Mar 08

Our Year Of Agatha Christie Covers: 2: The Body In The Library

FT + The Brown Wedge/5 comments • 2,564 views

After last weeks high concept high art piece, lets go back a bit to a time when book jackets were not all airbrushed wasps and TV-Tie-ins. This cover to The Body In The Library is still pretty high concept, and designed nicely without a computer in sight. Indeed its “letters as book jackets” conceit is perhaps a little too successful, giving the actual book title and slightly unreadable font to fit in with the conceit.

Oddly the typographical stab here is possibly more readable to those of use who grew up in the eighties with similar style blocky computer graphics which these almost represent. And one letter your Mode 2 BBC computer ofter had trouble rendering well was the letter Y. Here the designer, having fitted in some nicely plausible curves on then curvy letters, loses the plot on the Y’s on the top and bottom shelf. Every other letter could be a book, except this strangely bifurcated tome. But then this book jacket was completely drawn (hence even Agatha’s name being in a pretty clunky font).

This image is from the 1942 Australian Collins Crime Club edition, as sold in a Tokyo Book auction here for 64,000 Yen (unclear if that was asking price or guide price). That’s about three hundred quid, cos there is a bit of a collecters market in Christie. As for the plot, well the comments crew I am sure will be able to tell you more but its safe to say that cosy English mystery + library = classic. It may actually be one of the few Marples I have seen done on TV – possible in the recent Geraldine James permutation (aka The Biddy in The Library). Note the current UK Harper cover uses a similar idea to the one above, but is much more content in suggesting that library shelves are also places you find lamps and letter shaped nik-naks*. Also that Amazon thinks the book would be prefectly paired with Germaine Greer’s Zastrozzi!


*Not as nice as Scampi and Lemon Nik-Naks.


  1. 1
    Alan on 11 Mar 2008 #

    That top cover is re-used in a 2005 facsimile edition. Also a 1990 ‘centenary’ edition (centenary here referring to her birth – ie agatha being 100 had she lived).

    Oddly many of this titles covers seem to be ‘typographic’ – though this is not generally a trait of agatha books in general. One very bland 80s edition has the capital L fallen over on its side – like an body what has been killed OMGzzzz

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 11 Mar 2008 #

    Clearly the classic cover then. Would it have been in house Collins design, or a named designed. Credit where due if possible. Pity about those Y’s.

    I always assume locked room mysteries take place in libraries. Don’t know much about this one.

  3. 3
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 11 Mar 2008 #

    i don’t think there’s a “body in the library” in holmes or fr brown — there’s library action in “the unpleasantness at the bellona club”, but i think it’s a letter or a will being (re)written, and the body itself is in the snug!

    anyway it’s a tremendous device for bringing the frisson close to home, since the agatha reader = someone likely to fund in the library, and it is by repute a tranquil retreat of a room so OH NOES MY CASTLE IS BROKE OPE psychologically

    m.r.james has a terrific GHASTLY ENCOUNTER IN THE STACKS, in the “tractate middoth” <— i think in a funny way THIS is the ancestor of the sub-genre

  4. 4
    Tom on 11 Mar 2008 #

    BITL has one of the better Agatha misdirections in it too.

  5. 5

    […] Body in the Library is a Miss Marple mystery story.  According to Freaky Trigger, this particular cover is the  1942 Australian Collins Crime […]

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