Friday, 13 April 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 13th April 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting:
13th April 2018, 8pm

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

I think it is probably best if we just let the whole matter drop.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) decided to toast Mrs Hudson again.

Mrs Hudson,
On her knees,
Turns Holmes's head
A few degrees.


1. "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) once again suggested that we should try to get some more members. Once again, no one seconded the motion. The rest of the Society stated that if "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) kept on making this suggestion at every meeting, he would be asked to leave.


"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented this pastiche he has written that is unlikely to make sense outside of the UK.

The Adventure of the Mis-Sold Payment Protection Insurance

It was late Autumn in the Spring of 1893, just after the turn of the century when Holmes turned to me in our rooms at 221b and asked why I was still hanging around. I try to explain to him that I had no desire to be hanging around and that I would be very grateful if he would release me from the noose, but unfortunately my restricted airways could only manage to produce a feeble gurgle. Holmes had many unusual habits, but this recent one of attempting to execute me every time I fell asleep was becoming something of a nuisance and, once he had cut me down and I had regained consciousness, I told him so.
"My dear Watson, you know how bored I have been since I gave up my experiments in live taxidermy." said he; "Were it not for the amusing look on your face when you wake up, I would have nothing to occupy my mind. But here, unless I am mistaken, is a telegram..."
At that moment, in walked our landlady, Mrs Hudson, bearing the telegram.
"Read it for me, would you, Watson." he said for reasons of plot development.
Unfolding the paper I began "You could be owed thousands for mis-sold PPI you did not need..."
When I regained consciousness, I was once again locked into the guillotine he kept for just such occasions.

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented this vintage flyer he had found in amongst a pile of Victorian tractor catalogues in a little bookshop at the corner of Church Street. (You can click on it to see it bigger.)

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented this list of all the stories of The Canon immeasurably improved:

Making the Stories of Sherlock Holmes Even Betterer

A Bodleian Library in Scarlet
The Massive Flashing Neon Sign of the Four
A Scuttle in Bohemia
The Robot-Headed League
A Couple of Crates of Identity
The Boscombe Valium Mystery
The Jaffa Orange Pips
The Man With the Twisted Nips
The Adventure of the Blue Limousine-Buncle
The Adventure of the Speckled Banjo
The Adventure of the Engineer's Bum
The Adventure of the Nobbley Batchelor
The Adventure of the Bevelled Cornice Edge
The Adventure of the Copper's Britches
Silver Towering Inferno
The Yelling Face
The Stock-Fixer's Clerk
The "Gorier Scott"
The Musmausoleum Ritual
The Reigate Squirtles
The Perfectly Vertical Man
The Resident Panther
The Grease Interpreter
The Navel Fluff Treaty
The Finaller Problem
The Adventure of the Empty - Apart From That Mysterious Looking Chest - House
The Adventure of the Normetal Builder
The Adventure of the Contemporary Jazz Dancing Men
The Adventure of the Solitary Satanist
The Adventure of the Aftery School
The Adventure of Technicolour Peter
The Adventure of Charles Septemberus Milverton
The Adventure of the Seventy-Three Napoleons
The Adventure of the Three Masters
The Adventure of the Platinum Pince-Nez
The Adventure of the Missing Four-Fifths
The Adventure of the Two Bee Grange
The Adventure of the Third and Fourth Stains and the Annoyed Cleaner
The Bloody Great Big Tiger of the Baskervilles. With Wings.
The Valley of Utterly Petrifying Terror
The Adventure of Wisteria Dislodged
The Adventure of the Hand-Carved Mahogany Box
The Adventure of the Red Dodecahedron
The Adventure of the Bruce-Wholeington Plans
The Adventure of the Tie-Dying Detective
The Disappearance of Lady Francis Caremail
The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, Ankle, Shin, Knee and Most of the Thigh
His Last But One Bow
The Wellustrious Client
The Blanched Android-Samurai
The Adventure of the Mazarin Boulder
The Adventure of the Three Clark Gables
The Adventure of the Sex Vampire
The Adventure of the Three Garibaldi Biscuits
The Problem of Odin Bridge
The Adventure of the Crapping Man
The Adventure of the Standon's Mane
The Adventure of the Veiled Badger
The Adventure of Shoscombe Brand Spanking New Place
The Adventure of the Still Very Much Working and in the Prime of Life Colourman

Any Other Business:

It was noted that there was only ever one egg-spoon mentioned in the Canon.

It was decided that the next meeting would be skipped. In its place a Society Awards Ceremony was scheduled for 18th May 2018 at 8pm. The awards ceremony will consist of six trophies. Winners will be decided by a vote. Every member of The Shingle of Southsea will vote on each award. Nominations for awards will be limited to members of The Shingle of Southsea. Entry to the ceremony will be by invitation only.

Here is a photo of The Shingle of Southsea enjoying their meeting:

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Bookshelves of 221b

The Bookshelves of 221b

The importance of books to the inhabitants of 221b Baker Street has been commented on before by better Holmesians than me. (Most notable is the wonderful 1953 work by Madeleine B. Stern titled Sherlock Holmes: Rare Book Collector” to which I am indebted.) But I feel it bears repeating.
Early on we find that books are a heavy feature of Holmes’s residence. In SCAN Watson informs us that since he left to marry Mary Morstan, Holmes remained at Baker Street “buried among his old books”. In SIGN we discover his interest in antique tomes when we are told Holmes “raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened.” (Black-letter refers to a typeface which was found in printed works from the 12th to the 17th Centuries.) Upon his return from death in EMPT he soon acquires an armful of books as part of his bookseller disguise. In short, there is a great deal of evidence to back up the idea of Holmes as a bibliophile.

It seemed to me that there might be much to be learned by identifying the books we might find on the shelves of 221b and with that in mind I set about spotting as many as I could within Canon. There were several different types of book to be discovered. The first distinction is between books which are explicitly named, those which are strongly suggested and those which merely seem likely. There are also several different types of books referred to; there are those which belong at 221b, Holmes’s own monographs, the books encountered in other locations during the adventures and the many mentions of Holmes or Watson’s notebooks, index books, common place books and scrapbooks. Here I am only interested in the books that might be encountered at 221b. At the beginning of CARD, during his display of mind reading, Holmes says to Watson “Your eyes flashed across to the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher which stands upon the top of your books.” Note he states “your books.” The fellows keep their books separately then; there must be a shelf for Watson’s books and a shelf for Holmes’s. The references to Whitaker’s Almanac in VALL also seem to point to a third shelf of shared books, for the purchase of it is described with a plural pronoun: “we have very properly laid in the new almanac”.

I intend, then, to identify as many volumes as I can, give my reasoning and then assign them to their correct shelves. I suspect that this may prove incredibly tedious for most readers so, once this is done, I shall provide a nice neat list of these books and subsequently some comments and conclusions. Feel free to skip ahead to these sections. I certainly would if I could. I will start with the explicitly mentioned books.

The Evidence

The Bradshaw gets mentions in two stories; COPP and VALL. This refers to Bradshaw’s Monthly Railway Guide initiated by George Bradshaw; an impressive compilation of railway time-tables. In VALL it is suggested as an example of a book everyone would have in their homes. In COPP this omnipresence is demonstrated when Watson consults it. He describes himself “glancing over my Bradshaw”, so I will place it upon the Watson shelf.

Another reference book is mentioned in 3GAR: “The telephone directory lay on the table beside me”. This could refer to either the one by The Telephone Company Ltd or The Edison Telephone Company of London as both had started publishing directories in 1880 and this story is set in 1902. Either way, The Telephone Directory belongs on the communal shelf.

In VALL we find two editions of the same publication; Whitaker’s Almanac. This is the reference book they use to solve Porlock’s cipher. If we agree with Baring-Gould that the story is set in 1888, this would mean they had the 1887 and 1888 editions of the book. As discussed above, they would be found on the communal shelf.

In RETI Holmes uses Crockford’s Clerical Directory to select the poor J C Elman for an unwanted visit from Watson and Josiah Amberley. This is a reference book put together by John Crockford detailing churches and clerics of the Anglican Church and was referred to twice by Holmes as “my Crockford” so it belongs on the Holmes shelf.

In STUD Holmes shows off a book he “picked up at stall yesterday”. He describes it as “De Jure inter Gentes - published in Latin at Liege in the Lowlands, in 1642.” As Stern argues so well, this is surely De Jure Inter Gentes by Richard Zouch (despite being dated eight years before the book was published). There is no doubt that this book belong on the Holmes Shelf.

In BOSC Holmes cuts the conversation short with “And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and not another word shall I say of this case until we are on the scene of action.” I see no reason to disagree with Stern that this addition to the Holmes shelf is the Il Petrarca by Francesco Petrarca, published in 1550.

