Thursday, 22 March 2012

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes

The readers of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are a varied species but they can be divided into two main categories (which in themselves contain sub-categories). One type simply enjoy the stories. They read them, watch film and television adaptations, and perhaps read some of the Holmes stories written by authors other than Conan Doyle.

Then there are the readers which play what is called The Game. They pretend that Holmes and Watson were real people, with Conan Doyle as literary agent of Watson, and that all the adventures really happened. They then spend a great deal of time and ink speculating on discrepancies in the stories, try to connect fictional places to real locations and so on. It is, for them, an entertaining intellectual and creative exercise.  Some of it is pure satire, as in the very first essay of this kind Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes by Ronald Knox published in 1911.  Others take it all very seriously, even to the point of writing biographies of Sherlock Holmes.

This 'Game' is the premise of the profuse notes to be found in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Klinger brings together the more sober and less contentious ideas that The Game has put forward over the last hundred years in this three volume edition of all of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. The first two volumes contain the 56 short stories across a total 1,878 pages. The third volume contains the four novels across 998 pages. The reason that the page length is so long is due to the amount of notes that Klinger annotates the text with, along with illustrations.

These sumptuous three volumes have a lot to be praised for; they truly belong on a collector's bookshelf. And yet, being a reader who does not play The Game, I would have liked the notes to include far more about Conan Doyle and that things which inspired his ideas or his relationship with his sleuth creation which, at times, demoralised him into perhaps not giving his best work in some parts. Klinger states in the introduction that such notes can be found in the Oxford Edition of Sherlock Holmes. Having consulted those notes, I think that they are so small compared to Klinger's that room could have been found for the same kind of information in his edition. It would have then been the first truly fully annotated edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Another criticism I have is that some of the illustrations are so very small, which is an odd thing to do when each volume is a large sized book and that most of the other illustrations are of a better size. Some of the photographs of the Victorian age are for some reason thus shruken, making them more of a token gesture towards being informative rather than a useful asset in the book.

Despite these points, these books still remain the best collected edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories available.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post about Sherlock Holmes!

    Have you read the book "Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes" by David Stuart Davies. This book is a must read for fans of the Granada adaptation and/or Jeremy Brett.



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