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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECTING: Scrap Books & Signed Letters

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

The Handbook of Production for Death on the Nile

While scrap books certainly seem to have been more popular in the mid to late 20th century, there are many individuals who still enjoy collecting ephemera and memorabilia. However, newspapers were much more prevalent in years past which led to frequent clipping and gluing. Periodically these ephemera-based collections come to market and some of them provide unique insights.

Currently in the market, are two binders of Agatha Christie related material collected during the 1960s and 70s by Charlotte Tufts, a southern California reference librarian. This is one of these collections that provides some new insights to the world of Christie. While these binders appear to contain a lot of typical clippings and magazine articles from the period, there are two items of particular interest – one valuable and one curious.

The Valuable & Insightful: From the materials reviewed, by far the most valuable and insightful is a Letter from Agatha Christie to Michael Prichard, a Los Angeles based attorney, about her plays. Prichard appears to have been a friend of Charlotte Tufts based upon other material in the scrap book. While the letter he sent Christie is not present, her response implies that he was inquiring about writing plot summaries for each of her plays and was seeking additional insights. From her letter, it is obvious Christie does not approve of any summaries that people can read prior to attending a play or reading a book. She even expresses her disappointment that Dodd Mead allowed G.C. Ramsay to dissect one of her books in ‘Mistress of Mystery’. However, it is her insights on her plays that many will find valuable. For example, Christie discusses the play Love from a Stranger. She states it is comprised of her original play that she first wrote it “as a one act play” but later “agreed to Frank Vosper extending it into a three act play. The first two acts being his, and the third act being principally the one act play as I had written it.” She also states that while she was not involved at all in the plays for Alibi, Murder at the Vicarage, and Peril at End House, she did have “a certain amount of collaboration with Gerald Verner in ‘Towards Zero’.” Christie goes on to explain why she believes “Hercule Poirot is utterly unsuited to appear in any detective play” and provides numerous other play related comments.

Page 1 of a fascinating letter written by Agatha Christie

This letter is a real gem and appears original, though this should be confirmed as it could be a vintage copy. Most of Christie’s letters that show up for sale have little merit and often are just in the vein of ‘Thank you for your kind words’ or ‘I’m so glad you enjoyed it’. Consequently, collectors of Christie’s letters will potentially view this as one of the best letters on the market in recent years.

Page 2 of Christie's letter about her plays.

The Curious: In our article on the Pera Palace Hotel (click here to view), we reference the strange events leading up to the production of the film “Agatha” starring Dustin Hoffman. Whether a publicity stunt or a misguided ambition, in 1979 director Michael Apted wanted to reimagine Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926 for his film. As little was known about the 11 days, Apted decided to arrange a séance using the services of Hollywood-based medium and clairvoyant Tamara Rand to try to connect with Christie. While this séance led a camera crew to Istanbul searching for Christie’s lost diary, it also made Tamara Rand a minor celebrity. In Charlotte Tufts’ scrapbook there are numerous items related to the film “Agatha” but one page stands out. That page is filled with signatures that appear to be the attendees of a séance hosted by Tufts. One of those signatures is ‘Tamara Rand’, who had clearly attended and likely led the event. Thus it shows that Tamara Rand continued to sell her services to connect Christie fans with Agatha herself in the afterlife! There are also numerous news clippings related to the original séance, which must have made quite an impression on Charlotte.

One of the signatures... Tamara Rand... the medium who claimed she could connect with Christie.

The Rest: Other Items in the two binders include ephemera related to other Christie movies, announcements of the death of Poirot, the death of Christie, press releases, photos, postcards, a program for Ten Little Indians play autographed by director William Morris, and photos of Angela Lansbury and cast for "Miss Marple" filming, and signature from Timothy Dalton who starred in “Agatha” – amongst the many other items.

Value: It is very hard to assess a value to items such as these, which is why auction houses exist! But without the signed Christie letter related to her plays, the collection is likely only worth £100 - £200 UK ($130 - $260 US) for a Christie fan who enjoys oddities. However, signed Christie letters that have meaningful content often sell for £500 - £1,500 UK ($650 - $1,950 US). With the dealer’s asking price of ~$1,800 Canadian (£1,050 UK / $1,350 US) any buyer must assess the value of the whole package and confirm the letter is original, not a reproduction. If original, the letter would account for 90% of any assessed value.

Please note: Collecting Christie chooses what it reviews and never takes any marketed posts and has no affiliation with any book dealer, publisher or auction house. No confirmation or assurance is ever made by Collecting Christie of the authenticity of any item shown. With the goal of helping our readers find items for their collections, then if you are interested in this collection please contact M. Benjamin Katz Fine Books and Rare Manuscripts, in Ontario Canada, or click here. The most important consideration would be to verify whether the letter is the original, or a reproduction.

Signed by Timothy Dalton.

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