Lot 221B

Sherlock Holmes the original Macmillan Company brass plate...

Auction Date: 21/05/2013 at 10am



Sherlock Holmes the original Macmillan Company brass plate celebrating Sherlock Holmes at the convention of The Baker Street Irregulars on the occasion of the publication of ‘221B – Studies in Sherlock Holmes’ by Vincent Starratt, held in New York on January 30th 1940. The plate, mounted on a wooden block, measures approx 57x36cm, and resembles a plate designed to print enormous currency bills, because included on it is the Great Seal of the United States and the mystical Annuit Cœptis seal also found on the reverse of the US one-dollar bill. At the centre of the plate, however, is the unmistakable figure of Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the most famous profile of the legendary detective – after Frederic Dorr Steele. Surrounding the Holmes portrait is the legend ‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Literary Agent’ and two fingerprints engraved inside circular labels. Both say, in the bottom half, “Partner in Crime” in their top halves, the one to the left of Steele’s art has Vincent Starrett’s name, the one to the right Harold S Latham’s. Latham was Trade Editor at MacMillan, and presumably in 1933 also responsible there for publishing Starrett’s own Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Also on the plate in ribbon like formations is engraved what presumably was the menu for the celebration meal held at the convention. In a smaller medallion below Steele’s art, encompassing a Victorian shilling (not for another ten years a token of BSI membership), its circular label reading Allan M. Price above, with the words “Holmes Maker” below. Where Starrett’s and Latham’s fingerprints were on the first plate, are this time eight banners wrapping around columns near the left and right edges bearing the fancifully named dishes served at the 1940 BSI dinner, couched in Holmesian terms such as ‘Oyster Cocktail Mycroft’ and ‘Boiled Potatoes Lestrade’. An ivory (?) plaque below the plate reads ‘With the Compliments of the MacMillan co, 11th July 1940, Toronto’. Three further statements are engraved on the bottom of the plate: the one at the left corner reads THE BROAD STREET IRREGULARS in the centre: LAMBIE & BARROWMAN, and at the right corner, AMERICAN BANK NOTE Co. One of the first Baker Street Irregulars, present at the 1940 dinner, was an American Bank Note Co. executive named Allan Price. Its offices were at 70 Broad Street in New York’s financial district, illuminating the “Broad Street Irregulars” statement. However the mention of Lambie and Barrowman, key witnesses in a 1927 sensational murder case in which Conan Doyle took and interest, continues to baffle scholars. This, together with the further plate which forms the next lot, is considered by Holmes devotees to be one of the most sought after artefacts relating to Holmes in the world. It lay unnoticed in a private collection until very recently, and was exhibited at the BSI convention weekend in New York in January of this year. The Baker Street Irregulars is an American organisation of some of the world’s most significant and ardent Holmes devotees. The 1940 convention was attended by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s son, Denis, who was returning to Europe after concluding various lucrative film and literary deals in America based on his father’s books. The convention caused considerable controversy however, when Denis Conan Doyle, bemused by the fact that his father’s name had been hardly mentioned, became extremely angry when he realised that the convention members believed the Holmes stories to be true, and their author, as reflected in the attribution on this plate, was merely a literary agent selling Holmes’ works. This led to acrimonious litigation between the Conan Doyle estate and the BSI which lasted until the early 1950s. The full story and mystery surrounding these plates is discussed at length by John Lellenberg in his article ‘The Mystery of the Two Irregular Plates’ on the BSI Website, and we urge potential bidders to visit this article at

Guide Price: £30000.00 - £50000.00

(Not sold)