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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Pirated Editions

Piracies are books published without permission of the copyright holders (most often the authors), usually without their knowledge, and without compensation. The practice was widespread in America because US copyright law did not apply to works by authors who were not citizens or residents of the United States until 1891, with the enactment of the International Copyright Act. The law notwithstanding, this practice continued into the 20th century. There were hundreds of pirate publishers, and tens of millions of pirated books. Conan Doyle was a frequent victim: his work was already in English, his popularity proven in the UK market, and he lacked effective legal recourse.

This crooked line of business involved a fascinating commingling of rapacious ambition and inventiveness. Pirate publishers operated on the cheap, obtaining stereotype plates to print from, leaping at new technologies for papermaking, illustration, and printing, “dressing” their books to captivate buyers, advertising their wares, marketing scores of series at various price points—all bravura tactics to reach every possible market segment.

A favorable postal rate allowed them to serve a vast audience inexpensively. In the 1890s, when it cost 2¢ to mail a letter, publishers could mail paperbound volumes at the second-class rate reserved for periodicals: just one penny per pound.

Pirated publications afford the collector a continually developing source of bibliographic discoveries and oddities. Some piracies preceded the authorized book publication; many are the first printing, in book form, of stories already published in magazines.

Illegality aside, pirate publishing had some good, though unintended, consequences. Vast numbers of cheap books made the US a nation of readers; and, hooked on Conan Doyle by pirate editions, Americans later became avid buyers of the authorized, copyrighted books that eventually made him rich.


The Sign of Four
First US book edition
Collier’s Once A Week Library, Vol. 2, No. 16, March 15, 1891
Philadelphia: P. F. Collier, 1891

In original printed wrappers

The Sign of Four made its first US book appearance in this 25¢ pirate imprint of Collier’s Once A Week Library, two years before Lippincott published the first authorized US book edition. The Sign is the most pirated of the Sherlock Holmes stories, in part because it was published before the 1891 US Copyright Act. In my library, there are copies of The Sign of Four published by 49 different US pirate publishers. Surely others are waiting to be found.


A Case of Identity
First separate book appearance
The Handy Classic Series, No. 10, 5¢
New York: Eastern Book Co., undated but 1894 45 Rose St., NY
In original printed wrappers

A Scandal in Bohemia
First separate book appearance
The Handy Classic Series, No. 13, 5¢
New York: Eastern Book Co., undated but 1894 45 Rose St., NY
In original printed wrappers


A Case of Identity
Same book, different imprint
The Handy Classic Series, No. 10, 5¢
New York: Optimus Printing Company, undated 45, 47, 49, & 51 Rose St., NY
In original printed wrappers

A Scandal in Bohemia
Same book, different imprint
The Handy Classic Series, No. 13, 5¢
New York: Optimus Printing Company, undated 45, 47, 49, & 51 Rose St., NY
In original printed wrappers

First separate book appearances of these two stories anywhere. Eastern Book Co. published its Case of Identity and Scandal in Bohemia in 1894. The date of the Optimus books is uncertain, but the street address makes it likely that it took over Eastern’s premises, along with any plates that Eastern left behind.


The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet
The Belmore Series Number 21
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, June 1893
In original printed wrappers

The volume with Lovell, Coryell’s East Tenth Street address on the cover is likely the first printing of Number 21 in the Belmore Series. Subsequent yearly moves to Sixteenth Street and Sixth Avenue suggest that the firm was outrunning its landlords, perhaps skipping its rent.

In all three variants, there are two short stories in between The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet: “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “A Case of Identity.” Because these tales were short and lacked copyright protection, they were widely used as filler. The presence of this “bonus material” is not mentioned on the front cover.


The Doings of Raffles Haw
First book appearance
The Belmore Series Number 5
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, 1891

This edition of The Doings of Raffles Haw is the first appearance of this non-Sherlockian novel (published a year before the UK edition). It also contains what appears to be the first appearance in book form of “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery.” Many of the inconsistencies that characterize piracies are present in this volume. The cover, spine, and title page list Lovell, Coryell as the publisher; the spine bears a July 1892 date; but the title page verso has an 1891 copyright and lists the publisher as United States Book Company.


