In the 120 years since the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, was published, the world’s greatest consulting detective has captured the interest of generations of fans. Not a habitual mystery reader, I was first hooked by the BBC’s Sherlock, a television adaptation set in modern-day London. Falling completely in love with the series motivated me to seek out more Sherlock Holmes during the BBC’s long hiatus (series two of Sherlock will premiere sometime next year – plenty of time to read up.)
As an illustrator-in-training, part of the stories’ appeal are the amazing illustrations by Sidney Paget among others. As most of the Sherlock Holmes stories were originally published as magazine serials, I wondered if we had any original copies here at Main in our centuries-old periodicals storage collection. I started with our databases, then turned to trusty Google. As I searched, I compared titles and dates with our Periodical Retention List, found on the Magazines and Newspapers GRPLpedia page. One quick trip from the Computer Desk to the basement, and I had a bound volume of 1903-04 Collier’s Weekly in hand, with an installment of The Return of Sherlock Holmes in every issue replete with original illustrations by American artist Frederic Dorr Steele. The issues were published during the Golden Age of Illustration, and every page of the volume is richly decorated, including work by illustration legends Charles Dana Gibson and Maxfield Parrish. It’s always exciting to see the original format of a famous illustration, and reading a 108-year-old magazine is rather amazing as well. Although the volume can’t be checked out, after I finish The Return of Sherlock Holmes I know I’ll be making another trip down to storage.