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- Inside Antiques,
by Robert Reed
- Inside Antiques:
- Sherlock Holmes Forever
- By Robert Reed
When you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must
be the truth.
A.Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four, 1890
- The century old truth here is that Sherlock Holmes remains
the greatest name in detective fiction yet today among collectors
of fine mystery.
- For more than 100 years, the four novels and 56 short stories
of English writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have attracted, and
arrested, the eager imagination of followers everywhere.
- The sleuth Sherlock as a crime solver has been more enduring
to buffs and collectors than Agatha Christies Miss Jane
Marple or Erie Stanley Gardners Perry Mason. There are
more than 100 Sherlock Holmes collector groups in the United
States alone - including the fabled Bakers Street Irregulars.
- Besides the various books and vast assortment of publishings
of Doyles short stories, there have been over 200 films
and television productions and over 40 major stage plays. Each
has added to the Sherlock spirit and to the collectability of
the fictional hero.
- Doyle was born, raised and studied medicine in Edinburgh,
England. He began his practice as an ophthalmologist in 1882
near Portsmouth. As a young doctor, he was not very busy so he
began writing to occupy his time and to supplement his income.
- In 1881, the year before he established his practice, Doyles
Rodney Stone, A Reminiscence of the Ring was published and well
received. A prized remaining copy of it brought nearly $11,000
at an auction in London in 1976.
- Around 1886, be attempted to market his first story about
one fictional Sherlock Holmes. The attempt was unsuccessful until
Ward, Lock and Company agreed to publish it as part of a paperback
anthology. They paid him $150 and A Study In Scarlet appeared
in Beetons Christmas Annual in 1887.
- Naturally, the few surviving copies of that particular magazine,
which first presented Holmes and Dr. Watson, are quite valuable.
More than 10 years ago, the Metropolitan Library of Toronto paid
$7,500 for their original copy and consider it a true treasure.
- For the next few years, Doyle continued to dawdle at his
medical practice and at the same time produce diverse kinds of
fiction. His non-Sherlock Jack The Giant Killer was published
in London in 1888. In 1890, the original magazine article of
Scarlet was published, along with The Sign of the Four. That
same year in Philadelphia, Lippincott also published the American
version of I Scarlet, or Sign of Four. Sometime later, the Scarlet
story appeared in an Eureka Detective Series, published in New
- The adventures of the amazing detective were certainly starting
to catch the fancy of readers on two continents.
- By the close of 1891,
Strand Magazine in London had published a series of stories by
Doyle about Holmes and Dr. Watson. Scarcely two years later,
in 1893, the first full series of Sherlock Holmes stories appeared
in the United States in the then tremendously popular Harpers
- From 1892 to 1894, a London publishing firm at last produced
two volumes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for an eager
public. Today, the blue cloth books are prized among collectors.
- Literary critics and book collectors tend to consider Doyles
1902 book The Hound of the Baskervilles to be his finest work
regarding Holmes. Different editions were published in London
in 1902. Most highly prized is the volume in red cloth.
- After writing 20-plus Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Doyle decided
to kill off his detective hero. In The Final Problem, the 23rd
Holmes story, he had a deadly struggle with the evil Professor
Moriarty over a Swiss waterfall.
- In December of 1894, Doyle had written in Strand Magazine
of the event and of Sherlock plunging to his death. Public interest
and Doyles own slacking bank account prompted him to write
an escape clause for the hero and return him to life
in The Empty House.
- Collectors are still quite fond of The Return of Sherlock
Holmes, published in dark blue cloth in London in 1904. A good
copy is now valued at $500 or more.
- Doyles last Holmes adventure came in 1927. The limited,
red cloth edition is titled The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.
- Eventually, Doyle abandoned all fiction writing to study
and lecture on spiritualism until his death in 1930. Earlier
in 1923, William Doran of New York published Doyles The
Case For Spirit Photography.
- Besides hardcover
books, there were scores of magazine-type publications which
featured Holmes material. Starting with Beetons Annual
in 1887, they had spread to assorted publications in the early
1900s, both in England and America.
- The silver screen saw a good deal of Sherlock Holmes in later
years. Two films appeared in 1939, The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Both were produced
by 20th Century Fox.
- A wire service news story in 1988 quoted a Cleveland, Ohio,
movie memorabilia dealer as saying a full-color poster of Foxs
1939 film, The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes, was valued at $6,500.
- Holmes lives on, observed the Los Angeles Times
on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of seeing him in print,
his calabash pipe clamped firmly between his teeth, magnifying
glass in hand, deerstalker cap on his head, darting through the
streets of old London outwitting evildoers.
- 1 - Paperback of first Sherlock Holmes stories published
- 2 - American illustration for 1893 issue of Harper's Weekly
- 3 - Signed 1892 first London copy of Adventures of Sherlock
- Robert Reed has written on antiques and collectibles for
more than two decades. He has also authored 15 books, including
his recently released Antiques and Collectible Dictionary, available
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