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Secret Service or Recollections of a City Detective.
8vo., recently bound in half speckled calf over marbled boards, spine lettered in gilt with gilt rules. A very good copy. First edition. Andrew Forrester was among several English writers who, inspired by Charles Dickens's Police Articles of 1850, wrote detective reminiscences. "Most of these so-called real life diaries were thinly disguised fiction written by anonymous and pseudonymous hacks. Immensely popular and literally read to death, these revelations vanished into limbo: less than sixty different titles are known today" (Queen's Quorum). Sadeir, who supposedly put together the largest collection of these books, lists this title in XIX Century Victorian Fiction in the Detection, Criminology, Various Professional and Specialist 'Experiences' 1856-1884 section [no. 3531], noting that "The majority are nowadays so uncommon that their very existence is almost unknown." This title does indeed seem scarce with only 5 copies recorded, 3 in the UK (BL, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University) and 2 in the USA (Emory and UCLA). Quayle in The Collector's Book of Detective Fiction explains their rarity this. "Nearly all these minor novelists saw their work published in the cheap but handy format of a single volume 'yellow-back' binding of paper-covered boards. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a worthwhile collection of 'yellow-back' first editions of detective fiction published before the early 1870s. They constitute the most important and interesting class of 'yellow-back' literature published, and appeared during the best (and now much the rarest ) phase of 'yellow-back' production between the late 1850s and mid 1870s. Many titles, known through the medium of advertisements in other volumes, seem to have completely disappeared. During the first 50 or so years of their existence they were despised by book collectors and dealers alike. The fate of most that survived the first few years was to be pulped in salvage drives for wastepaper during World War I. The rest nearly all disappeared between the wars, and few even found a place in the bookseller's sixpence box. Another war and another salvage drive, and the species was almost extinct." Although not in its original 'yellow-back' format this is nevertheless a rare opportunity to acquire an early example of the detective novel.
      [Bookseller: Henry Southern Ltd.]
Last Found On: 2009-06-10           Check availability:      Direct From Bookseller    

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