Monday, May 13, 2019

This Post Is Smokin'! (Sorry, Had To Do It.)

The Great Historical Collection Reduction giveaway is going wonderfully. I'm reducing my collection, and the items I'm giving away are going to good homes. Basically I have a lot of books and ogther publications to go through, but from time to time it'll be ephemera. Like this time.


This time it's all Holmes-related tobacco items. As usual I will give you a closer look at them so you can decide if you're interested in answering the trivia question for them. So, here they are. (Oh, first I have to put up the giveaway logo. Sorry.)


We'll do this by size. First is the box of matches.

This side features a Punch-like figure with a huge pipe. Beneath him it says "Delightfully...something." I haven't been able to determine what it says no matter what I've tried or who's looked at it. Anyway, here's what the other side looks like:

Now, this WILL NOT be shipped with the matches in it. That's very illegal and dangerous. I'll put a piece of styrofoam in it so the box won't crush. Besides, I need the matches for my cigars.

Next is the ashtray. It's glass, about 3 1/2 inches across, half an inch deep, and is in near-perfect condition. (Basic wear, at best.)


Next is the tin of tobacco. Now, this is a true tin full of tobacco. It's never been opened, and still has the price tag on the bottom. I cannot attest to the quality or condition of the product inside, but I doubt anyone's ever actually going to smoke it anyway. It's an inch deep, and about 4 inches across.


And then there's the pipe. It's not an expensive one, but it's a real one. The bowl detaches and is real porcelain. It appears to have been smoked at some time, but there's no smell. There's also very little wear on the bit of the stem. Again, I doubt it's going to be used, but it could.


The Trivia Question this month was:
We find tobacco in all forms many times in The Canon, but only two tobacconists are mentioned by name.
Who are they? And what are the cases?


However, I didn't do my homework very well because it turns out there were four tobacconists. So as not to count anyone out because of my mistake, I will accept any two of them (and the cases).

So, there you go. We've had a great response to this, and am expecting more, so any one person's chances get slimmer and slimmer...but someone has to win. Let me know if have any questions, or need more pictures.

Later this month you'll all get a real treat. I'm going to be posting the first paper I ever gave. I think you'll enjoy it, and the surprise ending that comes with it. See you then, and as always...thanks for reading.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Finding Things By Not Looking For Them

One of the things I really enjoy doing is randomly flipping through the pages of publications from the Sherlock era. Having been in the hobby for some time means I can easily pick out Canonical words and terms from a page. Kind of like one's own name. My eyes are just drawn to them. Well, it happened again recently, and I want to show you what I found.


Back in 2012 I gave a talk at A Scintillation of Scions V that was a combination of several paper ideas I'd had. It was called 'Three Trite Problems' (I pride myself on my presentation titles) and it was about two ideas that really hadn't panned out, and then the main part (which was about evidence of the actual pawn shop where Holmes bought his Stradivarius.) One of the other two was about the possibility of someone at 221b being Catholic. The other was about coal tar derivatives. Neither went anywhere, and it was fun to get everyone worked up about them, and then see their faces when I admited we wouldn't be talking about them. Devious, I know. The main part I mentioned was something that is kind of similar to what I recently found and what we'll discuss here.


Google Books is one of my favorties sites. I always, yes always, have a tab open to it. I came across this serialized story called 'The Adventures of a Farce' in The Knickerbocker (or The New York Monthly Magazine) from 1871, and it contains some pretty cool things. The writer is unknown, but they seemed to channel a lot of terms that would be contained in some stories that would be published a couple of decades later.

Here's a list of those things:
There’s a reference to a Penang Lawyer.
One of the characters is a pipe smoker.
Cambridge is mentioned.
We find Bohemia, Shakespeare quotes, The London Times, and a Mr. Turner.
Someone named Hopkins is in there, one person is a doctor, the word Midland appears, as does the word Mendicant.
We also find a Tobias, and last but not least a Diogenes.
Oh, and did I mention that all of this takes place in London?

There may be more, but I don't have the strength to go through that story again. It's sooooo bad. You get the idea, though.

The way I found the story in the first place was when I was looking up 'Jew Pawnbroker Tottenham Court Road' in Google. You know, like the one in 'The Cardboard Box' (CARD). That's when the line "from a Jew broker in Tottenham Court Road" appeared. The actual line from CARD is "at a Jew Broker's in Tottenham Court Road." Now, come on. That's waaaaay too close to be nothing. But, there was no way to make a solid connection, so this had to remain just bizarre happenstance.

One a side note, I remember that I made my frustration about the pawnshop known in the paper with this:


So, on to my latest find. It was in The Illustrated London News from November 27, 1886. I was just scanning pages when a name caught my eye. I stopped, looked at it in a blinky-blinky way, and then saw something else. Then more. After scanning the whole page I had come across another Farce type thing.


Before we get to what I saw intially, I'll show you some other things from around the page. It's in three columns, and the first one (and part of the second) is about art exhibitions. There's nothing in there, unless you want to get silly. "Oh my gosh! There's the word 'the.' Holmes says 'the' in a lot of stories!" There are some words that do appear in The Canon, but nothing like what's in the other columns.

It was nice to see this name...


Another happy find was this classic Canonical conundrum, even though I am taking it out of context...


It was also very cool to see the name of the grandfather of noted Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould...


What I saw was what's in the first circle here. I found this article on Google Books, and the copy wasn't very good. Quite hard to read. So, I looked it up on British Newspaper Archives and found the bits I've used here. (It's soooo much clearer.) On Google Books I thought what I saw was the name 'Dr. Hill Barton' but it turned out to be Burton. Regardless, that's still really close. As I looked at it, somewhat astounded, I noticed the name in the third circle. Then, what was in the second. Very cool.


Now, I realize that this doesn't actually mean anything. These kinds of groupings are probably more common than I think, but in the past I've found them when looking through whole publications. Like Punch or The London Gazette. It's easy to go through one of them and collect many Canonical words and phrases. But when I find a tight little gathering of them I start wondering if they could possibly have anything to do with what we would see later on in The Sacred Writings.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I look for. I wasn't expecting to find all of these in one spot, but I love that I did. It will help keep my fingers (proverbially) walking through old pages in the hopes something's there.

If you've ever come across something like this, let me know. I'd love to hear about it. Until then, I'll see you next time. And as always...thanks for reading.

Friday, April 12, 2019

1975 Was A Very Good Year!

This month's Great Historical Collection Reduction giveaway is a gorgeous four-volume set of books that were printed in 1975. The excitement around these was immediate, and there have already been a couple of dozen folks who've sent in the right answer to the trivia question (which will be at the bottom of this post).


When I went to examine the books it occurred to me that two of them hadn't been opened in a long time. The spines were resistant. Heck, they might not have ever been opened. One was a little less resistant, and the fourth was a bit easier. There are no marks, damage, or wear to the pages inside. They are perfect. The outsides are excellent, but not perfect. The first picture I took of them was in my office in low light. The flash went off, and what it captured was the surface wear that is basically invisible to the naked eye. I'm including it even though it isn't a true representation of what the books look like.


You can see some of the wear spots where the books were slid off a shelf from between themselves or other books. The covers are not perfect, but they are in excellent shape. The picture I used on Facebook is a more correct shot for what one sees when looking at the books in real light. It also shows the color better.


The spines on them are immaculate. They really pop.


As I said, the books are from 1975. I don't believe a reprint was ever done as all the ones I found online were from 1975. (They were also being sold as a set for prices from about 25 bucks to 50.) Here's a shot of the date page, even though it's a terrible picture.


So, there you have it. This month's giveaway would make handsome additions to your editions.


The trivia question this month is:

Name the stories where 'scrap-books' are mentioned.

(Now, that includes 'scrap-books' and 'scrapbooks.')
Make sure to send me your answer(s) on Messenger or by email at [email protected] I am happy to answer any questions about the books, so ask away. Also, don't forget that I will include a little something in the shipment. Could be anything, but it will be Sherlockian. Good luck!

I'll see you next time, and as always...thanks for reading.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Best. Dayton. Conference. Ever!

Last weekend I attended a gathering of Sherlockians known as Holmes, Doyle, and Friends (HD&F). This was the 6th such gathering since it took that name and had a re-birth of sorts. In 1981 it began as The Arthur Conan Doyle Symposium, and held that name for a very long time. (In fact, when I moved to Indianapolis in 1996, I found a t-shirt at a thrift store from the conference from the early 1990's. I wish I still had it, but I literally wore it out.) After a number of rocky years, it was given a new chance to shine, and it hasn't disappointed. This year's was the best yet, and I want to tell you all about it.


In order to bore you right up front, I'll tell you that my drive out on Friday to attend the reception was wonderful. I believe it was the first time I'd ever driven to Dayton with no construction slowing everything down. I turned on Sirius/XM's Elvis Channel, grabbed a tasty beverage, and had a wonderful afternoon drive. Upon arrival I had a quick bite and discovered a slight problem with my hotel room. Once corrected, I headed to the reception to see a lot of familiar and friendly faces. After the party I headed back to my room to pratice my presentation one last time, and hit the sack.

(Photo by Steven Doyle)

Breakfast had, I checked in at the conference, found a good seat, and did some chit-chatting. Dealers of all sorts of things Sherlockian encircled the large room, and people mingled and bought. At 10 a.m. it was time for the speakers to take the stage. Dan Andriacco, the ring-master for the Dayton events, introduced the first speaker - Bob Katz. Bob gave (from memory) a talk about how there's some proof that John Watson was a drummer boy in the Civil War. (I had just met Bob the night before, and he is a very nice gentleman. Oh, and he mentioned me in his talk. Helped how much I like him a lot!)

(Photo by Jacquelynn Bost Morris)

Next up was Susan Bailey. This lady is one of the most genuine people I've ever met, and she has become one of the foremost researchers in the Sherlockian galaxy in the last few years. She gave a frank talk about the real-life inspiration for Tonga from The Sign of [the] Four (SIGN). Here's a shot of her with yours truly. (I didn't have time to smile.)

(Photo by Steven Doyle)

Ann Margaret Lewis was up next, and she took us through one of the lesser-discussed points in The Canon - the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. She explained what everything was, and we even got to hear examples of the music that is being referred to. (Motets are defined as a short piece of sacred choral music, typically polyphonic and unaccompanied. Lassus was a composer.)

(Photo by Marcy Mahle)

The inimitable Scott Monty was behind the mic next. He gave a hilarious talk about brand names in The Canon. It's amazing how many he found, and he had us in stitches.

(Photo by Jacquelynn Bost Morris)

After Scott was teacher Susan Neihart Carlisle. She gave us a peek into her Tennessee classroom, and her teaching style. It's heavily Sherlockian, and she uses The Canon and Holmes's methods in her teaching. It was an amazing talk, and one that got a hearty round of applause.

(Photo by unknown)

Jeffrey Marks then took the mic to give us a look into the life of eminent Sherlockian Anthony Boucher. A nice addition was the part about the Rathbone/Bruce radio plays. Some fascinating info came out of that talk that I may use at a later date.

(Photo by Marcy Mahle)

I was next on the program, and I got to give a repeat of a talk from five years before titled 'Around the World in 63,540 Days.' It's a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon meets Connections (the James Burke show) kind of thing. It's so much fun to give, and it really gets a lot of laughs from the audience. I was so pleased with the reception of it, and can only hope I get to expand upon the idea some day. (The 63,540 day spread is basically the number of days between the earliest and latest events in the talk.)

(Photo by Jacquelynn Bost Morris)

Finishing out the day was Regina Stinson. Regina is an amazing Sherlockian who runs her own club in Detroit. Her talk was a chronological look at the Holmes filmography. She mixed in some clips, and had some opinions to give about some of the really bad movies out there. It was the perfect presentation to end the day.

(Photo by Jacquelynn Bost Morris)

The whole thing is a mixed effort by a number of people, all belonging to a scion society named The Agra Treasurers from Dayton, OH. They truly do an amazing job. This year saw a record crowd, and I understand that next year is going to be even bigger.

For those of us who continued to attend even when things were less than wonderful, this is a true pleasure. It's such a midwest institution for we faithful, and it was necessary to keep going to make sure it didn't go away completely. What we've all got to experience for the last few years has been the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of great people. I offer my congratulations, and am really looking forward to next year.

(On a side note, I was listed on the program as a BSI member. I don't bring this up to embarrass anyone, it was just a mistake. However, a number of people have contacted me about it and asked when that happened. Well, it hasn't. I'm not a BSI member. Just wanted to clear that up.)

