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New acquisitions: bestselling 19th century mysteries

Two of Special Collections’ newest additions in the realm of rare literature are groundbreaking mystery novels, one British, the other American.

mystery of a hansom cabFergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Victorian Collection PR 4809 .H87 M8 1887b) was the best-selling mystery novel of its day. Hume self-published the novel in 1886 while working as a law clerk in Melbourne, Australia. He earned little profit on it as he sold the copyright to US and English publishers for a flat sum, but the murder mystery launched his writing career. Hume moved to England in 1888 and would go on to publish dozens of novels and short stories. Special Collections’ copy is a paperback reprint issued in London with a pictorial cover. Over 1 million copies of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab sold in England, Australia, and the United States between 1886-88.

leavenworth caseThe Leavenworth Case (Vault Collection PS 2732 .L4 1878) is an enduringly popular novel by American novelist Anna Katherine Green. Green is cited as one of the first female mystery authors and a founder of the detective fiction genre. The Leavenworth Case was her first novel. Green eventually adapted her novel for stage (her husband Charles Rohlfs starred in the play). The novel also became the basis for two films, in 1923 and 1936.

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