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"now as excited as myself, took out his manuscript" [MUSG] 

It's always a rare treat when an original manuscript by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle goes on the auction block. But when more than one hits the street on one day, it's really a cause for celebration.

Today at 10:00 a.m. EDT, Bonhams will be holding a fine literature auction in New York City that includes not one, not two, but three, autographed Conan Doyle manuscripts of Sherlock Holmes stories. Also included are one historical novel (Rodney Stone) and a short story about World War I ("The Prisoner's Defense").

The Holmes Manuscripts

Two of the manuscripts are complete, while one is just a single sheet. 

"The Greek Interpreter" is unique in that it is the only known complete manuscript from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. This is, of course, the story in which we learn of Holmes's ancestry and how that may have influenced him:
"My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life as is natural to their class. But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."
According to the auction site, the MS is 34 pp, 4to, South Norwood, London, c.1893, in sepia ink on ruled paper removed from a composition book, with revisions in ink and pencil, publisher's page count in blue crayon, pp 22 & 33 versos with pencil scribbling by a child, tears and creases along edges with some slight loss not affecting text, some light spotting throughout. Housed in a custom-made red cloth portfolio with gilt labelled spine, some light fingermarks.Provenance: Christies London, December 18, 1964 (bought by Lew Feldman on behalf of the author's son Adrian Conan Doyle); Sold Christie's, May 5, 1982, lot 102.

The manuscript for "The Greek Interpreter" is expected to fetch $380,000 - $420,000. The market for such an item is quite limited (and we know most of the major likely bidders). We'll see whether the winning bidder is an individual or an institution.

If you would like more details about this item, including a large image of the first page and the full history of it, please see the Greek Interpreter page on the Best of Sherlock Holmes site.

The second complete manuscript is that of "The Problem of Thor Bridge." As you can see from the image below, Conan Doyle had other ideas in mind for the title of the story. Originally "The Adventure of the Second Chip" and then "The Problem of Rushmere Bridge," it finally achieved its familiar title (albeit with an apostrophe 'S').

As you'll note from reading the introductory paragraph, this story from The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes provides us with some valuable nuggets that are part of the Sherlockian lore: Dr. Watson's tin dispatch-box being located in the vaults of Cox & Co.; some of the more legendary untold tales, such as Isadora Persano and the remarkable worm unknown to science, and the strange disappearance of James Phillimore, who went inside to retrieve his umbrella and was never seen again.

According to Bonhams, this is an Autograph Manuscript Signed ("A Conan Doyle"), entitled "The Problem of Thor's Bridge" and "Continuation of 'The Problem of Thor's Bridge'," 48 pp in two parts, 8vo and 4to, Crowborough, East Sussex, c.1922, in various colored inks with revisions in ink or pencil on yellow-ruled paper, some pages clipped, some soiling, folds and marginal tears, hole in upper left corner of second part from removal of metal clasp. First part bound in near contemporary white cloth lettered in gilt, bound for Doyle or his son; second part loose in custom red cloth portfolio and box. Provenance: offered by Lew Feldman as part of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Archives in 1971; Christie's London, Valuable Autograph Letters, April 29, 1981, Lot 174.

This specimen is expected to fetch between $250,000 - $350,000. Additional information and large scale images can be found on the Best of Sherlock Holmes "The Problem of Thor Bridge" page.

The last Holmesian item for sale today is a single page from The Hound of the Baskervilles. A bit of history about this one from the auction site:
"Unfortunately no complete manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles survives: to promote the novel in America, McClure asked Conan Doyle for the manuscript of between 185 and 190 pp., to be used as a marketing ploy, distributing single pages to bookstore owners to display in their windows, along with the American edition. Most of these leaves were either lost or destroyed. The only known complete manuscript chapter of the novel (Chapter XI, "The Man on the Tor") is now in the Berg Collection, The New York Public Library."
According to Randall Stock on his Best of Sherlock site, this is "a rarity among rarities—only 36 leaves still exist from the most famous Holmes story, and institutions hold 24 of those."

Autograph Manuscript, a single leaf from The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1 p, 4to, n.p., c.1902, being the first page of "Chapter XIII. Fixing the Nets," one line crossed through, old tears along folds expertly reinforced. Housed in a custom gray cloth portfolio, gilt-lettered black morocco-backed marbled cloth box.

This ultra-rare item is expected to fetch between $100,000 - $150,000 at auction. For full detail about this item, as well as a large scan of the page, please see the Best of Sherlock page for The Hound of the Baskervilles Manuscript Leaf H31.

We wish we could say that we're in the running for one of these, but we'd prefer to keep a roof over our head. If you're bidding, good luck!

Update (1:00 pm EDT)

The auction has closed, and only the manuscript for "The Problem of Thor Bridge" was sold. It sold for $269,000, including the buyer's premium.

All images courtesy of Bonhams.