Towards the end of LION, Holmes reveals a little volume “which first brought light into what might have been forever dark. It is Out of Doors, by the famous observer, J. G. Wood.” Although LION is set after the days of 221b, the hunt for the book in a garret of his retirement home suggests books which he brought to Sussex from the Holmes shelf in London and which were not subsequently properly unpacked.

The stories of Dupin the detective by Edgar Allen Poe are mentioned in STUD but we know for certain that a copy exists in 221b because in CARD Holmes tells Watson “that some little time ago … I read you the passage in one of Poe's sketches in which a close reasoner follows the unspoken thoughts of his companion”. Much though this shows Holmes reading the book, in STUD he shows a great deal of contempt for Dupin. I believe the book is Watson’s copy of Tales by Edgar Allen Poe which was published in 1845 and contains all three Dupin stories.

Leaving Watson in the lurch in SIGN Holmes offered him a copy of The Martyrdom of Man by William Winwood Reade saying “Let me recommend this book, one of the most remarkable ever penned.”. Certainly from the Holmes shelf then.

In HOUN Watson looks up James Mortimer in his “Medical Directory” this would be The Medical Directory published by the General Medical Council. It was a directory first published in 1845 which gave an impressive amount of information on doctors and medical practitioners, such as we find on the “humble M.R.C.S.” a paragraph later. It is to be found on the Watson shelf.

Another of Watson’s books is Scènes de la Vie de Bohème by Henri Murger. In STUD he describes himself “skipping over the pages of Henri Murger's Vie de Bohème” while waiting for Holmes to return to 221b.

There are plenty of other books which, while not specifically named, are very heavily implied in The Canon.

During his investigation of the events at Birlstone Manor in VALL Holmes tells us “I have been reading a short but clear and interesting account of the old building, purchasable at the modest sum of one penny from the local tobacconist.” This book would most certainly have returned to 221b to be placed upon the Holmes shelf. The title of this book only becomes apparent once you are aware that Birlstone Manor is in reality Groombridge Manor House in Groombridge, East Sussex. (The explanation for this can be found in The Game is Afoot by David L Hammer. In short, The Literary Agent stated this as fact.) The book can only be Groombridge Place, Kent by Mrs Charles N Streatfield which was published in 1879 and would certainly have been available in local shops. The author’s real name was Sophia Charlotte Streatfield and she was also a published poet.

Similar reasoning can be applied to the Manor House of Hurlstone. Describing the house Musgrave says to Holmes “Possibly you have seen pictures and read descriptions of the famous old building…” If we accept David L Hammer’s identification of the manor as Danny House, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex then the most likely book Holmes could have read about it in is The Worthies of Sussex by Mark Anthony Lower (1865). It does contain a brief description of the house and a couple of lovely pictures but was not a widely published book. It seems unlikely that Musgrave would assume Holmes had read the book, so I believe he must have noticed Holmes owned a copy. Musgrave also decribed Brunton the butler as something of a Don Juan leading me to believe he also spied a copy of the epic 1821 poem Don Juan by Lord Byron on Holmes’s shelves.

While disguised as a bookseller in EMPT, Holmes employs several books as part of his disguise. It is entirely reasonable to suppose that these are books which he had acquired for his disguise shortly after his return from the Great Hiatus and which would soon end up on his shelf at 221b. The first is mentioned twice. Watson describes it upon first meeting the bookseller - “I observed the title of one of them, The Origin of Tree Worship” in fact he only saw part of the title. Later, still in disguise, Holmes suggests Watson should buy some of the books; “Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here's British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War--a bargain every one of them.” It seems then that the Catullus in question is The Attis of Caius Valerius Catullus: Translated Into English Verse, with Dissertations on the Myth of Attis, on the Origin of Tree-worship, and on the Galliambic Metre by Grant Allen published in 1892. I propose that British Birds would be British Birds in Their Haunts by Rev C. A. Johns published in 1893. The Holy War would be The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World, Or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul by John Bunyan. A version was published by Frederick Warne and Co in 1892. My reasoning for all three is that EMPT takes place in 1894. Having had sufficient time pass to be read and discarded, all three of these books would be readily available at any second hand book dealer just as Holmes was putting his disguise together.

Unable to find an actual American Encyclopaedia to correspond to the one in FIVE in which Holmes reads up on the Ku Klux Klan, I am forced to agree with Stern: “The International Cyclopedia (New York 1885), which contains an article on the Klan, was possibly the work in question.”

In DEVI we are told that Holmes’s original intention in Cornwall in 1897 was to work on a theory that the ancient Cornish language was akin to the Chaldean, and had been largely derived from the Phoenician traders in tin. To this end he received a “consignment of books upon philology”. He was mistaken in this theory, as he no doubt eventually realised, but he still got himself those reference books. While it is difficult to be certain of his choices two books seem, to me, inevitable: A Cornish Dictionary (1887) by F. W. P. Jago and Grammar of the dialects of vernacular Syriac: as spoken by the Eastern Syrians of Kurdistan, north-west Persia, and the Plain of Mosul: with notices of the vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan and of Zakhu near Mosul by Arthur John Maclean (1895).

In PRIO “Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume "H" in his encyclopaedia of reference.” in which he looks up a short biography of the Duke of Holdernesse. This does not appear to be Holmes’s own “Good Old Index”, it sounds a lot more like the Encylopedia Britannica. The ninth edition was published from 1875 to 1889 and is considered a landmark edition. Given that PRIO is set in 1901, this is the edition likely to be found on the Holmes shelf.

Stern makes a strong case for The Continental Gazetteer which Holmes consults in SCAN being The Gazetteer of the World compiled by Thomas C Jack. I also agree with her that this is probably the same volume which is consulted about the Andaman Islands in SIGN. In SCAN the book is very clearly described as being taken down from the Holmes shelf.

As previously mentioned, in VALL Sherlock and Watson try to guess which book Porlock has used for his cipher. Sherlock tells Watson that “the book is one which he thought I would have no difficulty in finding for myself. He had it--and he imagined that I would have it, too. In short, Watson, it is a very common book.” This suggests that their subsequent guesses as to the book are extremely likely to be be books which they own. Apart from those already covered above, there are two more; Watson suggests The Bible and Holmes suggests and dismisses the dictionary. The most popular dictionary of the time would have been A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson and the 221b copy would have resided on the communal shelf. The Bible seems likely to be a Holmes shelf book. Holmes’s admits in CROO that his “biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty”. (One assumes this is a reference to the book, not his celibate lifestyle.) However, Watson never shows any knowledge of The Bible, so it seems reasonable to place it with the man who at least has read some Christian doctrine.

Later in VALL Holmes likens Moriarty to Jonathon Wild; “Jonathan Wild wasn't a detective, and he wasn't in a novel. He was a master criminal, and he lived last century--1750 or thereabouts.” Clearly Holmes is well up on Wild. The books he must have on his shelf are A True & Genuine Account of the Life and Death of the Late Jonathan Wild by Daniel Defoe and The Life and Death of the Late Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding.

In BOSC Holmes breaks off conversation about the case with Watson saying “And now let us talk about George Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave all minor matters until to-morrow.” The suggestion is that they are both familiar with Meredith, but as it is Holmes who raises the subject, I believe the book under discussion would be one Holmes had recently acquired for his own shelf. BOSC is set in June 1888 so Meredith’s most recent publication would have been Ballads and Poems of Tragic Life which was published the previous year. I dismiss A Reading of Earth (1888) on two counts; firstly it was not published until later in the year and secondly what the deuce was the solar system to Holmes?

Early in NOBL, Holmes looks up his client, Lord St Simon; “He picked a red-covered volume from a line of books of reference beside the mantelpiece.” He then reads out an impressive biography of the nobleman. There can be no doubt from the description of the book and St Simon’s heraldry that this is Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage (illustrated with 1400 Armorial bearings) edited by Robert H Mair. It would either be the 1887 or 1888 edition. I believe that this cannot be a communal volume or Watson would have known it and called it a Debrett’s rather than simply a red-coloured volume. Therefore this is a book from the Holmes shelf.

In WIST we are told that Holmes says “With a spud, a tin box, and an elementary book on botany, there are instructive days to be spent.” and that “He prowled about with this equipment himself, but it was a poor show of plants which he would bring back of an evening.” Clearly Holmes had such a book on his shelf and I believe it would have been the popular 1851 book Flowers of the Field by Rev Charles Alexander Johns.

After glancing over the letters of Hosmer Angel in IDEN Holmes comments that there is “Absolutely no clue in them to Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac once.” Holmes is clearly familiar with Balzac so it is reasonable to suppose that his shelf contains La Comédie Humaine by Honoré de Balzac.

