The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce


"... fascinating throughout.... the book is recreative in the highest sense." —Arthur C. Danto, The New Republic

"A gem for Holmes fans and armchair detectives with a penchant for logical reflection, and Peirce scholars." —Library Journal

Indiana University Press

"A gem for Holmes fans and armchair detectives with a penchant for logical reflection, and Peirce scholars."--Library Journal

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"... fascinating throughout.... the book is recreative in the highest sense." —Arthur C. Danto, The New Republic

"A gem for Holmes fans and armchair detectives with a penchant for logical reflection, and Peirce scholars." —Library Journal

Indiana University Press

"A gem for Holmes fans and armchair detectives with a penchant for logical reflection, and Peirce scholars."--Library Journal

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253204875
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1988
  • Series: Advances in Semiotics Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,179,047
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Few cultural critics and novelists carry the scholarly heft of Umberto Eco, who was a noted historian and semiotician before he brought these sensibilites to bear on major novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. Whether he is deconstructing modern wax museums or spinning a 13th-century tale, he is always clever, stately and profound.


Back in the 1970s, long before the cyberpunk era or the Internet boom, an Italian academic was dissecting the elements of codes, information exchange and mass communication. Umberto Eco, chair of semiotics at the University of Bologna, developed a widely influential theory that continues to inform studies in linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies and critical theory.

Most readers, however, had never heard of him before the 1980 publication of The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in medieval Italy. Dense with historical and literary allusions, the book was a surprise international hit, selling millions of copies in dozens of languages. Its popularity got an additional boost when it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery. Eco followed his first bestseller with another, Foucault's Pendulum, an intellectual thriller that interweaves semiotic theory with a twisty tale of occult texts and world conspiracy.

Since then, Eco has shifted topics and genres with protean agility, producing fiction, academic texts, criticism, humor columns and children's books. As a culture critic, his interests encompass everything from comic books to computer operating systems, and he punctures avant-garde elitism and mass-media vacuity with equal glee.

More recently, Eco has ventured into a new field: ethics. Belief or Nonbelief? is a thoughtful exchange of letters on religion and ethics between Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, the Roman Catholic cardinal of Milan; Five Moral Pieces is a timely exploration of the concept of justice in an increasingly borderless world.

Eco also continues to write books on language, literature and semiotics for both popular and academic audiences. His efforts have netted him a pile of honorary degrees, the French Legion of Honor, and a place among the most widely read and discussed thinkers of our time.

Good To Know

Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, though in 2002 he was at Oxford University as a visiting lecturer. He has also taught at several top universities in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern.

Pressured by his father to become a lawyer, Eco studied law at the University of Turn before abandoning that course (against his father's wishes) and pursuing medieval philosophy and literature.

His studies led naturally to the setting of The Name of the Rose in the medieval period. The original tentative title was Murder in the Abbey.

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    1. Hometown:
      Bologna, Italy
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 5, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alessandria, Italy
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Table of Contents

Preface: Umberto Eco and Thomas A. Sebeok
Abbreviations in the Text: Thomas A. Sebeok

1. One, Two, Three Spells UBERTY
Thomas A. Sebeok

2. You Know My Method: A Juxtaposition of Charles S. Pierce and Sherlock Holmes
Thomas A. Sebeok and Jean Umiker-Sebeok

3. Sherlock Holmes: Applied Social Psychologist
Marcello Truzzi

4. Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method
Carlo Ginzburg

5. To Guess or Not To Guess?
Massimo A. Bonfantini and Giampaolo Proni

6. Peirce, Holmes, Popper
Gian Palol Carettini

7. Sherlock Holmes Confronts Modern Logic: Toward a Theory of Information-Seeking through Questioning
Jaakko Hintikka and Merrill B. Hintikka

8. Sherlock Holmes Formalized

9. The Body of the Dectective Model: Charles S. Peirce and Edgar Allan Poe
Nancy Harrowitz

10. Horns, Hooves, Insteps: Some Hypothesis on Three Types of Abduction
Umberto Eco


Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    too scholarly for a casual reader

    This book apparently is meant for an expert on semiotics, logic, game theory, and philosophy. I suppose I should not have tried to read it, but I did take a couple of basic college courses about semiotics and the philosophy of art, and I thought I could manage. There are several chapters of the book that are readable and interesting, so I won't completely dismiss it. But then there are chapters like chapter 1 that are utterly indecipherable because they are dense with jargon and weird diagrams. I am glad however that I did continue to read past chapter 1, because the writing improved considerably in clarity. I learned some interesting history about Charles Peirce, an art critic named Morelli, Freud, etc., but the Holmes content was disappointingly low. Also, it seems like many of the authors repeatedly made the point that Holmes's deductions are "abductions" in Pierce's terminology, and that abductions are merely "guesses" which I find absurd. Holmes is not blindly guessing; he is making hypotheses based on observed facts and other data, then testing them scientifically. Apparently Peirce also kept changing his name for abductions, so I don't see why on earth I should have to agree that Holmes is using the wrong word for his deductions. Overall, if you want to read a book of scholarly essays about Sherlock Holmes, I'd recommend the much easier to digest book edited by John Hodgson (The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays).

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