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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

One of the joys of having a significant Sherlockian library is being able to choose in which particular edition one wants to re-read a story this time around.

Going to my shelves as I prepared to delve into the Canon again, I was surprised to find how many versions of the Sacred Writings I have in one-, two-, or three-volumes. Perhaps you have several of them as well:

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes from Doubleday. This may be the best known and most widely circulated version. I have several copies of both the one-volume and the two-volume editions of various ages. I love it not only because it's the first Complete I ever owned, but because the Christopher Morely introduction is one of the best ever.

  • The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited by William S. Baring-Gould and published by C.N. Potter in two volumes. I also have the one-volume version. This book opened a whole world of Sherlockian scholarship for many of us. It's a must for any serious Holmes reader.

  • The New Annotated Sherlocked Holmes, edited by Leslie S. Klinger and published in three volumes by W.W. Norton & Co. This is a worthy successor to the Baring-Gould classic. Our younger son, Mike, gave this to me.

  • The Complete Illustrated Strand Sherlock Holmes. This is a facsimile edition in three volumes, handsomely boxed, with very fine print. Our daughter, Beth, gave this to me. An avid Holmes collector who couldn't find a copy tried for years to get mine away from me. That makes it really special.

  • The Complete Illustrated Novels and The Complete Illustrated Short Stories. This two-volume set is from Chancellor Press. The illustrations are from The Strand, but the pages are not facsimiles of the magazine.

  • Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Short Stories, Vols. I and II. This is a lovely boxed set of paperbacks from Bantam, with a delightful introduction by mystery wrtier Loren D. Estleman, focusing largely and insightfully on John H. Watson, M.D.

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes two-volume boxed hardback edition from Tess Press has the same Estleman introduction.

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collectors Library Edition. This is an oversized volume published by Barnes & Noble. It has illustrations from The Strand and an introduction by David Stuart Davis.

  • Tutto Sherlock Holmes. The Canon in Italian! It's a big one-volume yellow paperback from Newton & Compton Editori.

  • The Adventures, The Later Adventures, The Final Adventures is what the Heritage Club calls its three volumes of Sherlock Holmes, which together include all 60 stories. These are truly handsome books corrected and edited by Edgar W. Smith and with an introduction by Vincent Starrett.

What's your favorite Complete Sherlock Holmes?


  1. The Heritage Press set (though I would love to own copies of the Limited Edition Club set) has come to be my favorite non-illustrated, non-annotated set. For travelling I usually bring one of my Oxford annotated volumes (small but with end notes. When I'm sitting around with my cats on the couch, it's a toss-up between Klinger and Baring-Gould.
    If I were to write some sort of scholarly treatise and referenced page numbers, I would probably go with Heritage since it seems the most 'definitive' having been rigorously edited by EWS.

  2. Great choices! (Of course, there can't be a bad one.)

  3. Maybe a little bit late but...here I am :) from Italy.
    I'd love to own a copy of the Heritage Press set, but at the moment it is too expensive for me. I'll be able to afford it one day, I promise! :)
    Really you have the Canon i Italian, Mr Andriacco? I can't stand the sight of that book. The drawing on the cover page is horrible and the translation is far from accurate...

    1. A dire la verita', non ho mai letto quella traduzione italiana. Ma sono lieto di averlo!

  4. In the Complete Illustrated Strand Sherlock Holmes, I'm curious which illustrations, if any, are included with STUD and SIGN, as those were not publushed in The Strand Magazine. This set was published by Wordsworth, I think. I have three paperbacks from Wordsworth from the 1990s that are Strand facsimiles but STUD and SIGN have no illustrations.
    For me, the perfect edition of Holmes would be multiple volumes of trade size paperbacks in the illustrated facsimile style. The '90s Wordsworth paperbacks are almost it. The drawbacks are lack of illustrations in the first two stories, illustrations are usually much too dark, and my volume 1 is 1.5 inches smaller than the other two. Bah!
    There's a newer Wordsworth paperback set on the market now, but I can't find any pictures online to show me what illustrations are included.

  5. Would you be able to compare the font of the new annotated edition with some others? I'm thinking about buying this version, but worried if the print is too small.

  6. The print size (font) in The New Annotated is no smaller than the traditional Doubleday. And, in my opinion, the spacing actually makes it easier to read. I just compared the two side by side.

  7. Sixty stories? I thought there were 56 stories and four novels.

    You refer to the Strand edition's "fine print." Does this mean that it's the size of a malnourished sugar ant, or does this mean that it's so stupendously wonderful that a committed (not to say commitable) Holmes' lover would perform any base or dangerous act in order to possess it?

    I have NO favorite set. I ONLY have the monstrously gargantuan (that is to say large) Doubleday edition that could crush an equally large tabby cat if said cat should trip his human, causing the human to flail to save himself, and thus dropping the book in the process (I have such a cat--in fact, I have five cats, although only one weighs 15-pounds AND is too old to dodge a book or even to see it coming).

    I have now searched SO long and SO in vain to find a set that I COULD love, that cost is no longer relevant. I would sign my immortal over to Satan if ONLY I could find a really and truly complete, hardcover, fully illustrated, multiple volume edition with a font that doesn't strain normal eyes (normal for age 72, that is). If I may further impose upon your time, might I ask what, if you were I, would you buy?

    1. Unfortunately, I don't know of any edition that meets all of your criteria.

    2. Well, thank you anyway, Doc. It sometimes happens that the need for something strikes me as so obvious and so pressing that I'm simply sure it must have long since been created, but, as in this case, it hasn't.

  8. I found a good deal for the Tess Press Edition but how is the quality of the book? Can you say that it will last a lifetime? Or should I go with the B&N edition?

  9. Sorry, but I'm not familiar with that edition.

  10. Surely the Oxford Sherlock Holmes, with its extremely detailed annotation, is the best?

  11. And the Oxford edition is very well bound, with good quality paper and clear type.