(Tokyo): (Kōbunsha), (1928) [Showa 3]. Single volume, 8.75 x. 5.75 inches, , 246,  pp. Original half blue cloth over color pictorial wrappers depicting a stylized Sherlock Holmes and Mary Morstan, blue cloth ornamented and lettered in black and gilt, purple pictorial endpapers. Illustrated title page printed in magenta, two full-page color plates of the first and second stories, and 25 full-page black-and-white plates. Some foxing to rear wrapper and endpapers, mild rubbing.
Illustrated edition of three popular mysteries, one each from America, England, and France, including what is likely the earliest Japanese translation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sign of Four, published for the use of schoolchildren. This collection is Volume 45 in the short-lived but ambitious series Shogakusei Zenshu, “Complete Works for Primary School Students,” which ran to 88 volumes between 1927 and 1928. Sherlock Holmes had been a wildly popular character in Japan since the first translation of The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1926, followed by this edition of Sign of Four and a second translation of the same novel by Ken Nobuhara the same year (Universal Sherlock Holmes). While only one story in this volume is by Doyle, two feature Holmes. The first story is “The Hollow Needle,” Maurice Leblanc’s tale of Arsène Lupin, a gentleman burglar who serves as a nemesis to Sherlock Holmes (changed to “Holmlock Shears” after Doyle’s objection). Holmes and Lupin each get the better of the other by turns, yet the central storyline follows a boy of seventeen, a detective in the making. The second story, “Subway Sam,” features a New York City pickpocket, a modern Robin Hood figure created by Johnston McCulley, a prolific mystery writer for the pulps and creator of Zorro. The final story is Doyle’s Sign of Four, in which Mary Morstan asks Holmes’s help in solving a mystery of murders, pearls, and the Agra treasure. This translation begins at the very end of Doyle’s chapter one, when Mary Morstan’s card is presented – leaving out the opening discussion of Holmes’s cocaine use and Watson’s alcoholic brother. The translator of this edition, Kan Kikuchi, was a successful writer whose play Madame Pearl (about a woman attempting to overcome the limits of her patriarchal society) brought him national acclaim. He went on to found two of the most influential literary prizes in Japan, the Akutagawa and the Naoki Prizes. OCLC locates only two copies, one in the University of Minnesota’s Sherlock Holmes collection and the other at the National Diet of Japan. Text in Japanese. A very good copy of a scarce title, an early appearance of one of modern Japan’s most beloved Western characters.