“Elementary, my dear Watson”
Sherlock Holmes has graced our television screen for decades and theatres for over a century. 1993 was the year it featured on British stamps.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created our most well known and loved ‘consultant detective’, Sherlock Holmes. He first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in the ‘Beeton’s Christmas Annual’, 1887. Since then 60 more stories were written even though in 1893 Doyle plunged his main character off a waterfall in Switzerland (in The Final Problem).
Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr Watson solved crime together from their London residence 221B, Baker Street. However, many of Sherlock’s classic phrases such as “Elementary my dear Watson” and his iconic appearance, including his famous deerstalker, actually come from the portrayal of Sherlock rather than Doyle’s books.
Within the philatelic collection we have the original artwork produced for the Sherlock Holmes designs. Andrew Davidson was chosen to produce the final images, but as you can see below some of the stories he designed initially were not selected. So unfortunately The Cardboard Box and it’s pair of severed ears never became a stamp.
The final designs were created using individual layers. Here we have a colour tint that was placed underneath the black wood engraving to produce the final colour image.
Within each stamp is a hidden letter spelling out a secret message. I’ve enlarged the designs to help you spot the letters spelling out the creator’s name DOYLE.
Many people have played Holmes over the years including Sir Christopher Lee who actually portrayed Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes and Sir Henry Baskerville (from The Hound of the Baskervilles). Friend of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing went on to play Holmes on the big screen and produced 16 television episodes as the character.
Sherlock Holmes has worldwide fame and as such has featured on stamps from around the world. Here is one of my favourites from the Turks & Caicos Islands which celebrated the author as well as the characters.
If you are interested in seeing some of this material, a small display looking at Sherlock Holmes will be in the museum Discovery Room in October.
Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty was inspired by the famous criminal Adam Worth. Worth was accused of stealing £80,000 of diamonds from a Post Office in Hatton Gardens in 1881. More information about the story and documents about the case can be seen in our new Crime exhibition.
– Georgina Tomlinson (Deputy Curator, Philately)