The Best of Sherlock Holmes


"The Three Students" Manuscript Facsimile:
Details About So Painful a Scandal


Frederic Dorr Steele drawing on dust jacket of So Painful a Scandal

The Houghton Library at Harvard holds the original manuscript for the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Three Students." Harvard conducted a Conan Doyle symposium and exhibition in 2009 as part of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur, and co-published this facsimile.


So Painful a Scandal is edited, with an introduction, by John Bergquist. It includes a facsimile of "The Three Students" manuscript, a transcription with extensive annotation, and related essays. The facsimile images are reduced to 7.5 x 4.5 inches and show the rectos of the manuscript's 21 text pages, its autograph title page, the front and rear paste-downs, and the front and rear covers of the binding.


The striking color illustration for the dust jacket is by Frederic Dorr Steele and is an unused cover design for the first appearance of "The Three Students" in Collier's Weekly in 1904. This previously unpublished drawing is part of The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest in Portsmouth, England.


The title of this volume comes from the opening paragraph of the tale, in which Dr. Watson notes the sensitivity of a case of cheating at a famous university and suggests "so painful a scandal may well be allowed to die out."



About the Facsimile of "The Three Students" Manuscript


So Painful a Scandal is the sixth volume in The Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series. [Full disclosure: I was a contributor to this volume, and thus I'll focus on describing the "facsimile" portion rather than providing a critical review or discussing the essays.]


Like the other books in this series, it includes a manuscript reproduction, a transcription, and essays on various aspects of the story. Unlike many other facsimiles, this volume also reproduces the paste-downs and the bound covers of the manuscript. More importantly, the line-for-line transcription faces the image of each handwritten page. This allows you to read the text and immediately refer to the original writing. Although the images are smaller than the original, the reproduction quality is good and the facing transcription makes the material quite accessible.


Phillip Bergem produced the notes for the manuscript. These primarily consist of an examination of Conan Doyle's mode of composition, bibliographical background, and textual analysis. He compared the manuscript text to the versions published in The Strand Magazine and in Collier's Weekly. Annotations for these variations are numbered in the margins of the transcription and appear after the last page image. The notes also include a few points about the narrative, but for complete story annotations you will need to refer to one of Klinger's Annotated volumes or the Oxford Sherlock Holmes.


Some aspects of a manuscript are not apparent from facsimile images. I included a description of the manuscript's physical attributes in my essay on the history of its composition and its owners. Enlarged portions of a few pages accompany my description.



Contents of So Painful a Scandal




Publication Details


Standard Edition

Type of material: Hardcover book

Title: So Painful a Scandal (manuscript facsimile)

Author (story): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Author (volume): Edited, with an introduction by John Bergquist

Author (series): Andrew G. Fusco

Publisher: The Baker Street Irregulars in association with Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library

Year: 2009

ISBN: 978-0-9795550-4-6

Pages: 132

Price: US$35.00


Limited Edition (part of a 3-volume boxed set)

Includes all the same content as the standard edition, but has:

Price: US$195.00 (for the complete boxed set)


* The limited edition set does not include the pictorial dust jacket of the standard edition.


You can get the So Painful a Scandal standard edition on the Baker Street Journal website, or learn about the limited edition boxed set.






This site also has information on the manuscript facsimiles of "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Red Circle" as well as several other tales.



Return to Manuscripts Home page and Introduction



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