"rare and unlikely as it was" [BLAN]
|Note: not an actual photo of the newly listed item
The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes was in A Study in Scarlet, which appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887, which the Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide called "the most expensive magazine in the world."
There were 33 known copies in existence, which Randall Stock, BSI ("South African Securities") lists on his Best of Sherlock website under Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887: An Annotated Checklist and Census.
However, an entry on Peter L. Stern's page on AbeBooks.com recently turned up a 34th copy of the Beeton's, listed for $75,000. The description is as follows:
First Edition; with the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Bound without wrappers or advertisements in contemporary paper-covered boards (very lightly rubbed) with a cloth spine titled 'A Study in Scarlet.' The text is unusually fresh. In a custom quarter-morocco slipcase. With four illustrations by D.H. Friston, two of which feature the earliest depiction of Holmes, not yet characterized by the indelible image by Paget the public has held since 1891. Most copies known lack all or part of the wrappers and ads, as the present copy does. We are aware of only two complete copies sold in the last thrity-five years or more. By now, the story of Doyle's misfortune in publishing this story is well-known; he sold the entire copyright for £25. The Annual sold out quickly, as did the 1888 book edition. The following decades saw hundreds of editions, most of them piracies. While Doyle reaped little benefit from this novel, he didn't make the same mistake twice. So far as its historical importance goes, it's all been said before. Suffice it for us to add that in the field of detective fiction (or, perhaps, for popular fiction in general), A Study in Scarlet was the equivalent of the invention of the electric light bulb. All books described as first editions are first printings unless otherwise noted. Bookseller Inventory # 36220
More details about this copy are available here.
The last copy that sold as bound without wrappers or advertisements was sold at Bonhams Oxford for $36,500. There's no indication that the copy above is that same copy.
So, scrape together the funds, take out a second mortgage, drain the retirement savings. It's very rare that a Beeton's comes on the market.
And let us know if you end up with it.