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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, June 10, 2004
Christie's sold Conan Doyle's original autograph manuscript for the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" at auction for $399,500. The sale price was more than double the pre-sale low estimate and 75 percent more than the upper estimate. Only one other lot in this very large sale went for more – an autograph telegram from Abraham Lincoln to Grant at the end of the Civil War forbidding negotiations with Lee. Conan Doyle's previously unrecorded manuscript brought more than $16,000 per page. The buyer was not identified.
Christie's held the sale in New York City at their Rockefeller Center location on 9 June 2004. The owner put up two Sherlockian lots for sale.
The first of these, Lot 57, included first edition copies of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as published by George Newnes. They were estimated to sell for US$8,000–$12,000. The lot went at the hammer price of US$8,000 and realized US$9,560 including the buyer's premium.
Lot 58, the manuscript for "The Sussex Vampire," was estimated to sell for US$150,000–$200,000. It sold for considerably more than the high estimate, bringing a hammer price of US$350,000 and realizing US$399,500 including the buyer's premium.
The Christie's website includes a summary of prices realized for all lots in this sale (9 June 2004 Sale number 1388). Their online catalogue also includes the price realized in the detailed entry for each lot. See below for more information on accessing their online catalogue.
LOT 57: This manuscript, entitled "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire," consists of 24 leaves and is bound in white buckram boards. The pages come from two different paper sources: 11 sheets of unlined stationery from a ship and 13 sheets of lined paper. The handwritten text includes scattered revisions and corrections. Sir Arthur had the manuscript bound and the upper cover is printed in gilt with the story title and "A Sherlock Holmes Story." The upper cover is also signed by the author as "Arthur Conan Doyle."
The first 11 pages of the story are on ship's stationery. Six of these sheets are marked on the verso (back) with the house flag of the White Star Line. That logo includes a two-tailed red pennant with one white star and is attached to a long red pole with a knob on top. Below the pennant, printed in black ink, are the words "ON BOARD S.S.________," which allowed passengers to fill in the name of the ship. The logo appears on pages 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 11.
Although the date and place of writing is not listed, the stationery suggests that Conan Doyle began writing this story in August 1923 on the S.S. Adriatic during his return to England. It was published in January 1924.
The Christie's catalogue notes that a New York antiquarian dealer sold it to a New York collector, who later gave it to the lady selling it now.
See the online or printed catalogues for more details.
Christie's online catalogue for sale 1388 shows "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" manuscript (Lot 58) with a detailed description and two photos. It also has another Sherlockian lot (57) from the same seller.
If Christie's changes the lot URLs you should go to the Christie's home page at <http://www.christies.com/> and click the "Search Options" link under Lotfinder. Then do the following:
Please note that Christie's current practice is to keep catalogue text online for a month after the sale, but to remove images the day following the sale. Their website also notes that sometimes online information may be more up-to-date than the printed catalogue, but that the printed version may provide more details and illustrations. In this case the printed catalogue does have another illustration, as noted below.
The printed catalogue has three pictures of the manuscript (Lot 58):
The same seller is also offering Lot 57, which consists of fine first edition copies of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as published by George Newnes.
Printed catalogues for this sale can be purchased by
Ask for the 9 June 2004 Christie's New York sale of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, including Americana (Auction Code TORTONI-1388).
There is also an advertisement for "The Sussex Vampire" manuscript in The Conan Doyle Collection catalogue for 19 May 2004 at Christie's London. This advertisement is on page  and includes a large reproduction of the first page of the manuscript.
This is Sale Number 1388 and has Auction Code TORTONI-1388. It will be held at Christie's Rockefeller Center in New York on Wednesday 9 June 2004. It's scheduled to begin at 10:00 am and includes Lots 1-232.
The manuscript will be on display at the pre-sale viewing on:
Friday 4 June, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday 5 June, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 6 June, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Monday 7 June, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Tuesday 8 June, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, April 2004 page #2
[And there is more auction news...] by Peter E. Blau
Thanks to Chris Coover and DeeDee Lanzet for their contributions.
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