The Doings of Raffles Haw
First book appearance, second printing
The Belmore Series Number 5
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, 1891

A rare and intriguing copy, with a new address but the same spine and copyright dates, plus additional Sherlockian stories with myriad assembly defects. After Raffles comes “The Red-Headed League” and “Boscombe Valley.” Next come four pages of “Scandal in Bohemia,” with out-of-sequence pagination. Then the last nine pages of “Boscombe Valley” make a reappearance, followed by Sections I and III of “Scandal.” The final story in the volume is “A Case of Identity.” This variant is not attested in the standard bibliographies.


A Study in Scarlet
First book appearance
The Manhattan Library, No. 33
New York: A. L. Burt

July 18,1894
In original printed wrappers

Dated 15 months before the earliest editions noted in the standard Sherlockian bibliographies by De Waal and Green & Gibson, this may be the first appearance of Study in Scarlet in the US.


“The Speckled Band”
First US magazine piracy
Arthur’s New Home Magazine, April 1892, pp. 355–368
Philadelphia: The Arthur Publishing Co., April 1892
In original pictorial wrappers

Just two months after its Strand debut, the eighth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes appeared in one of the magazines published by T. S. Arthur, a leading figure in the American temperance movement and famed for his temperance novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room. This is the only example of the rarely pirated “Speckled Band” in my collection.


The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet
Early piracies, priced at 2¢, in original printed wrappers

Red Seal Library of Standard Books, No. 1 (Sign)
New York: Frank A. Munsey, Dec. 25, 1897

Red Seal Library of Standard Books, No. 30 (Study)
New York: Frank A. Munsey, May 14, 1898

These Red Seal Library books are the lowest-priced piracies on my shelves, and it is scarcely conceivable that Munsey could have printed, distributed, and sold them for just 2¢ apiece. Munsey also pioneered the 10¢ magazine and owned 17 newspapers in the first two decades of the 20th century, earning the epithet “executioner of newspapers” by consolidating and closing many of them.


A Study in Scarlet
Modern Authors’ Series, No. 6
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co. February 1895

In original printed wrappers

The cover of this book has two tiny but eye-catching features: it has an early date for a piracy, February 1895, and it has a second series title, imperfectly punctuated as

“Sherlock Holmes Series. [sic]


A Study in Scarlet
The Ideal Library, No. 209
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co. May 13, 1895
In original printed wrappers

The Ideal Library issued new releases three times a week. Individual copies cost 25¢, and paying a $30 annual subscription saved customers $9.


A Study in Scarlet
Variant cloth colors
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co., undated

The cloth color varies in these octavos: dark green, tan and light green. But they are otherwise nearly identical— the same textblocks printed on shoddy paper; silver- stamped titling and ornamentation on the covers. They sold for 40¢ apiece.

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A Study in Scarlet
Early ownership signature 11/6/1897
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co., undated

A Study in Scarlet
From publisher’s most handsome series, Advance Edition
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co., undated

The textblocks of these two quartos were printed from the same plates as the octavos. But with more generous space around the text, they are better looking and easier to read. The plain copy featured top-edge gilt and sold for $2.25. For 75¢ more, the Advance Edition had higher-grade paper, an ornate cover and spine decoration, and top-edge gilt. Both copies are padded out with “A Case of Identity” and a work by Sarah Grand.

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The Sign of the Four, A Case of Identity, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet
Flamboyant covers in the Great American Detective Series
Cleveland: The Arthur Westbrook Company, undated

Pirate publishers ingeniously exploited the popularity of Sherlock Holmes to sell books. Pricing was paramount, but eye-catching cover art was a crucial come-on. These Westbrook covers can’t be topped for color, drama, and their total disconnect from the titles’ storylines. No sulky, sultry woman ever landed in jail in The Sign of the Four. No couple came to blows in A Case of Identity. No one escaped on horseback in The Red-Headed League. No one used a telephone in the book Westbrook titled Sherlock Holmes (but which, between the covers, was actually A Study in Scarlet). And no bare-armed beauty figured in A Study in Scarlet.


Sign of the Four
One of more than 650 books in this series
The Modern Authors’ Library, No. 15
Chicago and New York: M. A. Donohue & Co., undated

Nothing could be further from the doings of The Sign of the Four than this decorous couple at the seaside. The cover has a fashion-magazine look—a man in a suit and tie, and a woman protected from the sun by both parasol and hat, all unrelated to Conan Doyle’s tale of hidden treasure and murder in the Sign.


A Study in Scarlet
Cover using new color printing technique
The Dora Thorne Series

New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, undated

Another woman, another non-Sherlockian cover, but noteworthy for the chromolithography that brings realistic detail to the pastoral setting and the pensive girl, all for 50¢.


A Study in Scarlet
One of more than 300 books in this series
The Savoy Series
New York: George Munro’s Sons, Publishers, 1900
Copyright date imprinted on front wrappers

Turn-of-the-century buyers must have done a double take on seeing so comely a woman grace a book. “Illuminated Covers” was Munro’s term for the photographic technique used in the Savoy Series.


A Study in Scarlet
Three variant covers for the same book
The Flashlight Detective Series, No. 47
Chicago and New York: M. A. Donohue & Co., undated

The covers of the popular Flashlight Detective Series had a crime-fighting motif. The design with the Gillette-like figure is the most Sherlockian of my Flashlight books, showing the detective in profile, smoke curling from a curved pipe, elaborate dressing gown, and an ominous scene glimpsed through a magnifying glass. The figures on the other two covers couldn’t be less Sherlockian: a masked man brandishing twin pistols and an oddly dressed sleuth with fur-trimmed coat, red gloves, and gleaming top hat. Note that the “slugs” with the series name, number, book title, and author are identical in these two books, another money-saving tactic common among the pirate publishers.


The Sign of the Four
Eye-catching artwork, not Sherlockian
The Eureka Detective Stories, No. 19
New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, undated

These two Signs use the same typographic elements across the top third of each cover; only the background colors vary. While the scenes below differ, both picture women in peril, something that does not occur in the story. Masked cowboys aim their rifles at a woman kneeling beside a bed; a man wrenches a string of pearls from his victim. Definitely not Sherlockian.

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The Sign of the Four
No bank vault heist in this story
The Eureka Detective Stories, No. 19
New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, undated

Fergus W. Hume, The Lone Inn
Same cover art, different book
The Eureka Detective Stories, No. 12
New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company, undated

This bank vault illustration was used for many titles in this detective series, and these two examples show what a difference color printing techniques could make in their look. There’s no bank vault scene in either book.


Hawkshaw, the Detective, Escaped from Sing Sing
Iconic Sherlockian items in a non-Sherlockian book cover
The Flashlight Detective Series, No. 61
Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., undated

Escaped from Sing Sing is one of many Donohues on my shelves with a Sherlockian look but nothing Sherlockian inside. The cover illustration, closely resembling the detective drawn by Frederic Dorr Steele, was used on many non-Sherlockian books in the Flashlight series including The Chinese Juggler, Tracked by a Woman, The Swamps of Death, Neverfail or The Kentucky Ranger, and others, likely as a cost-saving measure by the publisher. I particularly like this one, for two reasons: Conan Doyle actually visited Sing Sing during his 1914 lecture tour, and the notorious prison is in my hometown.


