The Best of Sherlock Holmes


"The Story of Spedegue's Dropper" Manuscript:

Bloomsbury 2011 Sale Information

By Randall Stock, June 3, 2011


Bloomsbury Auctions sold the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle original manuscript of "The Story of Spedegue's Dropper" on 26 May 2011 in London at more than double the pre-sale high estimate.  Described as one of the funniest cricket stories ever written, the tale is based on Sir Arthur's experience as a cricketer.  His daughter Dame Jean Conan Doyle previously owned the manuscript and gave it to her solicitor.



Story of Spedegue's Dropper Manuscript Description


Lot 293: Original Autograph Manuscript for "The Story of [S]Pedegue's Dropper"

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original manuscript of "The Story of Spedegue's Dropper" in ink on 25 ruled pages (rectos only) that are mostly 250 x 197mm.  It is entitled "The Story of Pedegue's Dropper" (lacking the initial "S") at the top of the first page, and is signed at end as "A Conan Doyle / Crowborough."  The manuscript is not bound, with a brass tack in the upper left corner holding the pages together.


Dame Jean Conan Doyle, the youngest daughter of Sir Arthur, gave the manuscript to her solicitor in 1984 in appreciation for his work in protecting the copyright use of her father's works.  The catalog does not identify the current owner.


First published in The Strand Magazine for October 1928 with four illustrations by J. H. Thorpe, the tale was collected in The Maracot Deep and Other Stories (1929).  Its first American appearance seems to have been in a 21 November 1928 special copyright edition by Doubleday, Doran & Company of The Maracot Deep and Other Stories.


This lot includes two associated letters, one from Dame Jean to her solicitor in 1984 and another from Richard Lancleyn Green discussing the manuscript.  The lot also includes a signed presentation copy from Dame Jean of Julian Symons' Portrait of an Artist: Conan Doyle


The pre-sale estimate was £4000 – £6000 (approximately US$6,470 – US$9,700)


Sale Results

At least three parties bid on the manuscript, and it eventually went for 2.5 times the high estimate.  The manuscript sold to a bidder in the auction room at a hammer price of £15,000 (US$24,519).   Including the 22% buyer's premium, the sale price was £18,300 (US$29,913). 


Although other Conan Doyle manuscripts have sold privately, this was the highest-priced Conan Doyle manuscript sold at auction since the 2004 sale of "The Solitary Cyclist" manuscript



History / Origin of Spedegue's Dropper


Owen Dudley Edwards, in his 1983 The Quest for Sherlock Holmes, called it "one of the funniest, tensest, and most improbable cricket stories ever written."  Sir Arthur was an avid cricketer, and based the story on an incident in which he was bowled with unusually high lobs by A. P. Lucas.  Doyle recalled that event in an article for The Strand Magazine, excerpted below:


Some Recollections of Sport by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Strand Magazine, Volume 38 Number 225 (September 1909), pp. 270-281

Conan Doyle Cricket Inspiration for Spedegue's Dropper

I have only once felt smaller, and that was when I was bowled by A. P. Lucas, by the most singular ball that I have ever received.  He propelled it like a quoit into the air to a height of at least thirty feet, and it fell straight and true on to the top of the bails.  I have often wondered what a good batsman would have made of that ball.  To play it one would have needed to turn the blade of the bat straight up, and could hardly fail to give a chance.  I tried to cut it off my stumps, with the result that I knocked down my wicket and broke my bat, while the ball fell in the midst of this general chaos.  I spent the rest of the day wondering gloomily what I ought to have done—and I am wondering yet.


Conan Doyle repeated this description in his autobiography Memories and Adventures (1924).  The  event clearly inspired Conan Doyle to write about lob bowling in "The Story of Spedegue's Dropper."  Reports, such as the 1999 ESPN cricket web article that Doyle read about it in an 1880s book by A. G. Steel and the Hon. R. H. Lyttelton, are almost certainly mistaken as to the story's origins.


The above Arthur Twidle illustration of the incident appeared with the article in both the September 1909 London edition and the October 1909 New York edition of The Strand Magazine.


Bloomsbury Catalogue


Bloomsbury provides an online catalogue for this sale (35815) with a description and photos.


View Bloomsbury Lot 293 Story of Spedegue's Dropper catalogue entry.


For all lots, see the online general sale catalogue.


For sale results, see the list of Bloomsbury Prices Realized for Lot 293.



The printed catalogue has two photos of the manuscript, which are the same as those shown in the online catalogue:


You can view a PDF of the Bloomsbury Sale 35815 Print Catalogue (3.7 MB PDF).  The Conan Doyle entry appears on page 73 (page 75 of the PDF).


The printed catalogue is available and costs £15.


Ask for Publication (Sale) Code 35815, Important Books and Manuscripts in London on Thursday 26 May 2011.


Sale Information


This is Sale Number 35815 for Important Books and Manuscripts.  It will be held at Bloomsbury House in London on Thursday 26th May 2011 and starts at 1:00 PM.


According to their sale catalogue, the buyer's premium is 22% (26.4% including VAT) of the hammer price up to and including £300,000.  Reserve prices are set at or below the low pre-sale estimate.


Bloomsbury House

24 Maddox Street

London W1S 1PP

T +44 (0) 20 7495 9494


Viewing beforehand on:

Tuesday 24th May 9.30am - 5.30pm

Wednesday 25th May 9.30am - 8.00pm

Thursday 26th May 9.30am - 1.00pm



News articles about the sale and manuscript


Unless noted, online reports were available free to the public when originally posted.  Some websites may remove online articles or charge for accessing older items.


Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, May 2011, p. 5.  (72 words)

[The manuscript of "The Story of Pedegue's Dropper"...] by Peter E. Blau



My thanks to Simon Luterbacher at Bloomsbury Auctions for additional details about the manuscript.




Related Pages


News Archive for Conan Doyle Manuscripts


Manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles


Other Conan Doyle rarities like Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887 and Sidney Paget drawings.


Lists of each year's best Sherlock Holmes books & DVDs, the most famous Sherlock Holmes quotes, and more Top 10 Lists.




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