Not unlike Henry VIII, the Supermarine Spitfire and the Beatles, Sherlock Holmes and the good Dr. Watson have become indelible symbols of British history. Arthur Conan Doyle breathed life into his two fictional but entirely credible characters, and their popularity created an insatiable appetite for more adventures which brought both financial gain and frustration for the author. Even now, some 110 years after Holmes made his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet, the Detective's uncanny wisdom and attention to detail continue to inspire the public at large.

After accumulating and reading all 56 Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, the serious collector of Shelockiana may add to their collection other publications, photos, related stories, and, well, almost anything bearing a likeness of "The Sleuth and the Surgeon". The goal of many is the purchase of an original issue or two of the Strand Magazine, where Holmes made his first serialized appearance in July of 1891. From there, it may grow to include first editions of the novels, to original manuscripts and artwork available only at auction. What follows are a few items I found to be interesting additions to a collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia.

These are examples of issues of the Strand Magazine, which, shortly after its inception, was largely the first to publish all of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, (save for A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four) between July of 1891 and April of 1927. Prices vary depending on the condition of the publication. Some of the most desirable issues are the first, A Scandal in Bohemia (July, 1891), The Speckled Band (February, 1892), The Final Problem, (December, 1893) and The Empty House (September, 1903).

The much desired signature of Arthur Conan Doyle taken from a letter he had written to an admirer of his work. It reads, "Yours very truly, A. Conan Doyle".

Here, we see an early photograph of A. Conan Doyle, taken around 1898, just prior to his voluntary involvement as a member of the medical staff in the Boer War. It is around this time that the initial drafts of The Hound of the Baskervilles began to take shape.

Many of the stars of the dramatic versions of Doyle's stories also developed a following as well. William Gillette and Eille Norwood were popular Thespians who portrayed the Sleuth on stage and in silent films. The most famous Sherlock Holmes of all was Basil Rathbone, here within a valuable original publicity still from the 1939 movie, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, co-starring Nigel Bruce and Ida Lupino.

Several of the series of 14 Sherlock Holmes episodes starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (based on Doyle characters but rarely on his stories) are available on video. (Many have puzzlingly gone out of print, but can be found at inflated prices on auction sites like eBay.) Created between 1939 and 1946, the series is comprised of the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Voice of Terror, The Secret Weapon, Sherlock Holmes in Washington, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, The House of Fear, The Woman in Green, Pursuit to Algiers, Terror By Night, and Dressed to Kill. Ratings for the movies range from mediocre to very good, with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Scarlet Claw taking top honors.

From 1958 through 1967, American Doctor Julian Woolf designed for Lord Donnegal, the emminent expert on Sherlockiana of the time, a series of Christmas cards with Sherlock Holmes references adorning the outside and inside. These, too, are quite scarce and desirable.

Recent authors have succeeded in capitalizing on Doyle's creations by providing a hungry audience with ever more fascinating adventures in book and movie form. An example of a successful adaptation starring Sherlock Holmes is The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by Nicholas Meyer, published in 1974. This is an example of a pre-publication advance copy in paperback format.

John Lennon of The Beatles fame wrote two small books, one of which, titled A Spaniard in the Works contained a parody on Doyle's writing style. The story was called The Singularge Experience of Miss Ann Duffield, and was filled with the play-on-words style renown in Lennon's music. "Harrybellafonte, my dear Whopper."

In 1987, 100 years after Sherlock Holmes appeared in print with the publication of A Study in Scarlet, a resurgence of interest in Sherlockiana began. Here, a copy of the Times' Radio Times TV magazine had a view of Holmes reading a copy of his first adventure. The late Jeremy Brett also came into vogue at this time as Sherlock Holmes in the PBS series created in beautiful detail by Granada Television.

Clubs and organizations devoted to the continued study of Doyle's Duo have been around for decades. One highly respected quarterly is The Baker Street Journal, published by The Baker Street Irregulars in New York. If you wish to contact them, their address is P.O. Box 465, Hanover, PA 17331, USA.

 

Copyright 2001 Dennel · All Rights Relinquished
dennis@studium.com