Vintage Treasures: The Pan Book of Horror Stories

Vintage Treasures: The Pan Book of Horror Stories

the-third-pan-book-of-horror-storiesI talk a lot about book collecting here on the blog. People sometimes tell me, “It’s interesting to hear about all the books you’ve been able to find… sort of. But you know what would really be interesting? To hear about the books you haven’t been able to find.”

Okay, but this is a painful subject. Just ask any serious book collector to tell you about the titles that have eluded them for decades. It’s like asking a guy to enumerate all the women who’ve turned him down. We carry those memories for a long time, but that don’t mean we wanna talk about ’em.

“Oh come on,” people say. “Like you’ve ever turned down a chance to talk about books. Give it up.” Well, since you put it that way.

Let’s talk about The Pan Book of Horror Stories.

The Pan Book of Horror Stories was a British paperback series of horror anthologies. Published by Pan Books, it lasted for an amazing thirty volumes, from 1959 to 1989. The series creator — and editor for the first 25 volumes — was the renowned editor Herbert van Thal (Told in the Dark, Tales to Make the Flesh Creep, Lie Ten Nights Awake, and many others classic horror anthologies). Clarence Paget took over in 1985 after Van Thal’s death and edited the last five volumes, until the series came to an end with number thirty in 1989.

The Pan Book of Horror Stories has a legendary reputation. Van Thal is a highly regarded editor, and with these books his vision was nothing less than to create a complete library of the finest short horror stories ever written. With the early volumes he relied heavily on classic tales from Bram Stoker, C. S. Forester, Ray Bradbury, Lord Dunsany, Edgar Allan Poe, William Hope Hodgson, William Faulkner, Frank Belknap Long, and many others, but with later installments he branched out to include newer authors (such as Stephen King), which helped launch a lot of new talent.

After several decades of collecting I have managed to lay my hands on exactly one volume: The Third Pan Book of Horror Stories, published in 1962 (shown above).

That probably overemphasizes the rarity of these books — they’re not that hard to find. But they are expensive, especially in the original British editions (the US editions were dramatically pared down, including fewer stories), and the older volumes in particular are difficult to find in good condition. I’ve been trying to locate a reasonably-priced collection of Pan Book of Horror Stories for years, with absolutely no success.

But that’s okay. As most collectors know, the real joy is in the search. I’m looking forward to a lot of joy in the next few years, as I gradually accumulate the other 29 volumes. Wish me luck.

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Robert Mammone


Living in Australia (and thus a Commonwealth country getting access to UK published books more easily than those who through off the Empire’s yoke) as I do, getting my hands on copies of these anthologies at a cheap price hasn’t been too hard. I remember walking into a 2nd hand bookstore in Melbourne a few years ago and walking out with 5 or 6 of these books for about $3 apiece.

I suppose living in the States makes it harder as you would have to rely on importing them, with the extra cost of postage. Still if you look at this list on ebay, the prices seem reasonable to me, though I did filter it so it showed the cheapest first:


The Pan books of horror stories, while searching for them via web UK noticed that in the US new prints of least some of the volumes are available. Straight off the printer so to speak. However very expensive for even one and of course post and packaging say to UK on top.
As for UK this series of paperbacks for a collector even say a last printing of each volume would be more desirable for reasons being that they are still original than the US reprints. Making UK original ones the real deal!
Another thing too is in your blog the US ones fewer stories and pared down.
So then these UK editions can only increase in prices becoming more and more scarce. Where I live only managed two volumes when searching for them then via the web found more different sources there which I purchased two in one go and since one edition other times.

Condition wise either very or likewise good and good plus. Two or three fair at the least. While searching web some years ago now saw one copy which was literally apart the book etc binding, cover, pages some together others seperate apart etc but all there. This particular volume was being offered for £5 not sure now if bidding price or to buy outright. But nevertheless for sale.
Recently volume 1 a first edition literally price well over £400, many now sell for tens of pounds. Some near to £100. You can and do see some exceptionally cheap.

Also must be awful amount of original volumes either discarded by owners and even lost plus given away. Other volumes perhaps ended up recycled.


Hi again, at present literally a volume one of The Pan books of horror stories yesterday infact and today still there, rare it says, acceptable condition. But significant is re description and photos shown of this paperback is not first edition but a 1970 fourteenth print. Back cover is missing and spine not too bad I’d say but the price is literally £99. Or best offer, post and packing on top to come also.
I therefore was right re prints, prices will get higher regards original ones!
Of course others available volumes where saw one described above on eBay. Some fairly cheap others tad more. Which brings me to this thought— chances many or least moderate amount of those selling them either unaware of their value or indifferent to it!!

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