A Study in Scarlet (First Edition) by Arthur Conan Doyle



2015-06-26 11:19:02

A Study in Scarlet is a detective mystery novel by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). The first edition of this work was published in 1887 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, and in 1888 in book form, both publications by Ward, Lock and Co, London. The American edition was released in 1890 by J. B. Lippincott & Co. Background

The novel was written in 1886 in less than three weeks, by 27 year old GP Conan Doyle. Its publication in Beeton’s Christmas Annual was illustrated by D. H. Friston, and in book form by Charles Doyle. It was the first novel to feature the character of consulting detective and genius Sherlock Holmes, who went on to star in three further novels and 56 short stories. Holmes is notable for his almost inhuman ability to reason logically, his ability to adopt effective disguise, and his use of forensic science in the solving of crimes.

Plot, characters, themes

The story opens with Dr. John Watson looking for a place to live, and having 221B, Baker Street, the residence of Sherlock Holmes, suggested to him. He moves in and Sherlock Holmes’ eccentric personality and unique skills become apparent, and the fact that he is a consulting detective is revealed. Watson begins to attend crime scenes with Holmes. Together they solve the a murder mystery, with the help of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of homeless beggars. Holmes first arrests the murder, and then the reader is told the story leading up to the denouement – unusual in a crime novel, as the reader has no chance to guess or work it out for themselves, but as this was one of the forerunners of crime fiction and helped establish the genre, it cannot be faulted for not conforming to what are now considered rules of the detective story.


Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer and physician. His Sherlock Holmes stories made his name, and defined him as fundamental to the development of the crime writing genre.

See main article: Arthur Conan Doyle rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First editions of A Study in Scarlet are generally found in book form (1888, Ward, Lock and Co), and have great worth. However, the true first publication is to be found in original copies of the Beeton’s Christmas Annual featuring the story, and these are vastly more valuable, especially in good condition.

For example, A Study in Scarlet in Beeton’s Christmas Annual (1887) sold by Sothebys New York for $153,600 in December 2004 and $156,000 in June 2007.
A first edition in book form (1888) was sold by Sotheby’s New York for $20,315 in December 2003, and Christie’s New York for $22,705 in April 2003.

It is not recommended to restore this work in either of these forms, as it is infinitely more valuable in the original covers.

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