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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, March 19, 2016
This rare manuscript from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes introduced Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes.
Headed on first page as "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter," with a very faint pencil note in the upper left corner as "No. XXII." Signed at end in the bottom right corner of the page as "Conan Doyle | 12 Tennison Road | S Norwood," not dated but c.1893.
Conan Doyle's original autograph manuscript is written in sepia ink on the rectos only of 34 pages of ruled paper removed from a composition book. It measures 230 x 180 mm and includes revisions in ink and pencil. Pages are numbered in the center of each sheet, likely by a compositor, in blue crayon as 1–34, overlapping the text. The versos of pp. 22 and 33 contain pencil scribbles probably done by a child. See below for a photo of the manuscript's first page.
The loose sheets of the manuscript are housed in a custom-made red cloth portfolio with a gilt-labelled spine.
This is one of five Conan Doyle manuscripts in the Bonhams 2016 auction.
After writing his first twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories, Conan Doyle was ready to move on to other projects. When the Strand Magazine requested more Holmes tales, he told his mother "I offered to do a dozen for a thousand pounds, but I sincerely hope that they won't accept it now."
They did accept, and so he went on to produce what became The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He almost certainly wrote "The Greek Interpreter" in late 1892 or early 1893. The story introduced the detective's brother Mycroft Holmes, who in the manuscript is "ten years my senior," but is only seven years older in the published text.
It appeared in the September 1893 Strand Magazine, and in America in both the September 16, 1893 issue of Harper's Weekly and the October 1893 number of the New York Strand. Collected in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, George Newnes published the English first edition in 1893 (though dated 1894), and Harper & Brothers produced the American first edition in 1894.
Arthur Conan Doyle and his family dispersed most of his manuscripts over the years, but "The Greek Interpreter" is the possibly unique instance of a Holmes manuscript that they bought back. Prior to the opening of the Broadway musical Baker Street, the author's son Adrian Conan Doyle purchased the manuscript at a December 1964 Christie's auction. He then lent it for an exhibition of Sherlockian rarities in the lobby of The Broadway Theatre in New York City. The play opened February 16, 1965 with a record advance sale of $1 million and ran for more than 300 performances.
As of March 2016, the manuscript of "The Greek Interpreter" is the only complete manuscript known to exist from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
As reported by Bonhams 2016:
Christie's London, December 18, 1964 (bought by Lew Feldman on behalf of the author's son Adrian Conan Doyle); Sold Christie's, May 5, 1982, lot 102.
First page of Conan Doyle manuscript for "The Greek Interpreter"
The manuscript description (above) has more information and another photo.
See the Bonhams catalogue for other photos of the manuscript.
Photos courtesy of Bonhams
My thanks to Tom Lamb and Katie Segreto at Bonhams for photos and additional details about the manuscript. Special thanks to David Karpeles for allowing me to examine the manuscript in 2012.
Details from Bonhams 2016 catalogue and other sources. The first version of this report appeared March 19, 2016.
Census of Sherlock Holmes Manuscripts
Census of the Manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles
Checklist of non-Sherlockian Conan Doyle Manuscripts
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