Forty-one Discworld novels have been published. The original British editions of the first 26 novels, up to Thief of Time (2001), had cover art by Josh Kirby. The American editions, published by Harper Collins, used their own cover art. Since Kirby's death in 2001, the covers have been designed by Paul Kidby. Companion publications include eleven short stories (some only loosely related to the Discworld), four popular science books, and a number of supplementary books and reference guides. The series has been adapted for graphic novels, theatre, computer and board games, and television.
Newly released Discworld books regularly topped The Sunday Times best-sellers list, making Pratchett the UK's best-selling author in the 1990s. Discworld novels have also won awards such as the Prometheus Award and the Carnegie Medal. In the BBC's Big Read, four Discworld novels were in the top 100, and a total of fourteen in the top 200. More than 80 million Discworld books have been sold in 37 languages.
Death is one of the most popular Discworld characters and makes an appearance in every Discworld book except The Wee Free Men. His steed is a great pale horse called Binky who is very much still alive. His hollow, peculiar voice is represented in the books by unquoted small caps; it is peculiar because since he is a tall skeleton, he has no vocal cords to speak with, and thus, speaks through other means. In The Colour of Magic (the first Discworld novel), and in Faust Eric, all direct written references to Death are proper nouns, thus, for example, "he" is written as "He". This is usually reserved for the Discworld gods and is not featured in any of the other novels.
Death is not invisible. Most people just refuse to acknowledge him for who he is, unless he insists. Under normal circumstances, only those of a magical disposition (e.g. witches and wizards), children and cats can see him, or allow themselves to see him. Death can of course ignore things like walls or magic spells that stand between him and his object: this is because he's much "realer" than they are. A castle might stand for centuries, but Death has existed for billions of years: to him, the walls of the castle are less substantial than a cobweb. However, he can only go where people can die, as shown in Hogfather.
The Guild of Thieves, Cutpurses and Allied Trades is a fictional institition on the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork. It is distinguished from Thieves' Guilds in other fantasy universes by being completely legal. The Thieves' Guild was established early in Lord Havelock Vetinari's rule of Ankh-Morpork. Lord Vetinari realised that what people crave is stability, and that, while it is impossible to stamp out crime altogether, it is possible to regulate it. The major gang leaders of the city were therefore called to the Patrician's Palace, where they agreed to be held responsible for ensuring a socially acceptable number of thefts. While they may have been insincere in this promise, they soon found the Patrician knew too much about them for reneging to be safe.
The Thieves' Guild quickly became the major law-enforcement body of the city, causing the Ankh-Morpork City Watch to slide even further into the pit of depression they would remain in until Carrot Ironfoundersson's arrival. In the year of the Engaging Sloth, the Guild had a General Strike, and the amount of crime doubled.
While the main money-making venture of Thieves' Guild members remains theft, more recent books show a system of "insurance", whereby people may pay a fee directly to the Guild and therefore become immune to robbery for a specified period. Unlicensed theft remains illegal, under both city and Guild law, and perpetrators consider themselves lucky if the revitalised Watch catches them.
He sagged to his knees. He ached all over. It wasn't just that his brain was writing cheques that his body couldn't cash. It had gone beyond that. Now his feet were borrowing money that his legs hadn't got, and his back muscles were looking for loose change under the sofa cushions. -- The Fifth Elephant
William barely had time to undress and lie down before it was time to get up again. -- The Truth
A chocolate you did not want to eat does not count as chocolate. This discovery is from the same branch of culinary physics that determined that food eaten while walking along contains no calories. -- Thief of Time
This man was so absent-mindedly clever that he could paint pictures that didn't just follow you around the room but went home with you and did the washing-up. -- The Last Hero
'Listen, Peaches, trickery is what humans are all about,' said the voice of Maurice. 'They're so keen on tricking one another all the time that they elect governments to do it for them.' -- 'The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Equal Rites is the third Discworld novel, first published in 1987. It is the first novel where the main character is not Rincewind, and introduces the character of Granny Weatherwax who reappears in several later Discworld novels.
The wizard Drum Billet knows that he will soon die and travels to a place where an eighth son of an eighth son is about to be born. Since such a boy is destined to become a wizard (on the Discworld, the number eight has many of the magical properties that are ascribed to seven in the real world), Billet wants to pass his staff on to him as his successor. However, the child born is actually a girl, Esk (full name Eskarina Smith). Since Billet notices his mistake too late, the staff is passed on to her.