The Mystery of A Hansom Cab - Fergus Wright Hume 1887 - The Hansom Cab Publishing Co., London - Second Edition (being the first English edition), seventh impression, described as 'Seventy-Fifth Thousand' (September 1887). ‘Young men, not bein' old men," she replied, cautiously, "and sinners not bein' saints, it's not nattral as latch-keys should be made for ornament instead of use, and Mr. Fitzgerald bein' one of the 'andsomest men in Melbourne, it ain't to be expected as 'e should let 'is latch-key git rusty, tho' 'avin' a good moral character, 'e uses it with moderation.’

A relatively early printing of this most desirable of Murder Mystery titles, scarce in the original delicate wrappers. Housed in fine custom quarter morocco slipcase, spine with twin burgundy labels lettered in gilt, and matching blue cloth chemise. Of the first edition (Melbourne, 1886) only four copies are recorded; with only perhaps a half dozen of this vintage extant.

The idea for this book came about during a late night drive to St. Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne, which in those days had a rather more unwholesome reputation than it has today. After ‘gathering material’ Hume found no willing publisher, so he paid for an edition of 5,000 copies, within three weeks he was forced to bring out a second edition... Despite this rather obvious indication of its popularity he sold the UK publishing rights for a meagre £50, perhaps after suffering from a night of further research in St. Kilda. The quickly formed ‘Hansom Cab Publishing Company’ of London then issued it in this paper bound ‘shilling-shocker’ format, and
Mystery of a Hansom Cab went on to sell over 500,000 copies making it- according to William Huntington Wright and other authorities, the greatest commercial success in the annals of detective fiction.
  Fergus Wright Hume (1859-1932), was born in England, but emigrated to New-Zealand for much of his young-adult life. After studying to become a barrister in Otago, Hume left for Melbourne where he unsuccessfully attempted to launch himself as a playwright. After the success of Hansom Cab Hume went on to write a further 130 popular novels and stories. He became known as somewhat of a recluse, and seldom revealed his literary identity to others.

This book has a rather complex publishing history which is effectively charted by E. S. Bell in Greene and Glover's
Victorian Detective Fiction (1966). The entire first edition was published by Kemp and Boyce of Melbourne before The Hansom Cab Publishing Co. printing followed in London; producing around 25,000 copies per month; The Second Edition (being the FIRST UK EDITION) comprised Hansom's entire print run from July 1887- Aug 1888, before the Trischler and Co. took over publication [as The Third Edition] in 1889.

Provenance: From the notable crime collection assembled by Florence and Edward Kaye, with their red morocco leather bookplate, lettered ingilt and applied to the inside of the chemise.

References: Herbert,
Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing, 213. Book and Magazine Collector, September 2008, Issue No. 272.

Stapled wrappers (18.5 x 12 cm). pp. [1] [1 (advert)] 230 [2 publisher’s advertisements]. In publisher’s grey illustrated wrappers.
  Condition: Very good, with rust from the staples, as expected, and chips to corners. Fine slipcase and chemise.   Ref: 108981   Price: HK$ 14,500