RARE PAPERBACK: The Third Girl (Fontana - 1968)
For collectors of Agatha Christie's works, paperbacks are typically far more affordable than their hardback counterparts - whether first printings or later editions. However, there are a number of Christie paperbacks that are incredibly scarce and, when found, some can be very pricey to obtain. Over the years we've profiled a number of these rare paperbacks which we've referenced at the bottom with links to those articles for those interested in learning more about this category of Christie collectibles.
Most rare paperbacks were printed in the 1930s and 1940s. It is uncommon to have a truly scarce paperback from the late 1960s... but there is one.
The Definitive Article:
In 1968, Fontana issued the first paperback of Third Girl. Labelled as "New in paperback" and priced 3/6, the book was shod in the original art design by Tom Adams. However, Fontana mistitled the book and issued it as "The Third Girl" with this name appearing on both the cover and the spine. The internal fly page and title page both correctly named the book as "Third Girl". Fontana numbered this printing 1759, which is found at the foot of the spine. An incorrect title on a book is very unusual. Just as stamp collectors love to find stamps printed with an error, this is not something book collectors usually have an opportunity to do.
This true first must have been quickly pulled from circulation as very few copies survive, and when they do appear on the market it is often in far flung corners of the world. One could speculate that copies of this first printing were shipped out of the UK before the titling error was noted.
Then when Fontana reissued the book in August of 1969 (below) with the correct title on the cover it was now priced at 4/- (20p) on the foot of the front cover. Fontana also updated the printing number on the spine to 2136.
Some copies of this printing initially affixed a label stating "First time in paperback" despite the copyright page acknowledging it was actually the second printing.
Reprints continued at a rapid pace. For example there were fifteen impressions by 1976 alone - all continued to use the Tom Adams artwork (15th edition below).
This incorrectly titled first paperback is incredibly scarce. We rarely ever see them for sale though fortunately one is in our collection - though we'd gladly acquire a better copy if we could! We'd love to get a sense of how many paperback collectors out there have been able to find this printing or are still looking... or perhaps didn't know it existed. We would guess that the remaining copies of this book likely number in the hundreds as many paperbacks don't survive over 50 years anyway.
For a Christie completist or first paperback collector, it is a must. Since there is no recent market in this book to reference, we would expect to pay at least £100 for a copy in any condition (if the seller knows what they have) and up to £250 for a near fine copy. Second impressions onwards solely change hands for used paperback prices.
Other Paperback Articles of Note:
The LA Bantam: The Mystery of the Blue Geranium (click here for the article)
The Vallency Press Duo: Crime in Cabin 66 and Poirot and the Regatta mystery (article)
The first five Pan Books: (article)
Pocket Book #5: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (article)
Collins Canadian White Circle books: (article)
The Albatross books: (article)