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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
The manuscript for Sherlock Holmes' final recorded adventure, "His Last Bow," was offered at auction by Sotheby's on 19 June 2008. This original autograph manuscript is signed and dated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It ends with Holmes telling Watson "you are the one fixed point in a changing age" and his memorable commentary on World War I that begins "there's an east wind coming…".
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original manuscript of "His Last Bow" in ink on 24 ruled pages (rectos only) of various sizes including quarto and folio. This lot comprises 13 of the 24 pages, including 1-4, 7-8, 11-13, 15, 18, and 23-24. It is entitled "His Last Bow | (An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes)" and signed at end as "Arthur Conan Doyle | Crowborough | March 7 / 17."
Unusually for a Conan Doyle manuscript, this substantial fragment was heavily revised and includes many additions, deletions, and corrections. The whereabouts of the missing pages are not known. They may have been lost, since the manuscript was in its present form when offered in 1975 by the widow of Sir Arthur's son Adrian Conan Doyle. The catalog does not identify the current owner but lists the manuscript as the "Property of a Gentleman." It was estimated to go for US$150,000-$250,000, but it went unsold.
"His Last Bow" was reportedly inspired by a French general in 1916 who asked Conan Doyle if Sherlock Holmes was serving in the British Army. The author replied that Holmes was too old for active service, but later created this tale in which Holmes works as an undercover agent for Britain. The story first appeared in the September 1917 issue of The Strand Magazine and then in October 1917 as part of the book published by John Murray as His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes.
The online catalogue contains a photo of the first page of the manuscript. When you click the image it displays in a new browser window, and allows you to zoom in to see details.
The Sotheby's website includes a summary of prices realized (free registration required) for all lots in this sale (19 June 2008 Sale number N08455). Their online catalogue also includes the price realized (for sold items) in the detailed entry for each lot. See below for more information on accessing their online catalogue.
Sotheby's provides an online catalogue for this sale (N08455) with detailed descriptions and photos of each lot.
Registration (free) is required to access the online catalogue. If you do not already have a Sotheby's ID and password, it may be simplest to go to their home page, sign-up, and then use the Lot search function for "Conan Doyle."
To see the Conan Doyle lots, use the links above in the Description section.
To see the full Sotheby's online catalogue, go to the Sotheby's home page at <http://www.sothebys.com/> and click the "Explore Auctions" menu item to see the "Auction Calendar" page. This lets you browse through upcoming auctions. You can also then enter "N08455" in the "Event Finder" search box to locate this specific auction, and click the Browse Catalog choice to view it.
The printed catalogue has three large color photos of the manuscript (Lot 50):
The printed catalogue is available, costs US$48 or £24, and can be purchased by:
Ask for Publication (Sale) Code N08455, Fine Books and Manuscripts, for the 19 June 2008 Sotheby's New York sale.
This is Sale Number N08455 for Fine Books and Manuscripts. It will be held at Sotheby's New York on Thursday 19 June 2008 and starts at 10:00 AM.
Sotheby's New York
1334 York Avenue (at 72nd St)
New York, New York 10021
Tel: (212) 606-7000
Saturday June 14, 10am-5pm
Sunday June 15, 1pm-5pm
Monday June 16, 10am-5pm
Tuesday June 17, 10am-5pm
Wednesday June 18, 10am-1pm
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.
The New Yorker, June 23, 2008
Sotheby's Press Release 8 April 2008
Mentions the sale of "His Last Bow" manuscript at the bottom of the last page.
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