Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sherlockian Annotations

Reading the Sunday Edition of the New York Times can take me up to a week, with distractions and all, and is one reason why I subscribe to only the Sunday edition. On perusing the Book Review section today, I was somewhat surprised to see an advertisement for "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes" by Leslie Klinger, a noted Sherlockian and member of the Baker Street Irregulars.

For Sherlockians such as myself, the definitive reference has always been William Baring-Gould's magisterial "The Annotated Sherlock Holmes", circa 1968. Many a long hour has been whiled away cross-checking the circumlocutory descriptions and annotations of the fine stories and novels of the Master.

One will definitely be looking forward to reading the new Annotated Holmes. One has some misgivings though - firstly, does the world really need another Annotated Holmes? The editor is a recognized modern authority, but this is more akin to displacing an icon rather than delivering a thesis of one's own. Secondly, one notes that the new edition is somewhat modernized - referencing even loosely connected additions to the Canon such as the film "Without A Clue" - perhaps the only films worth mentioning in recent note with relation to the Canon are the "The Seven Percent Solution"(1976) and Billy Wilder's "The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes"(1970), both based on excellent extensions to the Canon.

Perhaps the most surprising omission from the new collection is the set of four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. There are at least two reasons why this is unforgivable. Firstly, this breaks the chronological continuity that is essential to any annotated edition. Secondly, some of the best writing that Arthur Conan Doyle did about Holmes lies in the novels, primarily because he was able to more fully develop his characters, and bring in sub-plots that have stood the test of time. My personal favorite is "The Valley of Fear", with its dark portrayals of the Lodge, Birdy Edwards and the sinister plot based in a real life tale.

The positive reviews and rich content make this collection quite promising and a doubtless worthy addition to the Canon that shall be awaited, but not one that will likely displace the earlier collection. The preface by John Le Carre is of interest. This edition is worthy of note for the comprehensive collection of Victorian-era illustrations, essays and most importantly, the editor's collation of diverse Sherlockian views rather than merely his own.

Also of note for pure text readings of the Canon is The Strand facsimile edition of the stories & novels. This is somewhat unavailable and another source might be online. Since the books and stories are in the public domain, many online versions are available, including from Project Gutenberg and the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

Some additional Sherlockiana worthy of note include "Sherlockiana In Japan", "221 B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes" by Vincent Starrett and the Baker Street Journal. Suffice it to say that there is barely a bookstore that does not have a shelf or two dedicated to Sherlockiana, Doylesiana and perhaps in London, Holmesiana.

Finally, here is a poem titled "The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard" that has a Sherlockian touch to it, although it is more antiquarian than the Canon.(1658)

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader