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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, August 2, 2012
There have been as least three facsimile versions produced of the 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual. Since an original Beeton's 1887 is reported to be "the most expensive magazine in the world" these facsimile editions are themselves quite popular and valuable.
None of the "facsimiles" are exact replicas, but Gibson's 1987 Centenary edition is remarkably close. Modern facsimiles typically use a photographic reproduction process, so a facsimile cover can be distinguished from the original engraved cover by the presence of the many tiny dots. Other indications are noted with the individual items described below. The Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887 Annotated Checklist and Census contains a full description of the original magazine along with historical sale prices and locations for many of the extant copies.
The Baker Street Incunabula, no. 8. [London and Morristown, N.J.: The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and The Baker Street Irregulars, Inc., 1960]. This softcover facsimile was produced jointly by Edgar W. Smith (BSI) and Lord Donegall (Sherlock Holmes Society of London) using Smith's copy of Beeton's Christmas Annual (R15), which is now held at the Toronto Reference Library. It lacks the "I" in "I fancy" on page 90. This facsimile was reprinted with a new introduction in 1987 by Magico.
Advertised in the July 1960 Baker Street Journal, it was offered for $7 in advance and for $10 after its Christmas 1960 publication. It came with a pictorial paper dust jacket. There were 500 numbered copies and 100 of these were allocated to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Additional, un-numbered copies were also sold. The original Beeton's contained some color advertisements while this facsimile had black and white advertisements. In addition, three intentional variations were made to identify this as a facsimile:
1) A Publisher's Note by Smith with a bibliographical commentary was made integral to the volume on pp. 169-172
2) The cover design was modified in three particulars
3) A publication notice with copy number was stamped on (some) volumes
Some copies (presumably those in addition to the 500 numbered copies) were not stamped. For those copies in the U.S. that were stamped, the limitation appeared at the bottom portion of the title page. The red-ink stamp identified the issue as a facsimile "…in an edition of 500 copies, of which this is No. ___." The copy number was added by hand in ink.
In England, a purple-ink stamp was placed at the end of the publisher's note on page 172. It stated "Of the 100 copies of Beeton's (1960) allocated to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, for European distribution, this copy is No. xx." The copy number was added by hand in ink, with variations of a written number ("thirty"), as numerals ("18" or "85"), or as numerals with a suffix ("76A" or "82A"). Many copies bear the signature "Donegall" near the limitation, and some copies have been reported with blue-ink or pink-ink limitation stamps. This variation suggests the copies were stamped and numbered over an extended period of time. Sherlockians have reported that Donegall still sold copies in 1968, and that he dated a copy as "3.5.'72".
The paper dust jacket was red (now often faded to a brick-like orange) with the following on the cover: BEETON'S CHRISTMAS ANNUAL | EIGHTEEN EIGHTY-SEVEN | [picture by Frederic Dorr Steele of Holmes holding papers] || The Baker Street Irregulars, Inc. | The Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
References: Personal copy; De Waal C1227; Nick Utechin 5/17/10 e-mail to me; Carolyn Tate 4/1/05 e-mail to me; Steve Clarkson 11/10/01 & 11/28/02 e-mail to me; Veld; Blau; Green and Gibson p. 9; Hall; BSJ 1960 Christmas Annual p.312; BSJ v10 #3 (July 1960) p.188. (Last updated 8/2/12)
[New York]: Magico Magazine, . This hardcover centenary edition is actually a revised reprint of the BSI Beeton's Facsimile and thus contains the alterations and publisher's note from that edition. It also includes a new introduction by Catherine Cooke and a new dust jacket designed by Scott Bond. Like some of the BSI copies, it does not have any limitation statement.
The Beeton's cover reproduction is not very accurate and this is clearly noticeable in the yellow bleed on the corner ornaments surrounding descriptions of the other contents of the magazine. In addition, its verso (back) is blank, unlike the original Beeton's and the BSI facsimile. Instead, the Barber & Company ad from the original inside front cover appears on the following sheet. The verso of that sheet contains the ads from the original inside back cover. The Magico reprint does not include a reproduction of the back cover, which contained an ad for Beecham's Pills and which is present in the BSI facsimile.
While the Magico copy lacks some elements of the BSI facsimile, it does come in a nice hardcover binding and is generally available and affordable. Magico originally offered it at $26.50.
References: Personal copy; BSM #56 (Winter 1988) pp. 42-43; Copies viewed at University of Minnesota 10/1/05; De Waal C1229. (Last updated 8/2/12)
[West Sussex: Conan Doyle Books; J.M. Gibson, 1987]. This softcover facsimile was produced for the story's centenary by John Michael Gibson using the Oxford Bodleian Beeton's Christmas Annual copy (R10). It includes the "I" in "I fancy" on page 90.
Although produced for the centenary, contemporary reports indicate that it may have been delayed and actually published in 1988. This facsimile was issued in a numbered red dust jacket with gilt titles, in a numbered red slipcase with gilt titles. Of the 600 numbered copies, 50 were signed on the title page by Dame Jean Conan Doyle and issued in a finer slipcase. The regular edition cost $49.50 (£27.50) and the signed copies cost $252 (£140).
This high-quality reproduction is more accurate than the BSI Facsimile edition. In the front-matter advertising section, two pages are in color and the appropriate advertisements are on colored paper. While it's a painstaking facsimile of the Oxford copy (R10) in most respects, that copy's original color cover is darker than usual so the color of the facsimile cover was adjusted to look like the cover on most of the other extant copies. In addition, it also includes a printing statement ("Centenary Facsimile Edition printed by Burgess & Son (Abingdon) Ltd., Abingdon, Oxfordshire") at the bottom of page 138.
The regular edition slipcase limitation statement says "No. xx OF CENTENARY FACSIMILE EDITION OF 550 COPIES." The dust jacket limitation statement appears on the inside front flap as "Centenary Facsimile Edition limited to 550 copies. This copy is No. xx."
The special signed edition slipcase limitation statement says "No. xx OF SPECIAL CENTENARY FACSIMILE EDITION OF 50 COPIES." The dust jacket limitation statement appears on the inside front flap as "Special Centenary Facsimile Edition limited to 50 copies. This copy is No. xx."
Note: I am compiling a census of the special signed copies. If you own a copy, please contact me. I will keep your identity private at your request.
References: Copies viewed at University of Minnesota 10/1/05; Rupert Books Catalogue No. 9; De Waal C1228 (which mistakenly states that there were 550 total numbered copies); George Vanderburgh phone call 7/4/12; Ian Wood 8/31/05 e-mail to me; Hugh Harrington 11/28/02 e-mail to me; BSM #56 (Winter 1988) pp. 42-43; SHJ v19 #1 (Winter 1988) p. 30; Scuttlebutt Jan., Sep., Oct. 1988; Blau. (Last updated 8/2/12)
I've included an extensive list of sources related to this publication on the Beeton's Christmas Annual 1887 Checklist page. Thank you to everyone who helped with my research, many of whom are noted on the Checklist page.
Please send me e-mail if you have additions, corrections or suggestions for this web page.
Census of the rare first edition of "The Unique Hamlet", a Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Vincent Starrett.