A Sherlockian Christmas: Items from Our Arthur Conan Doyle Collection
At first, you might not think that the Christmas season has much to do with the murders and forensic science of Sherlock Holmes and his narrator, Dr. John Watson. However, our Arthur Conan Doyle Collection — one of the world's finest research collections devoted to the creator of Sherlock Holmes — has many items that celebrate both the season and the lasting popularity of the Great Detective.
Beeton's Christmas Annual
The first Sherlock Homes story, A Study in Scarlet (read online or see our catalogue record), was published in a paperback magazine called Beeton’s Christmas Annual. This British publication came out every November from 1860 to 1898. The 1887 issue where A Study in Scarlet first appears is very rare and considered a masterpiece in a Sherlockian collection.
Toronto Public Library owns one of the thirty-one known copies that still exist. We bought ours in 1974 when the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection was just three years old.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet in six weeks between March and April 1886. His working title for the story was "A Tangled Skein" and he first named the detective Sherrinford Holmes. Dr. John Watson started out life as Ormond Sacker. But the characters had the names we know them by today by the time the story was complete.
Many publishers rejected the manuscript for the story before Ward, Lock & Co agreed to pay Doyle £25 for the complete copyright.
The Sherlock story set soon after Christmas Day
The ninth Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (read online or see our catalogue record), was first published in The Strand Magazine in January 1892. Set two days after Christmas on December 27, it is the nearest Doyle ever came to writing a Sherlock Homes Christmas story.
In the story, Dr. Watson pays a visit to his friend Sherlock to wish him compliments of the season, only to find Sherlock using his powers of deduction to piece together a mystery involving an old hat and a dead goose. I like this story because Holmes rather uncharacteristically shows sympathy towards the wrongdoer:
“It is the season of forgiveness.” – Sherlock Holmes
Holmes for the Holidays and other stories
Arthur Conan Doyle may not have written a specific Christmas story featuring Sherlock Holmes but many other writers have used the character to create a festive atmosphere. Here are a few examples, all held in our Arthur Conan Doyle Collection:
- Christmas Eve: An Unrecorded Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by S. C. Roberts (1936)
- Christmas Treasures, edited by Deborah Cannarella (1998)
- Holmes for the Holidays, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg and Carol-Lynn Waugh (1996)
- More Holmes for the Holidays, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg and Carol-Lynn Waugh (1999)
- The MX Book of New Sherlock Stories. Part V, Christmas Adventures by David Marcum (2016)
- Sherlock Holmes: The Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove (2019)
You can read the ebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Christmas Demon. It is set in the days before Christmas 1890. Holmes and Watson must solve the mystery of a Krampus-like demon that is trying to prevent Eve Allerthorpe from inheriting a family estate in Yorkshire.
Sherlockian Christmas cards
Our Arthur Conan Doyle Collection also has hundreds of Sherlock-themed Christmas cards that enthusiasts from around the world have sent us. Some come from formal Sherlock Holmes groups such as The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Some of the cards (not shown below) even give you puzzles to solve!
Wishing you all compliments of the season! My gift to the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection this year is some tree ornaments. I cross stitched them using patterns from this book: Sherlockian Cookery & Holmesian Needlepoint. (I've also included a photo below of an amazing Sherlock Holmes-inspired gingerbread house made by a coworker!)