In GREE, the tale starts with Holmes and Watson discussing several subjects, including “atavism and hereditary aptitudes”. Given his knowledge of the subject and his interest in criminology it seems inevitable that Holmes would have a copy of L'Uomo Delinquente by Cesare Lombroso on his shelf. The book was published in 1876, twelve years before Holmes and Watson had their chat. Lombroso popularised the idea of criminal behaviour being an atavistic trait.

In SIGN there is a discourse between Holmes and Watson on Jean Paul and Carlyle which suggest both men are up on these philosophers:
“How small we feel with our petty ambitions and strivings in the presence of the great elemental forces of nature! Are you well up in your Jean Paul?”
“Fairly so. I worked back to him through Carlyle.”
“That was like following the brook to the parent lake … There is much food for thought in Richter.”
Holmes here is talking about Jean Paul Friedrich Richter and his analect The Grandeur of Man in His Littleness. This can be found in The Campaner Thal: And Other Writings which must have been on Holmes’s shelf. Given Holmes’s dismissal of Thomas Carlyle it seems likely that his books would be found on Watson’s shelf. There were two articles on Richter in his Miscellanies so this must have been among them. It is also interesting to note that in STUD Holmes claims not to know who Carlyle is but then quotes him soon after; “They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.” Perhaps Holmes’s familiarity with Carlyle came from his Translations From The German which contained translations of Jean Paul.

At the start of FIVE “Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while” Watson “at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell's fine sea-stories”. His enthusiasm for Russell suggests that Watson would have had all three of the novels he published that year (1887) on his shelf: A Book for the Hammock, The Frozen Pirate and The Golden Hope. They are all sea-stories.

Early in their co-habitation, Watson and Holmes discuss the merits of Lecoq:
"Have you read Gaboriau's works?" I asked. "Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?"
Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. "Lecoq was a miserable bungler," he said, in an angry voice.
Clearly Watson rates Émile Gaboriau’s Monsieur Lecoq more highly that Holmes. It would be on Watson’s shelves that we would find his stories in L'Affaire Lerouge (1866 -The Lerouge Case), Le Crime d'Orcival (1867 - The Crime at Orcival), Le Dossier No. 113 (1867 -File No. 113), Les Esclaves des Paris (1868 - The Slaves of Paris), Monsieur Lecoq (1869) and Le Petite Vieux des Batingoles (1876 - The Little Old Man of Batignoles) which contained Une Disparition (or A Disappearance).

In 3GAR Holmes remarks that “it is not part of your profession to carry about a portable Newgate Calendar in your memory” inferring that Holmes does carry a portable Newgate Calendar in his memory. The only way he could do such a thing is if he had actually read both The Newgate Calendar and The New Newgate Calendar as published by Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin. Therefore both these works must have been on the Holmes shelf.

When writing up his first adventure with Holmes in STUD, Watson semi-fictionalised the back story of Jefferson Hope in Utah for the second half of the book. In order to do this he must have done some research on the Mormons and Brigham Young. He would, then, have had on his shelf Diary of Brigham Young by Brigham Young (1857) and The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith. Although I hesitate to say how useful he would have found them.

There are also several books which were written by villains in the adventures. While investigating these characters, Holmes almost certainly acquired copies of them which would subsequently remain upon the Holmes shelf. Although a couple of titles are best guesses, they can all be quickly listed as follows: Binomial Theorem by Professor James Moriarty, The Dynamics of an Asteroid by Professor James Moriarty, Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas by Colonel Sebastian Moran, Three Months in the Jungle by Colonel Sebastian Moran and Eastern Pottery by Baron Adelbert Gruner.

Then there are quite a few books which are suggested as being fairly likely due to brief mentions or quotations in The Canon.

In NOBL describes how the men delivering the meal at the end of the adventure “vanished away, like the genii of the Arabian Nights”. This suggests Watson owned a copy of the tales. Given that NOBL takes place in 1888 the most likely version is The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night translated by Richard Francis Burton which was published 1886-1888. By the standards of the time this was quite a risque version of the tales, which would probably suit John “Three Continents” Watson. This suggests that in Summer of that year when Watson is “smoking a last pipe and nodding over a novel” (CROO) the book he is nodding over is this same one.

In BOSC Holmes in conversation with Watson says “I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and say, 'There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.'”. The original quote is not actually attributable to Richard Baxter (despite his many references to “the Grace of God”). It is more usually said to orginate with John Bradford. An early citation of this is found in A Treatise on Prayer by Edward Bickerstaff (1819) a half-read copy of which could be found on the Holmes shelf.

When in NOBL Holmes says “Circumstantial evidence is occasionally very convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk, to quote Thoreau's example” he is referring to his copy of Excursions by Henry David Thoreau.

In STUD Holmes asks Watson “Do you remember what Darwin says about music?” We may answer that what Charles Darwin says about music is “When we treat of sexual selection we shall see that primeval man, or rather some early progenitor of man, probably first used his voice in producing true musical cadences, that is in singing, as do some of the gibbon-apes at the present day; and we may conclude from a widely-spread analogy, that this power would have been especially exerted during the courtship of the sexes,—would have expressed various emotions, such as love, jealousy, triumph,—and would have served as a challenge to rivals. It is, therefore, probable that the imitation of musical cries by articulate sounds may have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions.” And he says it in Holmes’s copy of The Decent of Man.

Twice in SIGN Holmes quotes his copy of Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Wir sind gewohnt dass die Menschen verhöhnen was sie nicht verstehen.” translates as “We are used to people mocking what they do not understand.” and describes the sarcastic attitude of Athelney Jones. “Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schuf denn zum wurdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff” loosly translates to “nature, alas, made only one being out of you although there was material for a good man and a rogue” and refers to Holmes’s own potential dual personality.

On another occasion in SIGN speaking of Athelney Jones Holmes says “Il n'y a pas des sots si incommodes que ceux qui ont de l'esprit!” this is a slight misquote from his Maximes by François de La Rochefoucauld and means “There are no fools so troublesome as those that have some wit.”

In VAMP Holmes expresses his incredulity by saying “we seem to have been switched on to a Grimms’ fairy tale”. This suggests that Holmes has the 1884 two volume translation of Grimm’s Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt. Perhaps, then, there is a more romantic side to Holmes than he would like us to believe.

There are a few William Shakespeare quotes made by Holmes. In LADY he quotes King Henry VI, Part II, Act III, Scene 2; “Thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just”. He twice refers to Twelfth Night; in EMPT (“journeys end in lovers’ meetings”) and REDC (“Journeys end with lovers’ meetings”). At the very least, these two plays are upon the Holmes’ shelf.

In REDH Holmes says “'L'homme c'est rien--l'oeuvre c'est tout,' as Gustave Flaubert wrote to George Sand.” This is a direct quote from his 1884 copy of Lettres de Gustave Flaubert à George Sand précédées d'une étude par Guy de Maupassant edited by G Charpentier Et Co.

When Lestrade asks Holmes if he is aware that no two thumb marks are alike in NORW, the sarcastic tone of his response that he has “heard something of the kind” is all the assurance we need that there is a copy of Finger Prints (1892) by Francis Galton on Holmes’s 1894 shelf.

In IDEN Holmes wraps up the case by remarking to Watson “'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for who so snatches a delusion from a woman.' There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the world.” He is referencing his copy of Persian Lyrics, Or, Scattered Poems, from the Diwan-i-Hafiz by the Persian poet Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī.

When, in FIVE, Holmes says “As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole animal by the contemplation of a single bone…” he demonstrates that he has a copy of Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles de Quadrupèdes by the father of paleontology: Georges Cuvier.

Once again, mocking the intelligence of the Scotland Yarders, in STUD Holmes quotes Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux’s L'Art Poetique. “Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.” meaning “A fool always finds one still more foolish to admire him.”

Watson references his copy of the Odyssey by Homer when he describes the difficulty of being Holmes’s biographer in RESI; “…this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever threatening the historian…”. He is referring to having to choose between  stories which demonstrate Holmes’s powers of reasoning but are boring or stories which are exciting but feature very little of Holmes’s talents.

In CHAS Watson reveals he has a copy of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens when he describes Charles Augustus Milverton as having “something of Mr. Pickwick's benevolence in his appearance, marred only by the insincerity of the fixed smile and by the hard glitter of those restless and penetrating eyes”

Watson rounds off STUD with a quote from his The Satires by Horace (more properly Quintus Horatius Flaccus). “Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca.” meaning “The public hisses at me, but I applaud myself in my own house, and simultaneously contemplate the money in my chest.”

In CREE, Holmes speaks of Watson as “Compound of Bee and Excelsior.” The “Excelsior” suggests that Holmes has recently been reading the poem Excelsior in his copy of The Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1869) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The List

There follows a list of the seventy-one books I have identified as being features of 221b. They are presented in the format:
Book title, Author or Editor or Publisher, What shelf were they on, Which stories are they in

The Telephone Directory, either The Telephone Company Ltd or The Edison Telephone Company of London, Communal shelf, 3GAR
A Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson, Communal shelf, VALL
Whitaker’s Almanac 1887, J Whitaker & Sons, Communal shelf, VALL
Whitaker’s Almanac 1888, J Whitaker & Sons, Communal shelf, VALL
The Bible, God and Chums, Holmes shelf, VALL
Encylopedia Britannica, -, Holmes shelf, PRIO
The International Cyclopedia, -, Holmes shelf, FIVE
The New Newgate Calendar, Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, Holmes shelf, 3GAR
The Newgate Calendar, Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, Holmes shelf, 3GAR
Grammar of the dialects of vernacular Syriac: as spoken by the Eastern Syrians of Kurdistan, north-west Persia, and the Plain of Mosul: with notices of the vernacular of the Jews of Azerbaijan and of Zakhu near Mosul, Arthur John Maclean, Holmes shelf, DEVI
Eastern Pottery, Baron Adelbert Gruner, Holmes shelf, ILLU
L'Uomo Delinquente, Cesare Lombroso, Holmes shelf, GREE
The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, Holmes shelf, STUD
Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas, Colonel Sebastian Moran, Holmes shelf, EMPT
Three Months in the Jungle, Colonel Sebastian Moran, Holmes shelf, EMPT
A True & Genuine Account of the Life and Death of the Late Jonathan Wild, Daniel Defoe, Holmes shelf, VALL
A Treatise on Prayer, Edward Bickerstaff, Holmes shelf, BOSC
A Cornish Dictionary, F. W. P. Jago, Holmes shelf, DEVI
Il Petrarca, Francesco Petrarca, Holmes shelf, BOSC
Finger Prints, Francis Galton, Holmes shelf, NORW
Maximes, François de La Rochefoucauld, Holmes shelf, SIGN
Ballads and Poems of Tragic Life, George Meredith, Holmes shelf, BOSC
Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles de Quadrupèdes, Georges Cuvier, Holmes shelf, FIVE
The Attis of Caius Valerius Catullus: Translated Into English Verse, with Dissertations on the Myth of Attis, on the Origin of Tree-worship, and on the Galliambic Metre, Grant Allen, Holmes shelf, EMPT
Lettres de Gustave Flaubert à George Sand précédées d'une étude par Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert, Holmes shelf, REDH
Excursions, Henry David Thoreau, Holmes shelf, NOBL
The Life and Death of the Late Jonathan Wild, the Great, Henry Fielding, Holmes shelf, VALL
The Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Holmes shelf, CREE
La Comédie Humaine, Honoré de Balzac., Holmes shelf, IDEN
The Campaner Thal: And Other Writings, Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, Holmes shelf, STUD
Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Holmes shelf, SIGN
The Holy War Made by King Shaddai Upon Diabolus, to Regain the Metropolis of the World, Or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul, John Bunyan, Holmes shelf, EMPT
Crockford’s Clerical Directory, John Crockford, Holmes shelf, RETI
Persian Lyrics, Or, Scattered Poems, from the Diwan-i-Hafiz, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, Holmes shelf, IDEN
Don Juan, Lord Byron, Holmes shelf, MUSG
The Worthies of Sussex, Mark Anthony Lower, Holmes shelf, MUSG
Groombridge Place, Kent, Mrs Charles N Streatfield, Holmes shelf, VALL
L'Art Poetique, Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, Holmes shelf, STUD
Binomial Theorem, Professor James Moriarty, Holmes shelf, FINA
The Dynamics of an Asteroid, Professor James Moriarty, Holmes shelf, VALL
British Birds in Their Haunts, Rev C. A. Johns, Holmes shelf, EMPT
Flowers of the Field, Rev Charles Alexander Johns, Holmes shelf, WIST
Out of Doors, Rev John George Wood, Holmes shelf, LION
De Jure Inter Gentes, Richard Zouch, Holmes shelf, STUD
Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage (illustrated with 1400 Armorial bearings), Robert H Mair, Holmes shelf, NOBL
Grimm’s Household Tales, The Brothers Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt, Holmes shelf, VAMP
The Gazetteer of the World, Thomas C Jack, Holmes shelf, SCAN SIGN
Translations From The German, Thomas Carlyle, Holmes shelf, STUD
King Henry VI, William Shakespeare, Holmes shelf, LADY
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare, Holmes shelf, EMPT REDC
The Martyrdom of Man, William Winwood Reade, Holmes shelf, SIGN
Diary of Brigham Young, Brigham Young, Watson shelf, STUD
The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens, Watson shelf, CHAS
A Book for the Hammock, Clark Russell, Watson shelf, FIVE
The Frozen Pirate, Clark Russell, Watson shelf, FIVE
The Golden Hope, Clark Russell, Watson shelf, FIVE
Tales, Edgar Allen Poe, Watson shelf, STUD CARD
L'Affaire Lerouge, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
Le Crime d'Orcival, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
Le Dossier No. 113, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
Le Petite Vieux des Batingoles, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
Les Esclaves des Paris, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
Monsieur Lecoq, Émile Gaboriau, Watson shelf, STUD
The Medical Directory, General Medical Council, Watson shelf, HOUN
Bradshaw’s Monthly Railway Guide, George Bradshaw, Watson shelf, COPP VALL
Scènes de la Vie de Bohème, Henri Murger, Watson shelf, STUD
Odyssey, Homer, Watson shelf, RESI
The Satires, Horace, Watson shelf, STUD
The Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Watson shelf, STUD
The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night, Richard Francis Burton, Watson shelf, NOBL
Miscellanies, Thomas Carlyle, Watson shelf, STUD

