|Al Gregory with the Hound at the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Now, the interview:
When and how did you first encounter Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
I read the entire Canon the summer I turned seven. I think my father suggested I read it; I don't remember. But I borrowed it from the school library and burned right through it.
Tell us about your collection.
My collection of Sherlockiana/Doyleana is on the order of some 1,000 books. Most of my Doyle material consists of biographies, though I have some of his novels and histories.
To quote the great American Sherlockian collector, the late John Bennett Shaw, "I collect with the selectivity of a vacuum cleaner." If I like it, I buy it. I have some 200 pastiche books. But where I concentrate most of my time and budget comes under three headings: lapel pins (of which I have some 200+); individual Strand magazines with both short stories and novels (I have 57 Strands with 39 short stories complete, and major parts of Hound and Valley); and editions of The Hound (about 200 English language and 197 foreign language ones) I have The Hound in 40 languages, including some rather unusual/obscure ones such as Armenian, Cornish, Esperanto, Frisian, Gaelic Piedmontese, Swahili, Tamil, and Vietnamese -- all this in addition to the major European languages.
I started collecting The Hound in 2001 after I met another American Sherlockian in Dartmoor who collected foreign language editions of the Canon. He inspired me.
The Hound is far and away my favorite Holmes story. That's why I collect it so compulsively and omnivorously. It's paying homage to Doyle's literary genius.
My collection of Sherlockiana casts a very wide net. I have Holmes games, actor's autographs, toys, chess sets, statues, plush toys, scrapbooks filled with Holmes-themed advertisements, mugs, meerschaum pipes carved with Holmes and Watson heads, posters, Sherlockian wallpaper samples, lobby cards, a metal/enamel roundel sign from the Underground Baker Street Station, and an original Bruce-Partington Plan from the Brett series. I live in an eight-room house. My beloved late wife used to complain "Holmes is in every room of the house!" I even have Holmes posters and towels hanging on the walls of both bathrooms.
What is your favorite edition of The Hound that you own?
My favorite edition of The Hound is a first edition I recently purchased. It has been rebound in beautiful red leather and is housed in a special box. But the best part of it is a piece of Doyle's stationery pasted in. It contains his inscription and autograph. This is the jewel of my Houndian collection.
My dream is to have a page of the manuscript for the Hound. But it is very rarely up for auction. And when it gets there it will fetch a six-figured price. That is way beyond the reach of a retired postman!
What advice would you give to a new collector?
For anyone starting a Sherlockian/Houndian collection today, my advice would be "Go on Ebay!" But don't immediately buy anything. Spend a few weeks studying it. See what is for sale and how the prices vary.