The Sign of Four - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1890 - Spencer Blackett, London - First Edition The second book in the inimitable Sherlock Holmes series, featuring the most famous literary detective of all time. Set between India and England, the plot revolves around a stolen treasure, an unbreakable pact, and a peg-legged criminal who appears to have the ability of teleportation, and marks the debut of Watson’s future wife: Mary Morstan. The novel begins with an unusually broody, sulky, and above all, bored Sherlock, as he reels in disgust at the thought of several days with nothing interesting to occupy himself with. Thankfully for Holmes, and Watson, Ms. Morstan is in dire trouble, and there’s only one man who can help her...

With engraved frontispiece by Charles Kerr. Housed in a custom burgundy morocco clamshell case, lettered in gilt and inner felt lining.

‘You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?’
‘For me,’ said Sherlock Holmes, ‘there still remains the cocaine bottle’.
  ‘Of all the Holmes stories it is The Sign of Four which remains persistently in my memory’ - Graham Greene

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) Arthur Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 in Edinburgh into a prosperous Irish family. He trained as a doctor, gaining his degree from Edinburgh University in 1881. In 1882 he opened a small practice in Southsea, near Portsmouth on the English south coast, the success of which was summed up in a letter from the tax authorities stating that his income report for the previous year had been found ‘most unsatisfactory’ on which the debt-ridden young doctor with a sick wife scrawled “I agree”. With time on his hands Doyle, naturally a man of action, an excellent cricketer and boxer, began sending out short stories to the cheaper magazines, the success of these encouraged him to write, in great haste, A Study in Scarlet, the hero of which was surnamed for an admired American poet, and a foil and narrator to be immortally known as Watson. After numerous rejections Doyle accepted the measly 25 pounds offered by Ward, Lock, and Company, and the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual provided one of the most incredible first editions in history, to little fanfare or applause. But... two years later the American magazine Lippincott’s made an offer for another Holmes story, encouraged by a substantial advance payment, Doyle worked with much greater care, and in due course The Sign of Four made its bow in Lippincott’s for February, 1890, and a few months later in London, to immediate popular success on both sides of the water. Sherlock had arrived, and the appearance of a further six short stories in the newly-founded Strand magazine made both Holmes and his creator almost instantly famous.

Provenance: Contemporary stamp of architect Arthur H. Walsingham, of Stephens Buildings, Market Street, Manchester dated 4 July 1910.

References: Haycraft,
Murder for Pleasure, Herbert, The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing, 125-126, BBC [web].

Octavo (19.5 x 13 cm). pp. [4] 283. In publisher’s red cloth, bords lettered in gilt with wide black patterned border and floral tools to outer corners, re-spined to match with gilt lettering and continuation of patterned border to spine ends, black coated endpapers replaced.
  Condition: Very good, re-spined to style with new endpapers, small spots to front and rear boards, light soiling to verso of frontis and last page.   Ref: 108972   Price: HK$ 42,000