First things first: The Book Club of California. Tucked above Sutter Street, this cozy gathering place is dedicated to letterpress books and the people who read, collect, make, and sell them. Host to literary talks, receptions, and exhibitions, the club is plush, full of overstuffed couches and sound-canceling carpets. The bar appears well-stocked, the reference library voluminous. This is the setting for You Know My Methods: A Collector’s Approach to the Sherlockian Canon, an exhibition that will make rare book collectors drool, mystery fans gape, and the average reader smile.
The show draws entirely from the collection of Glen S. Miranker, a self-professed victim of the “gentle madness” that afflicts bibliomanes. In a talk at the opening, Miranker answered a few whys. Why collect books? Why Sherlock Holmes? For him, it’s about the excitement of the hunt and the ability to have a different kind of relationship with a book. From his first answer, it is apparent that he and Holmes are kindred spirits — Miranker’s quest for rare items mirroring the Great Detective’s search for clues.
While Holmes recently resurfaced in pop culture (with both film and television manifestations), You Know My Methods proves that his popularity is hardly a new fad. Focusing exclusively on the 1902 novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, the exhibition is filled with rare treats: some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original manuscript pages, a first British Edition, a first American edition, a first American edition inscribed by the author, the only known “salesman’s dummy,” among other tomes.
Many of these items are nearly identical to each other. In the United States, the Hound was widely popular. Caught off-guard, the publishers reprinted the book five times in its first year on the shelves. Between these “states” tiny and perplexing differences appear. In such comparisons, the viewer glimpses a collector’s drive, the motivation to own not just one copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles but ALL copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles.