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Beeton's Christmas Annual facsimile from Life is Amazing

The Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887 is something of a Holy Grail in Sherlockian and Doylean circles. It represents the first appearance in print of our favourite detective.


Now only a tiny number of these magazines survive and only a tiny percentage of those are in a condition that could be described as anything close to original. Many have been sadly rebound, had their adverts removed and so on. In the UK the two best condition copies I know of are held in Portsmouth Museum and the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Over the years various facsimiles have been produced and these often command high prices themselves (although not on the scale of the originals obviously).

In my opinion, the best of these is the 1987 copy produced by John Gibson which was created from the Bodleian Library copy. Of those I've seen it is the best in terms of faithfulness to the original. Approximately 600 copies were issued, some in special slip cases, and the first 50 of these were signed by Dame Jean Conan Doyle. As far as I can tell, there were a few unofficial extra copies that were not sold.

Now, from Life is Amazing, we have a new facsimile. This, however, is a copy of a copy as it is based on the Gibson facsimile rather than an original. The quality does not suffer overtly though. That said, it doesn't feel right in the hand, as it has stiffer outer covers so it feels more like a paperback book than a magazine.

Where it really scores is price. In the UK it is £15 including postage. I have a number of the Gibson facsimiles and these tend to go for no less than £50 and can be a lot more if they are in slip cases or carry a signature.

So if you desire to come as close as you are likely to to the debut of Holmes as the contemporary audience saw it, you cannot do better than this for so modest a sum.


Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here
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