“The Sign of (the) Four”

I received a nice copy through Abebooks, and the first thing I noticed was that in my “Complete Sherlock Holmes,” the title is not “The Sign of the Four” but “The Sign of Four.”  Maybe in the U.S. the name was altered?  Anybody know?
The shorthand in it is disappointing to me because it is very hard to distinguish the m’s from the n’s and the a’s from the e’s. There’s not enough distinction made between the length of the lines and the size of the circles.  I have a couple of other old books like this and have the same trouble reading them.  The book itself is hard enough to read without this added complication!  Is it just me, or should I “quit my bellyaching” and buckle down with it on the train ride into work each day?!

(by jim for


5 comments Add yours
  1. The tiny penmanship is characteristic of a number of early Gregg publications.  There's no date in "The Sign of the Four", but Alice R. Hagar was one of the early plate writers.  The difficulty in reading may be as much a function of the version as the penmanship . . .   Interesting about the title.    Alex

  2. I am about a third of the way through my copy of this book, and, yes, I've stumbled over some m's and n's too. Mostly, though, I seem to have trouble with certain archaic words and phrasing. Still, I find it a challenge, and I expect to muddle through to the end, dictionary and hardcopy in hand.

  3. Jim, in case you're still wondering . . . You'll find reference in the book itself (near end of chapter 4) to "the sign of the four," as a clue. Can't imagine how/why it ever was ever changed to "the sign of four" — maybe a typo way back.

  4. Appreciate that clarification—typos and other such errors have a way of being perpetuated down through the ages.  Meanwhile, I'm still having a lot of trouble deciphering the shorthand in it.  Is the writing in the other "classics" equally as small?  Maybe I shouldn't be so eager to acquire Alice in Wonderland if I won't ever be able to read it…!

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