Three books by Old Sleuth
With cover art mimicking the look of William Gillette

A Double Crime, The Fastest Boy in New York, The Man Trapper
The Sherlock Holmes Detective Library
Chicago: Royal Publishing Co., 1908

Three examples from this Royal Publishing series notable for the stark cover figure, a look-alike of Steele’s iconic detective, with bold typographic treatment. Royal varied the look of the series by changing typefaces and colors: black type on green, black type on white, and most lurid of all, taxi-cab yellow on black. While most of the 60 titles in this series are undated, there’s a curious bibliographic detail in A Double Crime and The Fastest Boy in New York. The title page in both attributes the copyright to another publisher: “Copyright, 1908, by Kerner & Getts Co.”


A Study in Scarlet
Gillette-like figure aiming gun
Sunset Series, No. 99
New York: J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Co., undated

Slight, carefully drawn details distinguished the Holmeses used by different publishers. In Ogilvie’s Sunset Series, he cuts a Gillette-like figure, wearing a quilted dressing gown, facing an unseen foe, and taking aim.


Sherlock Holmes Detective Stories
One of Street & Smith’s more than 130 series
Magnet Detective Library, No. 72—10 Cents
New York: Street & Smith Publishers, undated

The Sherlock of the Magnet series has a more contemporary look. This book includes four titles: “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “A Case of Identity,” “The Red- Headed League,” and the novel A Study in Scarlet. Street & Smith operated from 1855 until 1959, when it was acquired by Condé Nast Publications.


Sign of the Four
Ownership signature dated 10/8 1899
Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, undated

The title stamped on the spine and front cover of this book is Sign of the Four, while the title page reads The Sign of the Four. While it is undated, the owner (helpfully) wrote “10/8 1899” on the front free endpaper. Dated gift inscriptions or ownership signatures are frequently the best (or only) way to date piracies, even if not definitive. The volume also contains “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and the story title is, unusually, printed on the title page.

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The Sign of the Four
Mystery book among titles mostly about farming
Chicago: Montgomery Ward & Co., undated

Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet
La Belle Library
Chicago: Montgomery Ward & Co., undated

Books were an early part of Montgomery Ward’s mail-order business, which began in August 1872 with a single-sheet catalogue offering 163 items to members of the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. The La Belle Library was one of its imprints.


Sign of The Four
Paper cover looks like cloth
Philadelphia: Strawbridge & Clothier, undated

The chance discovery of this book (I was smitten by the pretty cover girl and her extraordinary hat) started the assembly of an odd and visually arresting clump on my shelves: piracies published by department stores.


A Study in Scarlet
Chicago: Siegel, Cooper Co., undated

The Siegel-Cooper department store opened in 1887 in Chicago’s Loop. The business flourished and expanded to New York City in 1896, commissioning a block-square Beaux Arts building that was for some years the largest department store in the world. It also published books under its own imprints.

The differences among these three volumes are fascinating. Although the maroon book is the plainest, I prefer it because the 1891 short story, “A Case of Identity,” is included as back matter and listed, unusually, on the title page. The two smaller volumes are identical except for their elaborate bindings.


A Study in Scarlet
Corporate promotional edition
The Modern Authors’ Library, No. 16
Chicago: Donohue, Henneberry & Co., Feb. 21, 1896
In original pictorial wrappers

Unique in my separate library of piracies, this book is both a Sherlock Holmes novel and a 198-page advertisement for a Chicago clothier, the Chicago Cloak Co., which commissioned a set of books twice a year, apparently to keep in touch with customers. It features full-page ads for the Chicago Cloak Co. on the inside front and inside back covers, and a message from the company to its customers on the back cover. Most striking of all, the text on every page is bordered by advertising copy.


A Study in Scarlet
Sherlock Holmes Detective Stories
Compliments of the Hotel Taft
New York, undated

Handsome giveaways imprinted with an Art Deco design on orange cloth depicting the hotel, probably circa the 1930s. Printed at the foot of the title page in both volumes:


Sherlock Holmes Detective Stories contains The Sign of the Four, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “A Case of Identity,” and two of Conan Doyle’s non-Sherlockian stories, “The Surgeon of Gaster Fell” and “The Ring of Thoth.”


