IN DEPTH REVIEW: The Folio Society's Five Little Pigs
In May, we published an article on the complete catalogue of Agatha Christie novels and short stories published by The Folio Society over the last 30 years. To read this article click here. The article raised several inquiries from readers as to whether The Folio Society books are worth buying and collecting, especially when over the years there have been many publishers that have delved into the world of limited, specialty print runs. So to provide a little more insight, here is a more detailed review on the latest offering from The Folio Society.
The 2020 Summer Collection: Each year, The Folio Society publishes several catalogues of their newest collection of books for sale. While there won’t be a Christie in each collection, the "Summer 2020 Collection" features Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs. The Folio Society does not disclose the complete print run, but they do say it is ‘several thousand’. Compared to a typical hardback release from a best-selling author, this is quite limited. Scale and quality are the two main factors influencing price, so the asking price of £36.95 UK or $54.95 US per copy, plus shipping costs, is certainly fair. Before we even delve into the quality of the book and its relevant value, it should be noted that every order from The Folio Society actually gets you two books. A ‘mystery’ (not genre, think surprise) book is also included free with every order. Whether you appreciate the title or not that you receive will impact the personal value you ascribe to that free book. Recent people who ordered Five Little Pigs are known to have received a copy of The Folio Society’s edition of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. It appears The Folio Society may be gifting excess stock, and thus expect the free gift to change over time. Now back to Five Little Pigs.
The Book: Premium touches include the slipcase and illustrated cover. However, this book is not leather bound or gilt-edged. As a hardback it is covered in buckram – essentially a hard cloth cover over boards. This is certainly a nice feel compared to boards only and is consistent with the cloth covers Christie books had when first published. Coloured end papers (mustard in this book) match the colour of the image (block printed) on the cover. Because the cover has an image on it (by Andrew Robinson), the slip case is essential to avoid shelf wear.
The Paper: From the Yulong Company, in China. The Folio Society uses their ‘Pure Paper’ for the book’s text pages. The Yulong Company describes this as made from 100% high-quality imported wood pulp, with a soft, thick, highly untransparent surface that does not contain fluorescent brightener, which overcomes the problem of reflection from many paper types, claiming it doens't cause visual fatigue. This appears a fair description. It is a pleasant, easy reading book with its quality paper and great typeface.
The Illustrations: There are seven full colour illustrations, plus the blocked cover art – all by Andrew Davidson. His artwork integrates well with the story though it is not in the style of Tom Adams or Ian Robinson. Those authors were known for providing clues or teasers in their art. Andrew Davidson takes a different approach which is to portray specific moments or scenes from the book (page references and text citations for each piece of art are provided). This works well and compliments the book. Davidson is clearly a talented artist and his aesthetic is spot on for Christies where the typical reader and fan wants a sense of nostalgia and authenticity. While the new Sarah Phelps film versions of Christie’s works are designed to appeal to a new generation, more traditionalist fans can take comfort that The Folio Society and Andrew Davidson are playing to the loyal fan base.
Now back to value. When one considers the overall quality of the book, the added bonus of a free second book, the pricing for this book provides solid value. There is no doubt that every fan of Christie will enjoy the ownership of this book, that it will take pride of place on the book shelf, that it will hold its value, and perhaps appreciate in the years ahead given the small print run and unique art. Our recommendation is that owners of this Folio Society edition of Five Little Pigs actually read the book... something many collectors are reluctant to do! It is when read, that its true value comes apparent, as the paper, typeface, art and quality feel all elevate the experience of reading one of Christie's great novels set at her beloved Greenway House. Collecting Christie will be notified by The Folio Society if or when they choose to release another title and we will let you know through our various media channels. It you wish to visit The Folio Society's website related to this book click here.