8 April 2003
DOYLE, Arthur Conan, Sir. The Sign of Four. London: Spencer Blackett, 1890.
8o. Frontispiece illustration by Charles Kerr. Advertisments bound in at end. Original decorated red cloth, gilt-lettered on cover and spine; cloth slipcase. Provenance: Frances Countess Cassillis (bookplate); Katharine de Berkeley Parsons (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION IN BOOK FORM, FIRST ISSUE, with "138" misprinted as "13" on contents page, "w shed" on page 56. First issue binding with "Spencer Blackett's Standard Library" at foot of spine; without advertisements.
This work was first mentioned by Doyle on 3 September 1889, discussing with his publisher the difficulty of naming it: "As far as I can see my way at present my story will either be called 'The Sign of the Six' or 'The Problem of the Sholtos.' You said you wanted a spicy title..." Doyle initially left the problem to J.M. Stoddard, though commenting that "The Sign of the Four strikes me as likely to be popular but a trifle catchpenny." (The title lacks the second "the" also in Doyle's manuscript.) Despite their efforts, it wasn't until 1893, after the rights had been acquired by George Newnes, that the book attained true popularity and became a best-seller (Green & Gibson). Locke 29-30; De Waal 279; Green & Gibson A7a.
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