From 1887 until the very last stories, published in 1927, just three years before his death in 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle delighted the world with the exploits of his master detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his friend, colleague and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson. Dozens, hundreds, of films, radio-episodes, TV series and episodes have been made of the great detective and his companion, dozens of fan-fictions and pastiches have been written about Holmes and Watson. There is even the Sherlock Holmes Museum, located at ‘221b’, in Baker Street, London. There’s Holmesian societies such as the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
There are hundreds, even thousands, of people, who still read the original ‘Canon’, the 60 stories written by Doyle himself. These short stories and novels, set between the mid 1880s until the outbreak of World War One in 1914, are fascinating and intriguing works of fiction, but they contain many elements of everyday Victorian and Edwardian life which were very much part of fact. Do not forget that when Doyle wrote these stories, he was writing them in what was then, ‘modern times’ and the people who read the stories when they were first published, were familiar with many of the little ‘trifling details’ (as Holmes would put it) therein. Therefore, Doyle felt no need to explain what everything in the stories were. This presents understandable problems to fans reading the stories today, in the 21st Century.
A lot of the items, places, objects and dozens of other things mentioned in the canon (and in other Holmes media), have vanished out of public use and memory decades ago. What, for example, is ‘Oil of Vitriol’? What is ‘foolscap’ and a ‘J’ nib? Why was the Hansom Cab such a popular mode of transport in Victorian London? What is a ‘Bradshaw’ or a ‘Half-Crown’?
The Encyclopedia Sherlockia, a little project I’ve decided to take upon myself to write, will be an alphabetical index of all of these things, and more, which are mentioned in the Holmes canon, which people might wonder about. Keep an eye on this blog, as it will be coming soon.