in London's West End, the name was finally settled on as Murder On The Nile.
The Play Script: First published in 1948 by Samuel French as French's Acting Edition No. 174, the first edition printing has a copyright date of 1948 and a price of 'Four Shillings Net' on the cover spelled out underneath the artwork. The second edition would have '4s net' printed in the top right corner of the cover.
The Cover Art: What is unique about this play by Samuel French was the use of cover art, and of a key scene - something uncommon on play scripts, but widely popular by the 1940s on hardbacks. Also of note, the artwork was by a female artist, Joyce Dennys, who was 54 when she drew the cover. It is unclear how well Christie knew Dennys, who was more well known as a novelist and short-story writer, and creator of Henrietta, a character for a series in Sketch magazine about a heroine in World War II. Of note, Henrietta's daughter's name was Linnet - the name used by Christie in the book Death On The Nile. Also, Dennys attended the Exeter Art School in the early 1900s so her path may well have crossed with Christie leading to this commission.
Collectability: This is one of the more appealing Christie plays to collect because of its use of cover art - something Samuel French soon moved away from. For those that did have an artistic cover this is arguably the best one published. In addition, it is a play fully written by Agatha Christie that provides a slightly different story than the hardback. If seeking the correct first printing be certain the 'Four Shillings Net' is printed below the cover art and the copyright page says 'Copyright, 1948, by Samuel French, Ltd.' Quality copies can be found at reasonable prices as a clear understanding of correct first points is broadly unknown by dealers.
Play Value: 1st Edition: $75 (well read, used) - $175 (clean, unread). 2nd Edition (same cover art but '4s net' in top right corner of cover): $30 - $50. The first edition offers tremendous value and will likely appreciate as awareness of how to collect plays grows.
Art Value: Cover art for play scripts is very rare to find. Illustrated here is the actual proof sheet used by Samuel French. It was provided to them on 6-Nov-1947 by the printer William Lewis for final authorization. Items such as proof sheets or other similar collectibles do periodically emerge for sale, though each one is likely unique so price is hard to estimate. It is probably a case of what the market will bear.