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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Jacob Stolworthy

First edition Sherlock Holmes book owned by Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts sells for record £214,000


First edition copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles and Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems, which once belonged to late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, set two world auction records on Thursday (28 September).

The musician’s extensive collection of first edition books went under the hammer at British auction house Christie’s as part of a specialised sale, which saw F Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925, receive the highest bid, at £226,800.

The edition was described as "the cornerstone" of the drummer’s collection, while bidders gathered in the auction room were told it was the "finest" copy to be offered by Christie’s "in a generation".

Elsewhere, a first edition of Sherlock Holmes tale The Hound Of The Baskervilles sold for £214,200, which set a new world auction record for a printed book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This surpasses the previous record $201,600 (£165,279) for The Sign of Four, which was sold in 2022.

The rare copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles sold on Thursday (28 September) was inscribed by a personal message on the title page from Conan Doyle himself, who wrote: "I perambulated Dartmoor before I wrote this book." Watts lived 10 miles from the location of the book’s Devonshire setting.

Twenty-five Agatha Christie novels were also placed under the hammer, with an "exceptionally rare" edition of the author’s 1932 mystery collection The Thirteen Problems selling for £60,480. This sale set a new world auction record for a Christie book, with the previous high being £47,880 for The ABC Murders in 2021.

A first edition of ‘The Thirteen Problems’ by Agatha Christie

The Thirteen Problems is notable for featuring the first appearance of Christie’s famous sleuth, Miss Marple, in the section titled "The Tuesday Night Club".

Meanwhile, Watts’s edition of Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) sold for £56,700, while his copy of The Murder at the Vicarage (1930), dedicated to the author’s daughter Rosalind, sold for £34,020.

Other sale highlights included first editions of Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake (£32,760), Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (£27,720) and Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, which eventually fetched £47,880 after a close bidding war. Watts’s copy Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited also sold for £60,480.

Watts, a member of The Rolling Stones since 1963, died in August 2021, aged 80. At the time of his death, his publicist Bernard Doherty told the PA news agency that the drummer “passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family”.

Charlie Watts plays at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh in 2018 (Jane Barlow/PA)
— (PA Archive)

The musician was the longest-standing member of the group alongside Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards.

During his career as a drummer, Watts also curated a superb collection of works inspired by his passion for jazz and literature. As evidenced by the 127 items on sale, his love of literature leaned towards 20th-century British and American authors, with a particular interest in the crime and mystery genre.

“Charlie was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly 60 years, he was totally unique and devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood,” Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards said in a joint statement following his death. “He was the quintessential English gentleman and his absence is a great loss for us all. We miss him hugely.”

Benedict Winter, specialist in books and manuscripts at Christie’s, said: “Charlie Watts holds a unique position within music history and Christie's is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy.

“Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste.”

Next month, The Rolling Stones will release their first album since Watts’s death. While launching their 24th record, titled Hackney Diamonds, at a London event last month, Keith Richards paid tribute to his bandmate, stating: “Ever since Charlie’s gone it’s different – he’s number four, he’s missing. Of course he’s missed, incredibly.”

A Christie’s auctioneer accepted a bid for a first edition copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, owned by the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts

Watts has been replaced by Steve Jordan, whom Richards says the late drummer recommended “if anything should happen to him”. He described it as a “natural progression”, adding: “It would’ve been a lot harder without Charlie’s blessing on that.”

However, in a poignant twist, the band revealed that Watts still managed to contribute to the album, as he can be heard performing on two tracks, “Mess It Up” and “Live By The Sword”, both recorded around 2019.

Hackney Diamonds will be released on 20 October.

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