FORGOTTEN ANTHOLOGIES: Poirot & The Adventure of the Clapham Cook.
Updated: Nov 5
This article continues my series on anthologies that contain first printings of Agatha Christie stories. Numerous true firsts of short stories appeared in anthologies which contain short stories from many different authors in a single volume as opposed to an omnibus collection which would be stories solely by Christie. The goal of this series of articles is to raise awareness of these anthologies and provide tips and insights into collecting them. For collectors of true first printings, these should be part of the collection. At the foot of the article is a list of the prior anthologies we've discussed with links to each.
Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror: 2nd Series (1931):
The first printing of this anthology containing Christie's Poirot short story The Adventure of the Clapham Cook was the UK edition published by Victor Gollancz, 14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London in 1931. It was priced 8/6.
Most online bibliographies fail to cite this book as the first printing generally only referencing the US book below which was published the following year.
The Second Omnibus of Crime: The World's Great Crime Stories (1932):
The US version of the anthology was published by both Coward-McCann and Blue Ribbon Books, New York, USA, in 1932. The Coward-McCann printing is the true first and sold for $2.50. The two images below are courtesy of collector Graham Lee.
It is far scarcer than the Blue Ribbon version, which was a reprint as it sold for the lower price of $1.00. It appears the only difference was inserted title pages and a different cloth. Both were called the 'Second Omnibus' though the book was technically an anthology.
While these UK and US anthologies are the only Sayer's edited books I'm currently aware of that contained a Christie story, she did edit a first and third omnibus that sandwiched this title. The first omnibus of Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror was also published by Gollancz, London, UK (1928). However, the US The First Omnibus of Crime was published by Payson & Clarke, New York (1929). The third omnibus was published by Gollancz in the UK (1934) and Coward-McCann in the US (1935).
Dorothy Sayers wrote a long and very interesting 16 page introduction to this second anthology. In it she presents an academic and insightful discussion about the detective fiction genre including numerous references to Christie's works. For those that have not yet read Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd please know she reveals the key plot point as she does with other stories she discusses. When she discusses Christie's character 'Mr. Harley Quinn', Sayers states 'Agatha Christie has made an attempt (not, I venture to think, very successfully) to combine detection with sentiment'.
While Christie may not have appreciated the criticism, Sayers continues with a rather back-handed compliment when she states 'In Partners in Crime, the same author has pleasantly burlesqued the detective-story, with results that are uniformly delightful if one refuses to be put off by the perpetual brightnes of Tommy and Tuppence'.
Blue Ribbon Books (1930-1933):
As an aside, I find it interesting to learn about some of the lesser known publishers. While Gollancz is a well know publisher, the American publishers Payson & Clarke, Coward-McCann and Blue Ribbon Books are generally less familiar to collectors. Payson & Clarke was founded in 1924 by William Payson - the former editor of the New York Times and Vogue. In 1930 it was acquired by Brewer & Warren, which two years later was acquired by Harcourt, Brace & Co. Coward-McCann was founded in 1927 and merged with Putnam in 1936. Of note, Blue Ribbon Books was established in 1930 by a consortium of publishers, including Christie's typical publisher Dodd, Mead & Co. and was viewed as a competitor to Grosset & Dunlap - though it is unclear why Dodd, Mead & Co agreed to the imprint. Most titles published were reprints of novels with a focus on travel, science and biography. Books were sold for $1 as compared to first printings which generally sold from $2.75 (Dodd, Mead & Co.) up to $3.00 (Little Brown). It was acquired by Reynal & Hitchcock in 1933, and then by Doubleday in 1939. As an imprint, Doubleday discontinued it in 1949.
The Walt Disney books from 1933 are likely the most desirable Blue Ribbon titles. However, Blue Ribbon did print a variety of unique books, omnibus collections and anthologies. These included Mata Hari - a photoplay edition of the MGM film featuring Greta Garbo; Clowns and Criminals and Shudders and Thrills - each of which contained four E. Phillips Oppenheim novels; Creeps by Night - an anthology of modern horror stores edited by Dashiell Hammett; and compiled by S.S. Van Dine.
The Adventure of the Clapham Cook:
While this anthology is the first book printing of this story, as is typical most short stories first appeared in magazines or newspapers. This story was first published in the The Sketch (UK) in Issue 1607 published on the 14th November, 1923. From September 1923 through until March 1924, The Sketch published an Agatha Christie story every week making magazines from these months highly collectible for Christie fans.
In the US, the story first appeared in The Blue Book magazine, in vol. 41 no. 5, published in September 1925 under the slightly abbreviated title "The Clapham Cook".
In the UK, the story was again published in a pulp format - appearing in the Evening Standard newspaper in August 1933 - before it appeared in a Collins book.
The first US Christie collection featuring the story was The Underdog and Other Stories, published by Dodd, Mead & Co in 1951. Note the rear panel on the dust jacket which confirms this is a true first printing - not the book club edition which is different.
The first Collins book containing the story was Poirot's Early Cases, published by their Crime Club imprint in September 1974. Below are two jackets - the colourless one is potentially a variant that was printed without colour (image courtesy of collector Chuck Vukotich) rather than a heavily faded one! There are also export copies that reference Sydney or Toronto on the copyright or title pages. Their jackets are identical.
Anthologies are still generally very affordable as collectors are less familiar with them. However, the UK collection does still garner fairly strong money. A very good jacketed copy is fairly valued at £500. The US printing is widely available and can be acquired for $50 in very good condition without a jacket. I have not seen a jacketed copy since I first became aware of it, but I would assume a very good jacketed copy would sell for $200 - $300 and a patient collector will likely find one. The magazines referenced likely valued at £150-200 (The Sketch) and $50 (Blue Book) - the latter being much easier to locate. The first printing of The Underdog and Other Stories is valued at $500 in a very good or better jacket - be cautious of the ubiquitious book club editions. Poirot's Early Cases by Collins is worth £50 in a complete very good or near fine jacket.
As always, if you have insights about this story that I've missed do let me know at email@example.com . Also, if anyone has an image of the jacket you could share, please do so and I'll add it to the article. Likewise, if you have an anthology you'd like me to profile do let me know. I will slowly work my way through all of them!
Prior Anthology Reviews:
The Best Detective Stories of the Year, Faber & Gwyer, UK, 1929: Contains the first Miss Marple story in book form (link).
Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1929, Faber & Faber, UK, 1930: Contains two short stories first printings - S.O.S. and The Third Floor Flat (link).
Many Mysteries, Rich & Cowan, UK, 1933: contains the first book printing of the Hercule Poirot story The Second Gong (link).
The Hospital Centenary Gift Book, Harrap & Co, UK, 1935: Contains the first UK hardback printing of The Veiled Lady (link).
Sporting Blood, Little, Brown & Co, Boston, USA, 1942: Contains the first stand-alone hardback printing of Poirot's The Chess Problem (link).
Fifth Mystery Book, Farrar & Rinehart, NY, USA, 1944: Contains the first hardback printing of Tape Measure Murder (link).
20th Century Detective Stories, World Publishing Co, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, 1948: Contains the first hardback printings of two stories - The Double Clue and The Perfect Maind (link).
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