FIRST EDITIONS OF TWO MASTERPIECES OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.
The story of Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and Strand Magazine began in April, 1891, when Doyle sent three stories, “A Case of Identity,” “The Red-Headed League,” and The Boscombe Valley Mystery” to The Strand for publication in their issues. Doyle had imagined a creating a series of stories centered around his detective Sherlock Holmes, but with each one self-contained in case a reader missed an issue. The series, however, was intended to be limited, but the editor of The Strand kept asking for more. As Doyle later explained, “The more he asked for the more I turned out until I had a dozen… That dozen stories being finished I determined they should be the end of all Sherlock’s doings.” (Green and Gibson, A10).
After appearing in magazine form, those original twelve stories were collected together in book form as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. “The proprietor of the magazine published the book himself using the same presses and many of the same materials as the magazine and was printed on thick cheap paper which was too heavy for the binding.” (Green and Gibson). This heavy paper has been a source of frustration to collectors, since the weight of the text has destroyed so many of the original bindings over the years. The volume was published on 14 October 1892, and sold out quickly.
Doyle had earlier threatened to kill off Sherlock Holmes (apparently he was persuaded not to by his mother) but now, in the next series of stories he was determined to do so. “If I don’t [kill Sherlock Holmes],” Doyle announced, "he’ll kill me.” The second series, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes contains many of Doyle’s most famous stories, before concluding, famously, with “The Final Problem,” where Holmes apparently plummets to his death at Reichenbach Falls while wrestling Professor Moriarty. (Years later Doyle would, of course, succumb to the demands of a grieving public – and hefty payments from The Strand – to “resurrect” Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House”.)
Both volumes are the correct first editions, first printings: Adventures with the correct first printing points: "Miss Violent Hunter" on p. 317 and the blank street sign in the cover vignette; there are no comparable points for Memoirs. With wonderful illustrations throughout by Sidney Paget.
London: George Newnes, 1892, 1894. Tall octavo, original publisher’s decorated cloth gilt, patterned endpapers, all edges gilt. Housed in custom box. Adventures with light, general soiling and wear to cloth, some rubbing to gilt; front free endpaper with old newspaper clipping about the death of Sherlock Holmes neatly pasted on recto and owner signatures on verso. An excellent copy of a book that is notoriously difficult to find in collectible condition. Memoirs in outstanding condition with clean cloth and very bright gilt on front panel. Spine gilt with a touch of rubbing. Front free endpaper with small embossed stamp of the London bookseller “W.H. Smith”; mild toning on both front and rear endpapers. A beautiful set.
Green and Gibson, A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle, A10; A14.
Price: $11,500 .