Supplement: The Publishers’ Trade List Annual 1890
Catalogue of The United States Book Co.
New York: The United States Book Company, October 1890

While there’s only one Conan Doyle title to be found in this catalogue’s 110 pages of piracies, The Firm of Girdlestone, it illustrates price-point strategy. The book was available three ways: as a $1 clothbound gilt-edged book with a Lovell’s International Series imprint; a paper edition from the same publisher, costing 50¢; and a paper edition from Seaside Library for a mere 20¢.


Little Blue Books Catalogue
Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, undated
In original printed wrappers

Haldeman-Julius sold hundreds of millions of Little Blue Books, promoting thousands of titles in hundreds of its diminutive catalogues. The sheer number of its catalogues underscores the aggressive, relentless, and wide-ranging efforts of pirate publishers to sell books.


1897 Catalogue of Novels, Song and Hand Books, Serial Publications, Books and Libraries
Baltimore: I. & M. Ottenheimer, 1897
In original printed wrappers

Isaac and Moses Ottenheimer were just 19 and 14 years old when they went into business as book jobbers and publishers in 1890—surely the youngest pirateers represented on my shelves. Parlaying a love of jokes picked up from vaudeville shows (they were kids, after all) into a vast list of joke books made their business a huge success. The firm’s motto in this 32-page stapled catalogue for the trade was “good and cheap.” The latter claim was certainly true; its discounts were as high as 86 percent. The lowest price to the trade in this catalogue is 312¢ per copy for books originally priced at 25¢. Among the titles is The Sign of the Four.


1897 Catalogue and Order List
32-page booklet listing 20 series
New York: F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, 1897

Five of the many Lupton series in this catalogue include Sherlockian titles. The cheapest book offered was 20¢; the priciest was $2.25 for a six-volume set comprising The Sign of Four, A Study in Scarlet, Beyond the City, The Firm of Girdlestone, Micah Clarke, and The White Company. By way of comparison, a hardbound book from a “legitimate” publisher in the same year might cost $7. Which book would be more affordable to a New York carpenter earning $4 a week in 1897?


Summer Reading
Siegel-Cooper & Co. Catalogue
Chicago: Siegel-Cooper & Co., 1899

A 12 × 9-inch folio issued by one of Chicago’s booming department stores. There are nine books by Conan Doyle in this issue, two of them Sherlockian.


Annual Catalogue: Season 1902–1903
Catalogue boasting more than 100 series
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1902
In original pictorial wrappers

This 80-page 1902 catalogue lists more than 100 series. With elaborately printed paper covers depicting a press and a sewing frame in use, the stapled booklet could be hung up, perhaps in a newsstand, from a loop of thin cord running through a hole in the upper left corner. Five titles by Conan Doyle appear in eight series, with prices ranging from 25¢ to $2.


Book review, The Hound of the Baskervilles Book News, Vol. 20, No. 238, June 1902
Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1902
In original pictorial wrappers

This issue of Wanamaker’s Book News takes note of The Hound of the Baskervilles, published two months earlier. “It is not going too far,” the reviewer writes, “to say that in Sherlock Holmes we find one of the most interesting characters in contemporary fiction. The versatile pen of Dr. Doyle has never done better work. . . .”


Special Introductory Bargain Sale of Books
Catalogue including 1½¢ books, with order form
New York: F. M. Lupton, Publishers, 1903
In original printed wrappers

Priding itself on a business model that “catered to the masses not the classes, ”F. M. Lupton periodically issued bargain catalogues that reduced prices on its entire stock by 60 to 70 percent. Books in this catalogue that normally sold for 25¢, 10¢, and 5¢ dropped to 7¢, 4¢, and 1½¢. The catalogue included six Conan Doyle titles, three of them Sherlockian. The Sherlock Holmes Detective Stories (including The Sign of the Four, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “A Case of Identity,” and “The Red-Headed League”), A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, Beyond the City, and The Mystery of Cloomber each cost 4¢, while “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,” Conan Doyle’s first published short story, was priced at 1½¢.


