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The View from the East End (34)

By Inspector Hopkins

March 12 , 2006
 

Klinger’s Annotated

So you’ve read through the Canon one or twice, perhaps with an old used copy of the Doubleday version?  Have you been intrigued enough by Sherlock Holmes that you want to know more about him and the times he lived in?  Well then, perhaps you’re ready to make your first serious Sherlockian book purchase, and then to join in the fun that we call Sherlockiana.

One good way to do both is to get yourself a set of “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories” by Leslie Klinger.  Being really happy with my Baring-Gould Annotated, it took quite some time for me to get on the bandwagon and get a hold of these books myself. But the other day, thanks to a post on the Hounds List, I happened upon a really good deal at Amazon.com and was able to purchase them for under $55, including shipping. Since they list for $95, my timing was just right for this purchase.

But, bargains aside, they are a beautifully made pair of hardback volumes adorned with dustjackets and tucked into a heavy cardboard case. The artwork on the dustjackets is arranged so that the familiar silhouette of Holmes and his pipe will be properly displayed on the spines when vol 1 is on the left and vol 2 is on the right. Klinger’s followup publication, “The Novels”, also available from Amazon.com, has the third section of Holmes’s profile and completes the entire set.  These volumes look good on your bookshelf or, thanks to the heavy case, look just as good as a standalone set of books on a table.

There are similarities between the classic Baring-Gould Annotated (BG) and this work, and of course, I’m talking about all the footnotes or “annotations” here.  Many of the obscure terms that you find in the Canon are explained more fully in these annotations and there are sketches, diagrams, and illustrations throughout both of these works. The annotations are typed with red ink in Klinger’s books and stand out a little better. Both works begin with the usual prefaces, introductions, etc. and some background about Sir A. Conan Doyle and the Victorian era.  The backgrounds of both works give the reader some feel of what times were like when Holmes and Watson walked the streets of 1890’s London.

There are also differences, primarily in the order of the stories. For many years, Baring-Gould’s chronology of the Canon has been somewhat of a yardstick that we use to order the stories. The stories in his works are arranged in the order that he believed they occurred, beginning with MUSG in vol 1 and ending with LAST in vol 2. In contrast, Klinger lines up all the stories in the usual Doubleday order arranged in the five “books” that we call The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, His Last Bow, and The Casebook. The first volume of the New Annotated (NA) consists of these first two books, and the second volume consists of the last three. Whereas BG has most of his introductory material grouped at the beginning of his first volume, the NA has other supplementary material interspersed throughout both volumes in between various stories. Again, BG includes the four Novels within his two volumes while Klinger has them in a separate volume.

I laid out all four of these books on my desk so that I could compare them side by side. The longer I look through them, the more I can assert that they are more alike than different.  In general, I found it a bit more difficult to look up a particular story in the BG primarily because of the order of his chronology. The Table of Contents in the front of each volume may be a bit easier to use in Klinger’s works, but this may be just my own impression.

Both works have an extensive bibliography at the end, and Klinger has also added lists of Scion Societies and Sherlockian websites. These may prove to become outdated as time passes, however.  From what I have read about the NA, it is intended to supplement rather than replace the now almost four decades-old BG works. I absolutely agree with this assessment, so if you have already found a copy of the BG and can’t afford to buy the NA just yet, they will do just fine in the meanwhile. I would encourage every newer Sherlockian to obtain Klinger’s works though, as they are certain to form a solid foundation for your Sherlock Holmes library.

Now,  I’ll just have to get his third volume to complete my set! There’s a spot on my shelf that looks a bit . . . empty . . . if you know what I mean.  

Until next time, I am as always,

Yours faithfully,
STANLEY HOPKINS