Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective with powerful observation and deductive qualities, is dramatised on the BBC television again over the festive period. The famous detective stories have stood the test of time and remain as popular today as they were when first published between 1887 and 1926 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To own a first edition of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his partner, John Watson, is quite special.
Conan Doyle created 60 detective stories between 1887 and 1927. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes contain 56 of the stories and the remaining four stories were published as stand alone novels. Conan Doyle was a prolific writer and his medical, political and spiritual interests provided an ample source of material for publication.
Sherlock Holmes was created in 1887 whilst Doyle was combining writing with his struggling medical profession. His first script, The Study In Scarlet, was rejected by several publishers and was finally bought for a mere £25 for publication in Beeton’s Annual Christmas Annual to little acclaim. His second detective story, The Sign of Four, did little better in the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1889. Conan Doyle tried again with The Strand Magazine proposing new adventures for the detective. Conan Doyle secured a contract for an additional 6 stories at a rate of one per month. The public response to his stories was meterioc and he was able to renounce his medical career and focus entirely on his love of writing.
The success of the Holmes stories however, came at a price as the public and his publishers demanded further detective plots. Doyle wanted more public recognition for his notable other literary works and is reported to have commented to his mother, “I plan to kill Holmes in the sixth adventure. He prevents me from thinking to better things.” Doyle moved to Davos in Switzerland in 1892 for reasons of his wife’s health. After writing a further 12 new detective mysteries there the final and dramatic end of Holmes was set in the Reichenbach Falls. Against public opinion Holmes was finally killed off there by Professor Moriarty in The Adventures of the Final Problem. Doyle spent the next few years pursuing his literary career in political and historical works, earning him a knighthood.
However, the public would not forget Sherlock Holmes and The Strand Magazine continued to publish the detective adventures. An American publisher persuaded Conan Doyle to resurrect the detective for a considerable sum of money. Thirty four new stories were published between September 1903 and March 1927. Conan Doyle seemed to have satisfied the public thirst for Sherlock Holmes and was he able to pursue his political and spiritual interests for the remainder of his career.
What seems remarkable is the public appetite for the detective adventures continues and has never waned. The images and stories from the books are as compelling and as fresh as they were when first published.
To see our first edition publications of Arthur Conan Doyle click here.