The World's Thickest Book

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It's official "“ at 4,032 pages, all resting on a spine over a foot thick, the world's thickest book is The Complete Miss Marple. The massive volume, a collection of the 12 novels and 20 short stories by Agatha Christie featuring the guileless spinster detective, was revealed to the public at a press event at Foyle's Charing Cross Road bookshop in London on Wednesday, May 20.

Taking part in the event was Christie's grandson and inheritor of her estate, Matthew Prichard, who congratulated HarperCollins, publisher of Christie's books, on creating a "piece of literary history," and said, "I hope that a lot of very nice people come to possess one."

Asked later what his grandmother would have made of the record-winning tome, he said, "I think that she'd be amazed that we were all in Foyle's, 35 years after her death, celebrating Miss Marple."

Prichard also admitted that he hadn't tried to read the new book yet. "I've got a very bad leg at the moment so I don't think I could do it," he said, laughing. "It's heavier than it looks!"

The book's unveiling was not without its own suspense, of course "“ Guinness Book of World Records adjudicator John Pilley, armed with a tape measure, was on hand to determine whether or not the book actually met all the world record criteria. Luckily, it did, and Pilley had the pleasure of awarding the book's publishers the official Guinness World Record certificate. Afterwards, Pilley, himself an Agatha Christie fan, asked Prichard to autograph one of her books for him.

A few quick facts about the World's Thickest Book:

The book is as much a technological feat as a literary one, if not more so. The book is 4,032 pages long, all collected in a spine 322 mm (12.6 inches) thick, bound in maroon leather with gilt writing on the cover and appropriately enough, paged edged with red speckling. At 8.02 kilograms, or about 17.6 pounds, it weighs as much as a medium-sized dog, even more when it's in its bespoke suede-lined wooden box. It's made up of 252 separate 16-page sections, which are hand-sewn together and to the spine. For awhile, it was questionable whether they could find a guillotine powerful enough to trim the book's considerable edges. It is, I can say with the satisfaction of a person who likes to see inordinately large things, massive.
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Though no one's tried it yet, reading at a pace of 30 pages an hour, it would take around 134 hours to finish the book.
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The book contains an introduction by best-selling British mystery writer, Kate Mosse, who has often claimed that Agatha Christie is one of her favorite authors, and a water-color illustration of St. Mary's Mead, Miss Marple's fictional village, based on a drawing Christie herself created for The Murder at the Vicarage.
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Through the 12 novels and 20 short stories reproduced in the book, Miss Marple solves 43 murders: 12 poisonings, six strangulations, two drownings, two stabbings, two people pushed to their deaths, one rather grisly burning, one blow to the head, and one arrow through the heart. In all, 68 crimes are committed, including the murders. There are 11 philandering spouses, 21 romances, 22 false accusations, and a whopping 59 red herrings. And, as solid evidence of either Miss Marple's ability to keep a cool head or the English obsession with tea, characters drink 143 cups of tea.
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Only 500 of the books have been made for sale and they'll go at a cost of £1000 each. Check out AgathaChristie.com if you want one.

A few facts about Miss Jane Marple:

agatha-christie.jpgMiss Marple's first appearance in a novel was in Murder at the Vicarage, which was published in 1930, and she made her last appearance in 1976's Sleeping Murder. Despite the 46-year span, Christie only wrote 12 novels featuring Miss Marple "“ rather paltry when compared with the 33 novels her other famous detective, Hercule Poirot, stars in. Christie's grandson, Matthew Prichard, said that his grandmother was careful not to overuse the diminutive, elderly character. "It was never her intention, and I use her words, that she should be "˜haunted' by Miss Marple for the rest of her life," he said.
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Miss Marple was inspired by a character from another of her books, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd "“ a spinster busy-body whose enjoyment of gossip keeps her well-informed about the goings-in in her little village. Christie also said that both characters were inspired by her grandmother and the women of her grandmother's circle.
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Miss Marple has lived her entire life in the fictional village of St. Mary's Mead, a prototypical English village of a certain era whose chief occupation is gossip. While she's often dismissed as "having never seen the world," Miss Marple maintains that there's quite enough human nature, wickedness and frailty in a typical English village to go around, as well as more than ample opportunity to study it.
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In They Do It With Mirrors, one character accurately summed up Miss Marple's ability to get to the bottom of some rather grisly crimes: "Because you've got a nose for that sort of thing. You always had. You've always been a sweet innocent looking creature, Jane, and all the time underneath nothing has ever surprised you, you always believe the worst."
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Miss Marple has never had any formal training as a detective and relies primarily on her keen intelligence, powers of observation, and knowledge of human nature.
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She has never married and is what British novels refer to as "a maiden aunt," a sweet, frail-looking, fluffy sort of person who seems from a by-gone era. As such, she does typical maiden auntie things, like knit. Over the course of The Complete Miss Marple, Miss Marple knits 47 garments. She's supported by her own means and by her nephew, Raymond West, a successful mystery writer.
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Miss Marple has been portrayed on stage and screen by a number of actresses, including Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, Joan Hickson, and Geraldine McEwan.

A few quick facts about Agatha Christie:

agatha-christie-2.jpgThis is crime writer Agatha Christie's third Guinness World Record: She holds one for best-selling author, and another for her play, The Mousetrap, which is the world's longest running play "“ it's still going, now in its 57th year.
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Christie sold her first novel in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles; within just a few years, she had solidified her reputation as an ingenious and ruthless plotter, never sentimental and always unexpected. Before her death in 1976, The Queen of Crime wrote 80 detective novels, six romance novels (under a pseudonym), 13 plays, and 154 short stories.
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All of her books are still in print, selling around 500,000 copies a year, and she's the eighth most borrowed author from British libraries. With more than 2 billion of her books floating around the world, Christie is one of the most published authors in history "“ outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.
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She's been immortalized in wax at Madame Tussaud's, has a rose named after her, and every September, England celebrates the author's birthday with Agatha Christie Week.

May 20, 2009 - 12:12pm
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