Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pirate of a Pirate

There are all sorts of pirates. One that comes to mind is the late Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh kind of pirate. There is the Blackbeard, a.k.a. Edward Teach, the notorious English pirate who terrorized the West Indies in the early 1700’s. Then there is Captain Jack Sparrow, based partially on Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards, a much more lovable pirate. And there are literary pirates. These are books published without the benefit of royalties being paid to the authors. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was pirated as much as any other author.
Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries vol. 3 - HIS

As a collector of foreign translations of Sherlock Holmes, I have come across many pirated editions. The late Donald A. Redmond wrote Sherlock Holmes Among the Pirates: Copyright and Conan Doyle in America 1890-1930, published in 1990 by Greenwood. This books deals with the pirated editions of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. These were just English editions and did not deal with foreign editions.

In China, there was a series called Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries that was published in the 1930’s. I have six volumes in the series and I not not sure how many there were in total. This is just one of the problems facing pirated editions and especially ones in foreign languages. I used to have a book-scout named Simon who lived in Beijing and for a period of time, he was hard on my bank account because he was able to find many early Chinese editions of the Canon. The six volumes of Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries were from Simon. I do not know what happened to Simon. I have not heard from him in several years. But for a short period of time he was very active in finding things for me.

Manchurian Pirate of a Pirate

Since I do not read Chinese, I depend on Yuichi Hirayama, BSI, to help me when I get Chinese editions. So when Simon sent me two separate editions of Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries vol. 03, I was curious because the  covers were similar but the Chinese characters inside the two books were different. Once of the edition’s cover matched the artwork on the covers of the other five volumes but the cover artwork on the other volume 03 looked like someone had drawn it, looking at the fist volume 03. I took scans of the covers and the inside information and emailed them to Yuichi.

Imagine my surprise when I got the answer back telling me that the second volume 03 was very rare, being published in Manchuria after the Japan invasion in 1931. As it turned out, the first volume 03 is a pirated edition published in 1936 by Qi Ming Press in Shanghai, China. The book is “His Last Bow” and was translated by Yang Qirui. The second volume 03 was published by Fentian Dashu Press, in Fentian, Manchuria, China in 1939. The translator was not given but the story is The Hound of the Baskervilles.” The text of this book is the exact text of Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries vol. 06 by Qi Ming Press, also translated by Yang Qirui of the Hound. This makes the second volume 03 a pirate of a pirate.
Sherlock Holmes New Mysteries vol.6 - HOUN

 The world of literary piracy is a strange bird indeed.

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