A Study in Scarlet
London: Ward, Lock and Co., , 1888. Item #04933
“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic,
and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose."
A Great Detective's Debut, or The Case of The Missing Rare Book
DOYLE, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1888 [i.e. March 1889].
First edition in book form of the first Sherlock Holmes story (preceded only by the story’s appearance in Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887). Second impression with mis-spelling “youuger” for younger in the second paragraph of the publishers’ preface.
Octavo (7 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches; 185 x 121 mm.). [iii] title; [iv] blank; [v] publisher’s preface (with paragraph 2, line 3: youuger); [vi] blank; [vii] contents; [viii] blank - ;  blank; advertisements; [171- 182] pp. With six line drawings within the text by Charles Doyle, the author’s father, on pp. 32, 57, 64, 98, 124, 158. The title-page has been very neatly repaired at the edges and pp. 75-78 with very slight fore marginal loss not affecting text.
Bound without the leaf of advertisements preceding the title-page and the last leaf of advertisements at the end (pp. 183/4).
Handsomely rebound in late nineteenth century style full red polished calf, covers double-ruled in gilt, spine with five raised bands decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt decorated board edges and turn-ins, cockerel endpapers, all edges uncut.
A fine uncut copy with all but two of the advertisement leaves present.
The first Sherlock Holmes story and the author's first published work. One of the select band of fabled rarities and therefore a keystone book for any collector of either Detective Fiction, Modern Literature or indeed for any collector of high spots. It requires the ingenuity of a Holmes to find an example of this book.
A Study in Scarlet was written during March and April of 1886. It was accepted finally by Ward Lock in November 1886, after having been rejected by James Payn, the Editor of the Cornhill Magazine, Arrowsmith’s, who received it in May and returned it unread in July and then Warne’s who turned it down immediately. Ward Lock proposed to publish the story in their magazine, “Beeton’s Christmas Annual” for 1887, but they drove a very hard bargain and forced the young doctor to sell his entire interest in the story for £25.00. They definitely had a very good deal for the ‘Beetons’ issue was sold out in two weeks and Ward Lock then decided to issue A Study in Scarlet in a more permanent book form with illustrations. This, the actual first edition in book form appeared in July of 1888. The second impression, as offered here was issued in March of 1889 at one shilling.
It cannot have surprised Ward Lock that Doyle refused any further dealings with them, and he wrote to Blackwood’s early in 1888 of the success of his first novel: ‘Messrs. Ward, Lock & Co. are now busy bringing it out in a more permanent form with new type, illustrations, & everything.’ The illustrations were to be by Charles Doyle, the author’s father, who was by then confined to an asylum on account of his epilepsy and alcoholism. The six frail drawings bear no relation to later conceptions of the subject but are of interest none the less.
The size of the first edition in 1888 (both first and second impressions) is not known but the story was not published again until the first American edition by J.B. Lippincott Company in 1890. The second issue here offered appears to be as scarce as the first issue with just a handful of copies of either issue in institutions worldwide.
A Study in Scarlet. The story marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who would become the most famous detective duo in popular fiction. The book's title derives from a speech given by Holmes, a consulting detective, to his friend and chronicler Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story's murder investigation as his "study in scarlet": "There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it." The story, and its main characters, attracted little public interest when it first appeared. Only 11 complete copies of the magazine in which the story first appeared, Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887, are known to exist now and they have considerable value. Although Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories featuring Holmes, A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon. The novel was followed by The Sign of the Four, published in 1890.
A Study in Scarlet was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.
Green and Gibson A1a.i.; De Waal 417.