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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
Christie's New York 2014 Sale Information
Christie's sold a rare Sherlock Holmes story manuscript and an original Holmes drawing by Sidney Paget at auction on June 19, 2014. Only 16 Holmes short-story manuscripts are privately held, and this one was owned by the family that paid to bring Holmes back from the dead. The Sidney Paget drawing is one of only three known to still exist that shows Holmes with his iconic deerstalker.
Written in dark ink on 23 sheets (rectos only) of good quality 12 5/8 x 8 inches ruled paper. Not bound, but fastened at top left with a brass clip. Headed on first page as "The Return of Sherlock Holmes | VI | The Adventure of Black Peter." Signed and dated at end as "A. Conan Doyle | Undershaw | July 26, 1903." See below for a photo of the manuscript of "Black Peter."
Held in a brown buckram case with gilt-lettered upper cover as "The original manuscript of 'The Adventure of Black Peter' [by] Arthur Conan Doyle, Ex Libris Robert J. Collier."
Accompanied by an Autograph Letter Signed from Doyle on his Crowborough letterhead to "Mr. Collier" at Christmas in 1908. It reads in full: "To Mr. Collier with best Xmas wishes Dec. 1908 from Arthur Conan Doyle." The recipient was either Peter Fenelon Collier, founder and publisher of Collier's Weekly, or his son Robert J. Collier, who later took over as publisher.
In 1903, Collier's Weekly approached Conan Doyle with a lucrative offer to bring Sherlock Holmes back from the dead. The author agreed to write a series which became The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle completed the sixth tale in the series, "The Adventure of Black Peter," in July 1903 and it appeared in the February 27, 1904 issue of Collier's Weekly and the March 1904 Strand Magazine.
The series eventually ran to 13 tales and was collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes. George Newnes published the British first edition on March 7, 1905 and McClure, Phillips, & Co. released the American edition in February 1905.
Of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories, only 32 complete manuscripts are known to still exist and only 16 of those are privately held. This manuscript is particularly notable for its association with the Collier family. Collier received it before Conan Doyle had his Holmes manuscripts bound, and it remains one of the few in its original unbound form. Unlike most Holmes manuscripts, it includes a date along with Conan Doyle's signature.
With a pre-sale estimate of $250,000–$350,000, the bidding opened at $200,000. The manuscript sold to a bidder in the room at the hammer price of $260,000 plus the buyer's premium for a total of $317,000.
Provenance: Probably Peter F. Collier (from letter); Robert J. Collier (from case); Norman S. Nolan, M.D., BSI, bought at auction 1972 with El Dieff as agent; Diane Nolan.
See the manuscript description above for additional information.
Original gouache and watercolor drawing, 7 x 10 1/4 inches. Initialed "SP" by the artist in the lower right corner. Captioned vertically at the far right side under the mat in ink as "no.1 Holmes – gave me a sketch of the events." Drawn in grisaille (gray washes) with highlighting in white and pale ochre.
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) was a painter and illustrator best known for his Sherlock Holmes drawings in The Strand Magazine. He established the classic image of Holmes and was responsible for introducing the deerstalker cap as an icon for Holmes. Conan Doyle did not actually use the term "deerstalker" in his stories, but after Paget drew the cap for an earlier tale, the author would describe Holmes in "Silver Blaze" as wearing an "ear-flapped travelling cap."
Paget created more than 350 drawings for the Holmes stories, yet only 30 have been reported since 1980. This Sidney Paget drawing is one of three known to still exist that shows Holmes with his iconic deerstalker, and it provides an instantly recognizable depiction of Sherlock Holmes.
High interest meant that even with a pre-sale estimate of $40,000–$60,000, bidding opened at $38,000 and rose quickly. The winning bid came from a person in the room, and the drawing went at a hammer price of $90,000 plus the buyer's premium for a total of $112,500.
