Topical Time
September-October 2000
pp 74-75
By Larry Dodson. ATA Handbook #139. $12 from ATA, P.O. Box 50820. Albuquerque, NM 87181-0820.6" x 9" Soft cover. 72 pages.


The brilliant detective work of Sherlock Holmes has fascinated and amazed readers for over a century. As the author tells us in the Introduction to the Handbook, "It was in November 1887 that A Study in Scarlet, the initial Sherlock Holmes novel, was published in Beeton's Christmas Annual. This was the first of four books and 56 short stories featuring the famed detective. Of course, Arthur Conan Doyle deserves some credit for actually putting the words down on paper."

This handbook describes stamps and other philatelic material relating to Sherlock Holmes. The first stamp to actually depict the great detective was issued by Nicaragua in 1972. There have now been a number of stamps honoring Holmes, Dr. Watson, the evil professor James Moriarty, and others from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle.

The handbook commences with biographical data of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. John H. Watson. The second section covers those adventures that are specifically commemorated by philatelic items, and the third section is devoted to the actors and directors of motion picture films, plays, radio, and television programs.

Only one actor, Basil Rathbone (1892-1967), has been shown on stamps in his role of Sherlock Holmes. Others who have played Holmes in stage, screen, radio, or television productions include Hans Albers, John Barrymore, Stewart Granger, Charleston Heston, Buster Keaton, Leonard Nimoy, George C. Scott, Bert Spiner, and Orson Welles.

Those who have played Dr. Watson include LeVar Burton and Ben Kingsley, while those who have played Professor Moriarty include John Huston, Laurence Olivier, and Vincent Price. Charlie Chaplin commenced his acting career as a messenger boy on Baker Street, while William Powell's first movie appearance was in a Holmes movie. At least one director of a Sherlock Holmes film has been depicted on a stamp; he is Stephan Spielberg. Animated Sherlock Holmes features include Goofy, and the 1986 production The Great Mouse Detective.

Chapter five reminds us of an article by Ted Friedman entitled "Music of Sherlock Holmes" which appeared in the November December 1998 issue of Topical Time. They both identify the roles of Chopin, Mendelssolm, Offenbach, Paganini, Sarasate, Stradivari, and Wagner. However, there appears to be confusion on the correct spelling of Ernest Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann which is compounded by an Errata sheet which also spells his name as Hoffman (single "n"). Did Arthur Conan Doyle introduce the confusion by writing "I shall try over the Hoffman Barcarolle upon my violin" as recorded in both Dodson's and Friedman's treatises? While asking questions, this review also is puzzled by the year provided for the death of Sherlock Holmes. If he retired in 1903 "to a farm near Eastbourne, Sussex," did he actually live on until 1957, and did he die at the age of 103?

The handbook concludes with a monograph on the Sherlock Holmes Locomotive, a complete listing of all Sherlock Holmes tales, a checklist of stamps associated with Holmes by country of issue; and a bibliography including two articles from Topical Time. The handbook also includes 56 black-and-white illustrations.

Thanks to Valerie Zwirn for supplying a copy of this article