McClure Phillips & Co’s Complete Catalogue of Books Touting The Return of Sherlock Holmes
New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1905
In original printed wrappers

The Return of Sherlock Holmes was McClure’s runaway success of 1905, and this 68-page catalogue lists the third edition of the book, priced at $1.50, along with snippets of three reviews. The Return is one of seven Conan Doyle titles in this catalogue. Three others listed under fiction are The Adventures of Gerard ($1.50), The Green Flag ($1.50), and The Hound of the Baskervilles ($1.25). The history section includes The Great Boer War ($2.50) and The War in South Africa (10¢), while Songs of Action ($1.25) was listed under poetry.


1917 Handy Catalogue of Books
Conan Doyle listed among copyrighted authors
Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1917

In original printed wrappers

There are suggestions in Wanamaker’s 240-page 1917 catalogue of Conan Doyle’s emergence from two decades of depredations at the hands of pirate publishers. Piracies did persist, with 50¢ editions of A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, and The White Company in Wanamaker’s Best Books by Best Authors section, along with 25¢ volumes of The Sign of the Four and The White Company. But three of his titles appear among the Popular Copyright Novels: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and The Lost World, all priced at 60¢.


The Sign of the Four | A Study in Scarlet
A series devoted to mostly literary titles
Oxford Edition
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, undated

This is the only book in this group with a spine accurately reflecting its contents. Its title page differs from the spine, omitting “Oxford Edition” and using the publisher’s full name and address. As with the other occurrences of the Study in this section, it has a different publishing lineage (with its own pagination) than the other story in this book.


The Sign of the Four | A Scandal in Bohemia
Top-edge gilt and embellished spine
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, undated

One of three brown cloth bindings, with top-edge gilt and classical embellishment on the spine, this volume boasts two story titles on the spine, while the title page lists only The Sign of the Four. The book itself includes a third story, “A Case of Identity,” and surprisingly, the pagination for all three stories is sequential.


The Doings of Raffles Haw
First clothbound book appearance, with four Sherlockian stories
New York: Lovell, Coryell & Company, 1891

This copy of Raffles Haw has hidden treasures for readers, with four Sherlockian tales. “The Red-Headed League” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” follow Raffles and continue its pagination, ending on page 199. Next comes “A Scandal in Bohemia,” starting out of sequence on page 185. The last story, “A Case of Identity,” continues the pagination of “Scandal.” On the title page verso is the imprint of Lovell’s successor company, United States Book Company, and an 1891 copyright, indicating this volume may be Raffles’s first clothbound book appearance.


Raffles Haw | A Study in Scarlet
Includes three Sherlockian stories
New York: United States Book Company, 1891

While Lovell, Coryell remains on the spine of the third of these volumes, the imprint of the United States Book Company appears on its title page, with New York and Chicago addresses. The latter was likely the premises of Werner Publishing, one of the companies absorbed into Lovell’s conglomerate. “The Red-Headed League” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” are sandwiched between Raffles and Study in Scarlet, with out-of-sequence pagination.


Raffles Haw
Variant of first book appearance
New York: United States Book Company, 1891

This blue binding with its stamped gold titling and two gryphons in an elaborate motif makes this book appear new, but it isn’t. Inside, the textblock is identical to that in the adjacent brown clothbound Raffles | Study. The book is copyrighted 1891 and has the imprint of the United States Book Company on its title and copyright pages. Raffles Haw, “The Red-Headed League,” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” appear with sequential pagination, followed by A Study in Scarlet, starting out of sequence.


Sherlock Holmes
New York: R. F. Fenno & Company, 1903

The 12 books in this section, all variant Tales of Sherlock Holmes, capture the twists and turns in the publishing lineage of a group of stories as they passed from Fenno to Orange Judd to Phelps to Grosset & Dunlap.

