A series of articles I've been writing is about anthologies that contain a first printing of an Agatha Christie story. While collectors of Christie’s works come in all stripes, collectors of first hardback printings are perhaps the more common. While those seeking full-length novels have plenty of accurate resources to reference to determine true first printings, short stories are much harder to collect. Many true firsts of short stories appeared in anthologies – collections of short stories from many different authors in a single volume - as opposed to an omnibus collection of 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.
Prior articles have explored a number of these anthologies. The Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1928 (Faber & Gwyer, UK, 1929), contains the first Miss Marple story in book form (link). In addition, the following year's anthology 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). In 1935, The Hospital Centenary Gift Book contains the first UK hardback printing of The Veiled Lady (link).
Miss Marple & the Tape-Measure Murder:
This article looks at the first book printing of the Miss Marple short story "Tape-Measure Murder". The first magazine appearence was in the US in This Week on 16 November 1941. In the UK, it appeared under the title "The Case of the Retired Jeweller" in The Strand magazine in February 1942.
For hardback collectors and the focus of this article, the first printing of the story was in the anthology Fifth Mystery Book, published by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., New York & Toronto, in 1944. The book was priced $2.50 on the front flap and the rear panel encouraged the purchase of war bonds and stamps.
As the name implies this was the fifth book in Farrar & Rinehart's series of short mystery collections. This book contained four stories - the other three were by the authors Philip Wylie, Hugh Pentecost and Ethel Gayle. Value $100 - $125 in very good condition with a very good jacket. Despite its relative affordability, this book is exceptionally scarce in a jacket and collectors may need to be patient to find one though copies do periodically show for sale.
First Paperback Printing:
The first appearance in paperback was also in an anthology collection published in the US in March 1947. The Avon Book Company, New York, published Avon Detective Mysteries and made it "Issue No. 1" in what they expected to be a series of similar books. However, only three editions were ever published. Value $50-75 in very good condition.
While Avon referred to it as a mystery magazine, it was essentially a paperback with stiffer boards.
Later Book Editions:
The first traditional omnibus collection containing this story was Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, published by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York in 1950. This is a surprisingly challenging book to find and is valued at $400-$500 for a very good jacketed copy. In the UK, the first omnibus collection was 13 For Luck!, published by Collins, London in 1966. It was a collection aimed towards younger readers that was previously published in the US in 1961. Valued at £50-75 for a very good jacketed edition.
It was also included in the Collins Crime Club title Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories, published in 1979. Most later publications also add a "The" infront of "Tape-Measure Murder". Also of the note, the 'Continental' paperback edition of this book was the last Fontana paperback to feature original cover art by Tom Adams. The original painting for that cover is part of my collection and something I'm very proud to own. Tom Adams was able to weave imagery related to all the stories into the cover - including the Tape-Measure Murder.
Comments and Recommendations:
If there are any errors or omissions in this article please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, if you have an anthology you would like us to write about please do let me know. I have many still to profile but am open to suggestions as to which is next in this series.
Now only 6 weeks away... if you haven't made plans, consider attending this year's festival in Torquay, Devon. More events have recently been added and there are still plenty of tickets available to most of them. I will be presenting a ‘Collecting Christie Live!’ event at the 2023 International Agatha Christie Festival at 3pm on Friday 15th September (yes – Christie’s birthday!). My presentation will be about Christie’s stage plays, with insights into collecting playscripts, programmes and other theatre memorabilia. Tickets are required with proceeds supporting the Festival’s Charity. For more details click here.
Also on September 15th is the worldwide release of the film A Haunting in Venice, loosely based on Agatha Christie's novel Hallowe'en Party.