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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Complete Paget Holmes

I spent a wonderful weekend with Sidney Paget, my favorite illustrators of Sherlock Holmes.

The Complete Paget Portfolio, by Nicholas Utechin, brings together for the first time all 356 illustrations Paget produced for the 38 Holmes stories published before his untimely death in 1908 at the age of 47. But it has much more than that.

In addition to the reproductions from The Strand magazine, this plus-size volume also includes photographs of 23 story illustrations and three portraits of Holmes that Paget drew for other purposes. To see the amazing quality of the originals is to wish for 356 of them, but Utechin rounded up images of all but four originals whose whereabouts are unknown. The search took him to eleven individuals and a number of institutions. 

But this is not just a book of illustrations. Utechin's commentaries add immeasurably to the appreciation and enjoyment of the original drawings. Of the drawing above, from "Silver Blaze," he writes:

In this, perhaps the most iconic of the Sidney Paget Sherlock Holmes illustrations, he has made the pair less cramped than in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" railway carriage picture, and has helped Watson's image rather more this time around. His use of white to highlight Watson's trousers and the left side of his coat, as well as providing gloss to the arm rests is most successful. Holmes is leaving, breathing, intense, with long fingers. The Naumann engraving takes nothing away from the original -- very sharp and accurate.

As an added bonus, Utechin provides photos of Paget's magnifying glass and hunting crop (both of which he owns), as well as a wicker chair said to be his. All of these items were models for his Holmes illustrations. 

"A good knowledge of Paget's work, it seems to me, is an integral part of being a Sherlockian," Utechin writes in the introduction. I heartily agree. I don't say this often, but The Complete Paget Portfolio belongs be in every Sherlockian's library. It's available here from Wessex Press.

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