Fenno was the first to bundle the “uncopyrightable” Study in Scarlet and Sign of Four with four short stories whose protection under US copyright law it chose to ignore: “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “A Case of Identity,” “The Red-Headed League,” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery.” The Fenno books were also illustrated with photographs of the famed actor William Gillette, on stage as Sherlock Holmes.


Original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
New York: R. F. Fenno & Company, undated

Marketed as Special Limited Editions, the Fennos varied titles, cover art, and title pages over time. While my earliest copy is bound in mustard cloth, many covers feature a Gillette-like figure that ultimately surfaced on more editions from subsequent publishers than any other cover design.

School stamps and owners’ inscriptions can help establish precedence among variants. This red cloth edition has a dated school stamp, Christmas 1906, with a student’s name written in on the recto of the frontispiece. The green cloth edition features an inscription from the gift giver on the recto of the frontispiece, dated January 9, 1910.


Sherlock Holmes
Pirate publisher notable for its dust jackets
New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1906

Of the hundreds of pirate volumes on my shelves, a higher percentage of those published by A. L. Burt Company have dust jackets than any other pirate publisher. This volume of the Tales differs from others in this section: it lacks the Gillette photos; omits two of the short stories; and cobbles together its content from three different sets of sheets or textblocks.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Dramatic cover art, widely used by other publishers
New York: Orange Judd Co., 1907

In original pictorial wrappers

Orange Judd Co. is something of an oddity. Its specialty was agricultural titles; its eponymous founder was for years the agricultural editor of the New York Times. Its edition of the Tales juggles the stories’ order of appearance and omits illustrations but introduces dramatic cover art: a red and black silhouette of Holmes examining a document with a magnifying glass. Dated 1907 on the title page, a rare occurrence, the book is extremely scarce in wrappers.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Hybrid volume
New York: Orange Judd Co., 1907

Given its cover, you might mistake this for a clothbound Orange Judd. Rather, it’s a hybrid, straddling two publishers. The title page and textblock are from the Orange Judd edition, the case from Phelps Publishing Co., with “Phelps” stamped on the spine.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Hybrid volume
New York: The Mutual Book Co., undated

What looks to be another Orange Judd hardback actually features the imprint of The Mutual Book Co. on its spine and the undated title page. No illustrations.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Hybrid volume
Boston: Human Life Publishing Company, undated

This striking royal blue volume, with its silver stamped title and ornamentation, features the imprint of Human Life Publishing Company with the Orange Judd textblock. Perhaps issued with leftover Orange Judd sheets, it uses Gillette photos as a frontispiece and on seven other pages.

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Tales of Sherlock Holmes
New York: Grosset & Dunlap, undated

The Phelps plates were picked up by Grosset & Dunlap to produce editions of the Tales using eight Gillette photographs, rather than Fenno’s ten, and sandwiching the short stories between the Study and the Sign. Notable is an abundance of variant bindings and dust jackets, a rarity in this era. This jacket co-opts the dramatic Orange Judd cover design and makes good use of the real estate the jacket affords for advertising other Grosset & Dunlap titles. No illustrations.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
New York: Grosset & Dunlap, undated

Variant colors on dust jacket and cloth cover, with abundant advertising. The front flap lists titles in the Mary J. Holmes Series, the back flap titles in the L. T. Meade series, all priced at 50¢. The back of the dust jacket lists other Popular Books for Young and Old, all 50¢. No illustrations.


Tales of Sherlock Holmes
New York: Grosset & Dunlap, undated

Gilt-stamped title with columnar design on cover. The inscription by a gift giver is dated Dec. 25, 1907. The book is illustrated with Gillette photos and includes four pages of Grosset & Dunlap ads at the end.

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Tales of Sherlock Holmes
New York: Grosset & Dunlap, undated

The same book as item 220, but in remarkably fresh condition, with a bright cover and unusual columnar design, pristine gilt, and vibrant colors. The tan and brown dust jacket has book lists on the back flap and back—very helpful in answering bibliographic questions.