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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, December 7, 2012
Christie's sold one of the few existing pages from the original autograph manuscript for The Hound of the Baskervilles on December 7, 2012 for more than $150,000. Conan Doyle's classic tale of Gothic horror and suspense became one of the first bestselling novels of the 20th century. This leaf from Sherlock Holmes's most famous case names both Holmes and Watson and includes an exciting scene on the moor.
Conan Doyle wrote in dark brown ink on the front (recto) of this 12 3/4 x 8 inch (320 x 200mm) manuscript leaf. Like the other Hound leaves, it's not signed or dated, but was written in the spring of 1901. It's on blue-lined, tan paper that's neatly backed with laid paper and appears to be in fine condition.
The author did not send this manuscript to a typist and it probably went to a compositor at The Strand Magazine. That likely accounts for the spindle hole in the top left corner of the leaf and the penciled page number in the blank left margin. This page includes 33 lines of text with a number of insertions and cancellations that show how Doyle refined his prose.
The text comes from Chapter 12 of the story, and the census for The Hound of the Baskervilles manuscript notes that the next two leaves of the manuscript (H28 and H29) reside at the University of Minnesota. This previously unrecorded leaf becomes H36 for the next revision of the census.id="manuscript"
All three of these leaves have a spindle hole and a penciled number in the left margin, indicating they were pages 7 to 9 of the manuscript for this chapter. All the leaves also include a much smaller number in the upper right corner. Curiously, this leaf (H36) contains a "10" in that corner while H28/H29 show the expected "8" and "9." See below for a larger photo of this manuscript leaf.
Only 12 of the 36 leaves known to still exist from The Hound manuscript are privately held. Many of the extant leaves do not explicitly identify Holmes or Watson. This leaf is particularly notable for the stirring action on the moor as the tale nears its climax and the naming of both Watson and Holmes four times within its text.
Estimated to sell for $60,000 - $80,000, the manuscript leaf went for a $130,000 hammer price plus the buyer's premium for a total of $158,500.
Inspired by a west country legend conveyed to him by Bertram Fletcher Robinson, Conan Doyle wrote this tale in roughly three months from May to July 1901. His handwritten manuscript was broken up as part of a publicity campaign for the American publication of the book in 1902. Estimated to comprise approximately 185 pages originally, most of the manuscript is almost certainly lost, with only 36 leaves reported to still exist and the majority of those held by institutions.
Previously unrecorded, the leaf being offered by Christie's (H36 on the manuscript census) was acquired more than thirty years ago, probably between 1970 and 1975. It is being sold by the son of the prior owner.
The story first appeared in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, with the scene from this leaf in their February 1902 number. George Newnes published the first British book edition on March 25, 1902.
Christie's provides both an online catalogue and a printed catalogue for this sale.
View Christie's Lot 131 the Hound of the Baskervilles catalogue entry.
Other online options include a PDF (176MB) and a Flash-based e-catalogue, but these have the same information as the link above. The PDF includes the full content of the printed catalogue. It's available from:
The printed catalogue is $40 or £25. On page 103 it has the same description and full-leaf photo as shown at the Lot 131 link above.
You can purchase the printed catalogue from their website (sale 2607). Or if ordering by phone, ask for Publication (Sale) Code Gatsby-2607, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana, for the 7 December 2012 Christie's New York sale.
This will be Christie’s Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana sale, in New York, on December 7, 2012 at 11:30 am.
The buyer's premium is 25% of the hammer price on the first $50,000 and 20% on the remainder up to $1 million. Reserve prices are set at or below the low pre-sale estimate.
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
Tel: +1 212 636 2000
Fax: +1 212 636 2399
Pre-sale Viewing at Rockefeller Center
Saturday Dec 1 10am - 5pm
Sunday Dec 2 1pm - 5pm
Monday Dec 3 10am - 5pm
Tuesday Dec 4 10am - 5pm
Wednesday Dec 5 10am - 5pm
Thursday Dec 6 10am - 12pm
See the manuscript description above for additional information.
(text in italics precedes and follows leaf H36)
The cry had been loud on account of its vehemence, but it had pealed out from somewhere far off on the shadowy plain. Now it burst upon our ears, nearer, louder, more urgent
"Where is it?" Holmes whispered; and I knew from the thrill of his voice that he, the man of iron, was shaken to the soul. "Where is it, Watson?"
"There, I think." I pointed into the darkness.
Again the agonized cry swept through the silent night, louder and much nearer than ever. And a new sound mingled with it, a deep, muttered rumble, musical and yet menacing, rising and falling like the low, constant murmur of the sea.
"The hound!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, come! Great heavens, if we are too late!"
He had started running swiftly over the moor, and I had followed at his heels. But now from somewhere among the broken ground immediately in front of us there came one last despairing yell, and then a dull, heavy thud. We halted and listened. Not another sound broke the heavy silence of the windless night.
I saw Holmes put his hand to his forehead like a man distracted. He stamped his feet upon the ground.
"He has beaten us, Watson. We are too late."
"No, no, surely not!"
"Fool that I was to hold my hand. And you, Watson, see what comes of abandoning your charge! But, by Heaven, if the worst has happened we'll avenge him!"
Blindly we ran through the gloom, blundering against boulders, forcing our way through gorse bushes, panting up hills and rushing down slopes, heading always in the direction whence those dreadful sounds had come. At every rise Holmes looked eagerly round him, but the shadows were thick upon the moor, and nothing moved upon its dreary face.
"Can you see anything?"
"But, hark, what is that?"
A low moan had fallen upon our ears. There it was again upon our left!...
Unless noted, online reports were available free to the public when originally posted. Some websites may remove online articles or charge for accessing older items.
Art Daily, December 1, 2012 (84 words)
Christie's announces Sale of Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, including Americana
Describes the sale overall, with short section on the Conan Doyle manuscript leaf
Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, October 2012, p. 3. (44 words)
["Randall Stock reports the discovery of one more page...] by Peter E. Blau
Brief mention that refers readers to this web page
My thanks to Chris Coover at Christie's New York for details about the manuscript and the photo.
Census of the Manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles
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