Provenance: Adrian Conan Doyle; Norman S. Nolan, M.D., BSI, probably purchased in July 1974 from the Estate of Adrian Conan Doyle via the House of El Dieff; Diane Nolan.
Produced for the Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze," this iconic illustration of Holmes and Watson first appeared in the December 1892 Strand Magazine. Captioned in the magazine as "Holmes gave me a sketch of the events," it shows the duo riding in a train on their way to investigate the disappearance of the race horse Silver Blaze, the murder of its trainer, and the "curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
[Watson] "You have formed a theory, then?"
[Holmes] "At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of the case. I shall enumerate them to you, for nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person, and I can hardly expect your co-operation if I do not show you the position from which we start."
I lay back against the cushions, puffing at my cigar, while Holmes, leaning forward, with his long, thin forefinger checking off the points upon the palm of his left hand, gave me a sketch of the events which had led to our journey.
See the Paget drawing description above for additional information.
Two steel blades, 6 1/2 inches, stamped with the design of a key over the imprint "Geo. Butler & Co., Sheffield." Framed.
Used by Conan Doyle when he was a doctor, and eventually owned by his daughter Dame Jean Conan Doyle.
Estimated to sell for $5,000–$7,000, bidding opened at $3,600. The lot sold to a bidder in the room at the hammer price of $3,700 plus the buyer's premium for a total of $4,625.
Provenance: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Dame Jean Conan Doyle (his daughter); Julian Wolff of the Baker Street Irregulars (gift of Dame Jean); Norman S. Nolan, M.D., BSI (gift from Wolff upon Nolan's graduation from medical school); Diane Nolan.
Christie's provides both an online catalogue and a printed version for this sale.
View Christie's Lot 222 catalogue entry for the Black Peter manuscript. This entry includes a photo of page 1 of the manuscript and a photo of Conan Doyle's letter to Collier. Flash required to enlarge the photos.
View Christie's Lot 223 catalogue entry for the Paget drawing. It includes a photo of the drawing.
View Christie's Lot 224 catalogue entry for the surgical scissors. It includes a photo of the scissors.
Other online options include a PDF (148MB) and a Flash-based e-catalogue, but these have the same information as the links above. The PDF includes the full content of the printed catalogue. It's available from:
The cover of the printed catalogue features the Paget drawing. The entries for the Conan Doyle items have the same photos as shown online, including a full-page photo of the first manuscript page and large versions of the Collier letter, the Paget drawing, and the scissors.
You can purchase the printed catalogue for $40 from their website (sale #2861). Or if ordering by phone, ask for Publication (Sale) Code SHERLOCK-2861, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana, for the 19 June 2014 Christie's New York sale.
This will be Christie’s Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana sale #2861, in New York, on June 19, 2014 at 10am (sale code SHERLOCK-2861).
The buyer's premium is 25% of the hammer price on the first $100,000 and 20% on the remainder up to $2 million. Reserve prices are set at or below the pre-sale low 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 June 14: 10am - 5pm
Sunday June 15: 1pm - 5pm
Monday June 16: 10am - 5pm
Tuesday June 17: 10am - 5pm
Wednesday June 18: 10am - 5pm
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.
Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, April 2014, p. 1. (100 words)
["Some treasures from the late Norman Nolan's collection...] by Peter E. Blau
Mentions the upcoming auction.
Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, October 1999, p. 8. (92 words)
["Norman S. Nolan ("Godfrey Norton") died on Oct. 17, 1999...] by Peter E. Blau
Short obituary on a prior owner of the "Black Peter" manuscript.
My thanks to Diane Nolan and to Chris Coover at Christie's New York for details about and photos of these items.
The first version of this report appeared March 29, 2014. Photos and more details were added April 27 and May 17, 2014. The official sale and catalogue information was added May 28, 2014 along with some minor clarifications. Sale results were posted June 19, 2014.
Census of original Sherlock Holmes Manuscripts
Census of original Sidney Paget Drawings
Other Conan Doyle rarities like Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887.
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