When I won a cache of 59 back issues of The Baker Street Journal at A Scintillation of Scions in June, I had no idea that I had acquired a time machine. But that's what it's turned out to be.
The issues represent more than a half-century of Sherlockian scholarship, from the October 1959 issue edited by Edgar W. Smith to last year's Christmas Annual and all decades in between. And each number of the BSJ has its particular delights.
The 1959 issue included a parody by Christopher Morley (published only once previously) and a short story by John Ball Jr., apparently the same writer who some years later wrote In the Heat of the Night and other mysteries about Virgil Tibbs.
Over the years, the shade of the yellow cover has changed several times, the size of the journal has gotten larger, and the Frederic Dorr Steele drawing of Holmes that for many years enhanced the cover has moved to the inside title page.
What has not changed (in addition to the distinctive type face on the cover) is the fascinating content within. It's a singular pleasure to me to read interesting articles by people I have met, and a few I know well, not just in recent numbers of the BSJ but spanning the decades. It's inspiring to me how long some people have labored in the vineyard of Sherlockian writing.
I also like reading the parts of the BSJ that are totally dated, such as "Letters to Baker Street," "The Scion Societies" and "From the Editor's Commonplace Book." Here's an example of the latter from the September 1970 issue:
There has been so much interest in a forthcoming film that it seems worthwhile to quote a representative of United Artists Corporation: "The current plan is to release 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' in October in the U.S. and around Christmas in England. I believe Canada will also see it in October . . . "I still have quite a few of these historic issues to read, but I'm not rushing it. Some pleasures should be savored.