Handwritten Sherlock Holmes Page Sells for World Record Sum

More than 900 bidders were on the case at Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 6 Historical Manuscripts Signature Auction. But the day’s biggest mystery was solved when the final price for a handwritten page from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original manuscript of his beloved Sherlock Holmes book The Hound of the Baskervilles turned out to be a record-shattering $423,000. The last time a leaf from the legendary manuscript was sold at auction, the year was 2012, and the price was a mere $158,500.

“This extraordinary rare page from The Hound of the Baskervilles shows the strength of the manuscript market around the world as Heritage continues to source the best examples for our clients,” said Joe Maddalena, Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President.

The Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes

Published in 1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the novel in which Doyle brought back his most famous character, after killing off the fictional detective in 1894, and remains one of the most popular among Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. To promote Hound’s release, as well as Holmes’ much anticipated return, the book’s publisher broke up the pages of Doyle’s manuscript and offered them individually to dealers who purchased copies of the book.

“Unfortunately, the manuscript was written on paper that was popular at the time … but also was very acidic, so it deteriorated more quickly than many other varieties,” said Sandra Palomino, Heritage Auctions Historical Manuscripts Director. “Therefore, not many pages have survived, and of those, few are in this condition. We knew that the manuscript would do well, in that it mentioned Sherlock Holmes, but we were thrilled that it sold for more than twice the estimate.”

It is notable that Holmes appears in less than half of the book — most of the tale centers around his assistant, Dr. Watson. Therefore, adding to the importance of this page is that includes an entire scene in which Holmes discusses the mysterious murder on the moor with Watson.

Other must-have rarities in the Saturday sale, which soared to $1,435,939, included a Mark Twain signed copy of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which sold for $68,750; a signed letter John Brown wrote on Feb. 20, 1856, which went for $42,500; a 1795 ship’s passport signed by George Washington, which realized $23,750; and a 1793 letter of introduction also signed by Washington, which sold for $23,750.

 

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