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Grolier Club Exhibitions

A Study in Scarlet

The Great Detective made his first appearance in a magazine of miscellany titled Beeton’s Christmas Annual, now incredibly scarce: just 34 copies are known, only 13 are in private hands, and only 11 are complete.

Conan Doyle wrote the novel in March–April of 1886 and shopped it around for months. First he submitted it to the editor of The Cornhill Magazine, James Payn, who liked it but felt it was too much like a “penny dreadful” for his magazine. J.W. Arrowsmith received it in May, and returned it unread in July. Next, Conan Doyle tried Frederick Warne & Co. in August, and was immediately turned down.

In September, he got a qualified yes from Ward, Lock & Co., with two conditions: the author had to agree to delay publication until the next year, and had to give up his copyright to the publisher. Conan Doyle tried to negotiate, but Ward, Lock wouldn’t budge:

We regret to say that we shall be unable to allow you to retain a percentage on the sale of your work as it might give rise to some confusion. The tale may have to be inserted together with some other in one of our annuals, therefore we must adhere to our original offer of £25 for the complete copyright.—Nov. 2, 1886

Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887 appeared in November of that year and sold out before Christmas. Book editions swiftly followed, and Conan Doyle’s star rose with good reviews and serialized appearances in UK newspapers throughout 1888 and 1889. Lesson learned, he never again relinquished a copyright.


A Study in Scarlet
First appearance
Beeton’s Christmas Annual
London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1887

The Great Detective made his first appearance in a magazine of miscellany titled Beeton’s Christmas Annual, now incredibly scarce: just 34 copies are known, only 13 are in private hands, and only 11 are complete. My copy includes the original title page and complete story; the wrappers and one gathering of ads are in facsimile. Conan Doyle struggled to get the novel published, eventually ceding his copyright to the publisher to do so.


A Study in Scarlet
First UK book edition, first state
London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1888

Produced from the same plates used for Beeton’s Christmas Annual, the first book edition was illustrated with six drawings by the author’s father, Charles Altamont Doyle (1832–1893). The first state is distinguished by the word “younger” in the preface, while the word appears as “youuger” in the second state. This copy has been rebound in crimson leather.


A Study in Scarlet
First UK book edition
Second state
London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1889

A particularly fresh copy in wrappers, with the misprinted “youuger” in the preface, distinguishing it as the second state. This sequence is counterintuitive: usually an error is corrected, not committed.


A Study in Scarlet
First US book edition
Lippincott’s Series of Select Novels, No. 107
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, March 1, 1890

First US edition, beige wrappers reattached to the spine.

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A Study in Scarlet
First clothbound US edition
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1890

Inscribed by the author, this copy belonged to Adrian H. Goldstone and bears his bookplate on the front free endpaper. Goldstone was an early and dedicated collector of mystery and detective fiction (as well as Steinbeck), and this volume was purchased at the 1981 auction of his collection of more than 3,000 books.

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A Study in Scarlet
Second UK book edition, fifth impression
London: Ward, Lock, & Bowden & Co., 1891

This volume boasts a striking pen-and-ink sketch of Sherlock Holmes by George Wylie Hutchinson. This state also presents an essay titled “Mr. Sherlock Holmes” by Dr. Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle’s medical professors, who inspired many traits of Sherlock Holmes. It was originally published in The Bookman as “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and was retitled by Ward, Lock.


A Study in Scarlet
Fourth UK book edition
London: Ward, Lock,
& Bowden & Co., 1891

This later printing of the fourth edition is unusual for listing the publication history for Study in Scarlet and showing that the
fourth edition was issued in seven printings. Those published in 1893, 1894, 1896, and 1898 contained Bell’s “Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”


A Study in Scarlet
Supplement for Windsor Magazine Xmas Number
London: Ward, Lock, & Bowden & Co., 1895

In original pictorial wrappers

This Christmas special boasts a dramatic cover: bold red titling on a black background, with a pensive Sherlock Holmes, his chin cupped in his hand. James Greig, a Strand Magazine regular, provided the story’s seven pen-and-ink illustrations. The supplement is a 64-page pamphlet, folded as a single signature and stapled.

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Excerpts from A Study in Scarlet
Tit-Bits, Vol. 24, No. 602, April 29, 1893, pp. 61–62
Tit-Bits, Vol. 24, No. 606, May 27, 1893, pp. 133–134 London: Newnes, 1893

Ward, Lock held the copyright for Study in Scarlet, but Newnes printed excerpts anyway.

Tit-Bits was the Reader’s Digest of its era, containing “tit-bits from all the most interesting books, periodicals and contributors in the world.” It was the financial success of Tit-Bits that gave Newnes the capital to start the Strand. Volume 24, No. 602, April 29, 1893, included portions of Part 1, Chapters 6 and 7, from the Study; a portion of Part 2, Chapter 4, appeared a month later.