Exhibit is free at the Grolier Club in NYC through April 16 and also online
Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects draws upon selected items from the impressive collection assembled by Glen Miranker of more than 8,000 rarities including manuscripts, books, correspondence, and artwork, all with intriguing stories to tell beyond their significance as literary and cultural landmarks.
The show, named for the famous address of the Holmes’ Baker Street lodgings, presents items that will engage both the specialist and the general enthusiast. This is the first comprehensive Sherlock Holmes exhibition in Manhattan in more than half a century and features an unrivaled number of objects in Conan Doyle’s hand.
The event is free and open to the public at the Grolier Club through April 16th in the ground floor gallery. See details on visiting the Grolier Club at the end of this article.
Most of its treasures can also be viewed online.
Doyle produced four Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories. Miranker’s extensive collection includes all that and more. “I also collect backstories about items in my collection, for what they reveal about the friendships, rivalries, ambitions, and business dealings at play as stories were written or published.”
The show takes a cluster approach to showcasing his collection: “I like to assemble objects that are more significant in a group than they are individually…They offer more insight together, imparting a more complete understanding than one object can do singly.”
Some examples cited in the media kit provided by Grolier include:
Writing about the celebrated Hound of the Baskervilles displayed in both a UK and US sections the press kit points out: “By itself, the Newnes Sixpenny edition of the Hound (of the Baskerville) is a striking book, but its impact is more complete when one reads Conan Doyle’s note agreeing to its publication and also sees the original artwork for its cover. It’s a cluster that provides a richer view of a moment in the life of the author and in the ongoing publication history of the Hound.”
Sections on the Hound of the Baskervilles in the UK
And the Hound in the US
Other selected cluster groups and their links are at:
Study in Scarlet
Sign of Four
Adventures and Memoirs
Death of Holmes and Rebirth of Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes on Stage
During the three decades that William Gillette performed in the play Sherlock Holmes, his phenomenal publicity machine cranked out all manner of souvenirs, posters, and programs—all represented in the collection. But for a human side to the business of show business, Miranker prizes Gillette’s correspondence with Conan Doyle, including a 1901 Christmas card with this note: “Did you ever imagine that Sherlock would be sending his compliments to his maker?”
Conan Doyle’s Return to Sherlock Holmes
This cluster that attests to the frenzy accompanying Holmes’s return. It includes Conan Doyle’s letter updating P. F. Collier on his progress with his new stories for Collier's Magazine; a wealth of original artwork that Collier’s commissioned from Frederic Dorr Steele; the manuscripts of four stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes; and more.
Of more than casual interest are the multiple “pirated” editions on display.These rogue publishers ingeniously exploited the popularity of Sherlock Holmes to sell books. Pricing was paramount, but eye-catching cover art was a crucial come-on. The Westbrook covers can’t be topped for color, drama, and their total disconnect from the titles’ storylines.
Again the club provides a helpful synopsis to navigate the knock off editions:
• The Sign of Four, first US book edition, Collier’s Once A Week Library, March 15, 1891. 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 Adventure of the Speckled Band,” first US magazine piracy, Arthur’s New Home Magazine. “The Speckled Band” appeared in one of the magazines published by T. S. Arthur, a leading figure in the American temperance movement, just two months after its first publication in the Strand. This is the only instance of the rarely pirated “Speckled Band” in Miranker’s collection.
• The Sign of the Four | A Study in Scarlet, Red Seal Library of Standard Books
This Red Seal Library Sign and the Red Seal Study are the lowest-priced piracies on his shelves; it is scarcely conceivable that they could be printed, distributed, and sold for just 2¢ apiece.
• The Sign of the Four, A Case of Identity, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, published by the Arthur Westbrook Company.
Snazzy hardback catalog in a short run at $60
Accompanying the exhibition is a 168-page hardback catalog with 238 color images, published by the Grolier Club and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. The volume retails for $60 and according to Miranker has a first press run of 600 copies. Those have almost sold out with a second printing planned shortly.
VISITING THE GROLIER CLUB,
47 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
(212) 838-6690, www.grolierclub.org
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, with the exception of holiday closures
Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge. Masks are required. In accordance with New York City Guidelines all visitors age 12 and over are required to show proof of vaccination. Visits should be reserved in advance via EVENTBRITE.
Go to the next page to read the interview with Glen Miranker