DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN. 1859-1930.
Autograph Manuscript, a single leaf from The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1 p, 4to, n.p., c.1902, being the first page of "Chapter XIII. Fixing the Nets," one line crossed through, old tears along folds expertly reinforced. Housed in a custom gray cloth portfolio, gilt-lettered black morocco-backed marbled cloth box.
"MY DEAR WATSON YOU WERE BORN TO BE A MAN OF ACTION...." Arguably the most important Sherlock Holmes novel is The Hound of the Baskervilles, first serialized in The Strand Magazine (August 1901-April 1902) and published in book form by George Newnes in England and McClure, Phillips & Co. in the USA in 1902. This was the first appearance of the legendary detective after his alleged death over the Reichenbach Falls in "The Final Problem" (The Strand Magazine, December 1893); and the new mystery successfully revived the character who continues to excite and entertain to the present day.
Unfortunately no complete manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles survives: to promote the novel in America, McClure asked Conan Doyle for the manuscript of between 185 and 190 pp., to be used as a marketing ploy, distributing single pages to bookstore owners to display in their windows, along with the American edition. Most of these leaves were either lost or destroyed. The only known complete manuscript chapter of the novel (Chapter XI, "The Man on the Tor") is now in the Berg Collection, The New York Public Library. This leaf from Chapter XIII is H31 of Randall Stock's census of the remaining 35 pages. (Most of these are preserved in institutional collections; a thirty-sixth previous unrecorded leaf was sold at Christie's New York, December 7, 2012.) The current one is among the more desirable of the surviving extracts because Holmes and Watson discuss the current baffling case:
"...There's the devilish cunning of it! If he were acting through a human agent we could get some evidence, but if we were to drag this great dog to the light of day it would not help us in putting a rope round the neck of its master."
"Surely we have a case."
"Not a shadow of one--only surmise and conjecture. We should be laughed out of court if we came with such a story and such evidence."
Because Holmes himself does not appear until about two-thirds into the novel, he is not present in many of the known surviving manuscript pages, but is very much in conversation with Watson on this leaf. One sentence has been crossed out after "We would prove nothing against him": "I know where he keeps his hound but what of that?"
There is a mystery about this page that might require a Sherlock Holmes to solve. Evidently some rearranging of the text was done to fit the format of the magazine. When this extract was published in The Strand (February 1902, p 130), it became part of Chapter XXII ("Death on the Moor"). The text appears in the Newnes edition also as part of Chapter XXII on pp 284-86. But the McClure edition conforms to this leaf: it is the opening of Chapter XIII ("Fixing the Nets") on pp 199-200. Apparently no thorough textual comparison between the two variants has yet been published. Perhaps this leaf will encourage that comparison. See: http://bestofsherlock.com/baskervilles-manuscript.htm.