Some Conclusions

Mentally, I had constructed three shelves of books. But something immediately struck me as odd about the communal shelf. Upon it were just four books. The initials of each, naturally, were in a large bold font. And when those initials were taken on their own I saw a strange thing:

D for A Dictionary of the English Language
A for Whitaker’s Almanac 1887
T for The Telephone Directory
A for Whitaker’s Almanac 1888

The books spelt out the word “Data”. This immediately brought to mind a couple of quotes from The Canon which Watson clearly wants me to consider:

“Data! data! data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”
“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

The first quote is perhaps a congratulation from Watson for mining such useful information from the original text. Or perhaps it is his urging me to go on and make the bricks for which my data has provided clay. But the second quote is surely a warning not to allow myself to get carried away and twist the information to fallacious conclusions. With this in mind I turned my attention to the imaginary shelf of Watson’s books. For the most part the bold letters on the spines of the books provided nothing but typical Watsonian nonsense, but you can imagine my surprise when I spotted this in the middle of the tomes:

F for The Frozen Pirate
A for L'Affaire Lerouge
L for Le Petite Vieux des Batingoles
S for Scènes de la Vie de Bohème
E for Les Esclaves des Paris

H for A Book for the Hammock
O for Odyssey
L for Le Dossier No. 113
M for Monsieur Lecoq
E for Edgar Allen Poe's Tales
S for The Satires

Watson appears to want us to see the message “False Holmes”. What he means by this I have no idea. I next turned my attention to the Holmes shelf and again, among the gobbledegook I found a message:

T for A True & Genuine Account of... Jonathan Wild
IP for Il Petrarca

O for Out of Doors
F for Finger Prints
F for Flowers of the Field

H for The Holy War Made by King Shaddai...
E for Excursions

D for The Dynamics of an Asteroid
I for The International Cyclopedia
E for Encylopedia Britannica
D for Debrett's...

A for The Attis of Caius Valerius Catullus...
T for Translations From The German

T for Three Months in the Jungle
H for Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas
E for Eastern Pottery

F for Faust
A for L'Art Poetique
L for The Life and Death of... Jonathan Wild
L for Lettres de Gustave Flaubert...
S for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and King Henry VI

A clear sentence appears: “Tip off: he died at the falls”.

Watson is clearly trying to tell us something in these messages, but I am unsure what. They are too vague for me to interpret so I shall simply share the messages and leave further work to better minds.


I should confess that there are at least four other pointers in The Canon to books which would have been found at 221b and which I have failed to put a name to.

In GOLD Watson tells us he was “deep in a recent treatise upon surgery”. GOLD is set in 1894, but I have been unable to identify which recently published treatise Watson was reading.

In VALL Holmes identifies a firearm by its markings. It seems reasonable that he must have had some literature on this subject, but I have been unable to name any.

In DYIN Holmes talks of Tapanuli Fever and The Black Formosa Corruption. He has surely been researching far Eastern diseases, but I cannot find which books he used for this study.

In VALL Holmes says of Moriarty “…the professor’s salary can be ascertained in several trustworthy books of reference…” I have no idea what these books would be.

I would be indebted to anyone who could assist with these identifications.