(Photo by Jacquelynn Bost Morris)

So, if you can fit it into your calendar, make plans to attend this event next year. It will fill up quickly, so keep an eye out for announcements about it on Facebook. It promises to be another great conference, and you'll have a great time. Anyway, I'll see you next time (on here), and as always...thanks for reading.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Few Words About A Few Words

One of the things that chronologists deal with is terminology. Just like today, a word or phrase can place you in a certain time. (I don't use "far out" much anymore, but do when I'm trying to sound really cool.) I had never really thought about this problem until one night at a meeting of my home society. I was discussing 'The Sussex Vampire' (SUSS) and how I had dated it differently than anyone else based on a particular word. (I discuss it below.) And that's when something happened which changed my chronological world...


A member mentioned that it might be possible that Watson could've used a word while editing that may not have been in use at the exact time the story events took place. That really blew my mind. If Watson waited years before publishing a story, he might've tossed in a current buzzword that wasn't around years before. Now, I know they weren't as common then as now, but it still happened. And the one from SUSS is a perfect example of it.

But, this post isn't about dating stories that way. It's about unusual words found in The Canon. I cover some of them in passing in a previous posts (which I know you've all read dozens of times), but I have a whole list of others to present today. (We'll do phrases another time.) So, let's get started.


I used to have a Facebook Page called 'Bitterbumps and Hurry-Scurry.' It was dedicated to dead, unused, obsolete, archaic, and unusual words. Some of the ones on this list made it on there. Sadly, the Page is now gone, but my love of words hasn't waned in any way. I still love reading dictionaries just for fun, and always will. Anyway, let's start at A, and use the Canonical line that contains that word for each example.

"For God's sake, Ettie, let it stand at that!" he cried. "Will you ruin your life and my own for the sake of this promise? Follow your heart, acushla!"
This word appears several times in The Valley of Fear (VALL). It's an Irish term for darling or sweetheart. Similarly, macushla translates about the same way, and was featured in the movie 'Million Dollar Baby' (which I've never seen). It was also the title of a song from 1910, so it was definitely around at the time of Holmes and Watson.

"He jumped up when he heard my business, and I had my whistle to my lips to call a couple of river police, who were round the corner, but he seemed to have no heart in him, and he held out his hands quietly enough for the darbies."
...
"Just hold out while I fix the derbies."
The top line is from 'The Cardboard Box' (CARD), and the bottom one is from 'The Red-Headed League' (REDH). Each represents the only time both occur in The Writings, and they both mean the same thing - handcuffs. It's slang for the manacles, and both were used at the time. Kind of a unique situation for a term.


"A litter of empty tins showed that the place had been occupied for some time, and I saw, as my eyes became accustomed to the chequered light, a pannikin and a half-full bottle of spirits standing in the corner."
This word for a small metal drinking cup can be found in The Hound of the Baskervilles (HOUN). (A few lines later we hear of a 'tinned tongue.' Sounds lovely, but we won't be talking about it here...or showing any pictures.)

"These, though known for their valour and their breed, were whimpering in a cluster at the head of a deep dip or goyal, as we call it, upon the moor, some slinking away and some, with starting hackles and staring eyes, gazing down the narrow valley before them."
Also from HOUN, this one means a type of ravine or gully, but can be any type of depression in the ground.

"There was excellent wild duck shooting in the fens, remarkably good fishing, a small but select library, taken over, as I understood, from a former occupant, and a tolerable cook, so that it would be a fastidious man who could not put in a pleasant month there."
This one is from 'The Gloria Scott'(GLOR). It is a type of wetland. Over in 'A Case of Identity' (IDEN) you'll find a reference to Fenchurch Street. As you can guess, it is related.

"A worked antimacassar lay upon her lap and a basket of coloured silks stood upon a stool beside her."
Also from CARD, this one is a kind of cover used on chairs or sofas. A duvet or armcovers would be its equivalent.

(But not this...)

"It is an ordinary plumber's smoke rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to make it self-lighting."
A device used by plumbers that filled pipes with smoke so leaks could be found. They were also called smoke bombs. You'll find it in 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (SCAN).

"He'd had the quinsy and swollen glands when he was young, he told me, and it had left him with a weak throat, and a hesitating whispering fashion of speech."
This is a medical problem also known as a peritonsillar abscess. (Pleasent, eh?) From IDEN, it's basically tonsillitis.

"Vanderbilt and the yeggman."
Holmes mentions this when reading from his 'V' volume. It's one of the "unchronicled" cases. Mentioned in SUSS, as well, it is a word for a safecracker. (Or a burglar on a more basic level.) It's origin is debated, but I've read it's either Yiddish, Chinese, or Gypsy, which I mention below. This is the word that started the conversation I alluded to at the beginning of this post. I wrote about it way back in October of 2005, and posted that article on here in July of last year. Here's what I said about it...

The other problem is the first appearance of the word yegg or yeggman. Specifically it refers to a burglar or safecracker and it is most likely a Gypsy word or name originally meaning 'bomber.' Noting that the word refers to a burglar who cracks safes sloppily, perhaps by using poorly made bombs, solves the bomber/burglar problem. The first recorded use of the word in print is attributed to The New York Evening Post in June 1903. It became part of the British vernacular in or about 1900 but was around in the mid-1890's in the United States as a slang term. In a series of speeches given and published from 1904 on by William Pinkerton, of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, the word is used heavily and in one case was what the entire speech was about. Holmes would have likely read these accounts but not in time to set the date in 1897. As "yegg" did exist in street lingo prior to these articles it is possible for him to have heard it, maybe from the Irregulars. Even so, he probably would not have yet had it listed in his files and certainly not in capitalized form.

I eventually dated SUSS to November of 1901 based somewhat on the use of this word. But, if it's possible Watson used it out of time while editing, then you can't actually use it to help set a date. (I still like my date, by the way, regardless.)


So, there you have some of the odd examples of terms in The Canon. I know this info is available in most of the reference books we have in our Sherlockian book collections, but as always I add my own little twists to it so it isn't quite so stuffy and academic.

I'll give a full report of my travels to Dayton for Holmes, Doyle, and Friends VI when I get back. (Well, early in April I will.) See you then. And as always...thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First Three-fer Prize...for the Second Giveaway!

Well, a month has passed and it's time to give away more stuff. Our last winner got her package and a little something extra. I'll put a surprise in with the next shipment, too. This post will give you details about the products, but also to introduce a slight change. See, my old logo featured a Peterson churchwarden pipe, and I would never be able to use it in any official way. (Also, the pipe was a new one, and didn't exist in Holmes's time.) I went online and found a true 19th century clay pipe, and thus changed the logo to be more true to what I do here. The new version is below.


This month's giveaway is for three books. All are books of novels by Arthur Conan Doyle - Sherlockian and non-Sherlockian. I have more than enough books about and by ACD, so I hope I can find good homes for the ones I don't need anymore.


So, let's take a look at what's up for grabs.


Here is a series of photos that give ideas about quality. The books aren't perfect. At best they'd be good reading copies, but they don't smell, and have no major problems like loose pages or insect damage. I'll put a word or two of explanation with some of the pictures.

The dust jacket of the Sherlockian (smaller) book has obvious wear. It isn't ripped or damaged in any way, but it has been used and slid between other books many, many times. As you can see in the above picture, the spine is faded. The book is clean on the inside. No writing or the like.
At some point the back bottom got wet, and the color bled some. The book has slight discoloration, but not too bad. The next two photos show the color bleed.
Now, about the two-volume set...
Whoever owned them made sure to notate who read what when. Both have these kinds of writing in them, but there is considerably less in Volume Two.
Each book has a review in it that appears to have been cut out of some magazine or book. They're stapled, but the staples have not stained the book pages.
Each is embossed with this seal showing they are from the collection of Robert Burr - a noted Sherlockian from Ilinois.

The two volume set has beautiful dust jackets. There are a couple of very minor corner bumps, but otherwise they are perfect. The books sat on a shelf near a window for far too long - there is yellowing of the page edges throughout them both. The books aren't damaged in any way, but the sunstaining is very evident.


I know these aren't great finds, but remember that I don't collect for value. Price stickers, writing, folded corners (even though I don't do that), tape marks...all of these things show where a book has been. I love that kind of character. It's fun to try and deduce what those things mean.


If you have any questions, or need different pictures, just let me know. I'll be happy to respond muy rapido.

The trivia question this time is:
Name the two French artists Holmes mentions by name in The Canon - and name the stories.
(Remember to send me your answers on Messenger or by email at [email protected])

Correct answers are already coming in, so if you're interested get your in now. I charge no shipping, and I get them out soon after the 16th (the date of each drawing). I'll see you for the next blog post, and as always...thanks for reading.