First edition in book form, first issue, of the second ever Sherlock Holmes story, in which Watson meets his future wife.
THE SIGN OF FOUR
"[W]hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Before the famous short stories of Holmes and Watson, Doyle published this second novel in which he begins to imagine a richer, more complex Holmes than in A STUDY IN SCARLET: "You know my methods. Apply them." In 1889, LIPPINCOTT'S editor Joseph M. Stoddart invited Doyle to dine with him in London along with Oscar Wilde at the Langham Hotel (which would later become a setting in three different Holmes stories). Wilde and Doyle, so very different on the surface, proved an excellent dinner party; Doyle later recalled it as "a golden evening." Stoddart was hoping to entice the authors to write for the Philadelphia-based magazine; after the dinner, Doyle wrote to Stoddart that he had decided "to give Sherlock Holmes of A STUDY IN SCARLET something else to unravel." THE SIGN OF FOUR appeared in LIPPINCOTT'S in February of 1890; Wilde would go on to publish THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY in the July 1890 issue. Doyle retained the book rights to his work and quickly arranged for its publication in book form in London; this copy is the first issue, in the Spencer Blackett binding and the dropped letter on page 56.
Read more: Green & Gibson, Bibliography of Arthur Conan Doyle, A7a; Stashower, Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle.
London: Spencer Blackett, 1890. Octavo. 7.25'' x 5''. Original full red cloth, gilt-lettered front board and spine with ornamental border and cornerpieces stamped in black across binding. "Spencer Blackett's / Standard / Library" in gilt at foot of spine. Black coated endpapers. Top edge rough cut. Frontispiece by Charles Kerr. Incomplete numeral on contents page ("13" instead of "138"); dropped letter "w shed" (for "wished") on page 56. Publisher's catalogue dated October 1890 at rear. 283, , 32 pages. Housed in custom black cloth clamshell box with bookplate of collector Michael Sharpe. Bookseller blind embossing on front endpaper. Spotting and some discoloration to boards, else quite a nice copy: text clean, hinges sound, very little edgewear.
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