On March 1st 1890 publishers J.P. Lippincott & Co. release for the very first time in America, “A Study in Scarlet”. This is the first ever story featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
It was written and published in Britain 4 years earlier by the then 27 year old Arthur Doyle. Doyle was a physician without hardly a patient, so he would spend much of his downtime in his empty, yet open offices, writing fanciful works of fiction.
Written in just three short weeks, these characters that Doyle created would prove to be timeless. Since they were written into existence some 132 years ago; Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been portrayed in over 25,000 productions and products. Originating with Doyle’s own depiction in 4 novels and 56 short stories, the characters were quickly cast into plays, games, comics, books by other authors, radio shows, film and eventually television.
Doyle was not as big a fan of Sherlock as the rest of us, plotting to kill the character off several times to pursue other works. Sherlock survived in part because publishers were willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for new adventures. And at one point because Doyle’s own mother forbade him from killing off her favorite literary character.
A Study in Scarlet
TIMELINE: Set in 1881, Written in 1886, Published in 1887, and released to American Audiences in 1890
This book contains two separate stories. In the first Dr. Watson meets Sherlock (while looking for an affordable room to rent) and together they end-up investigating a corpse found at a derelict house in Brixton, London with the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.
While Sherlock sets out to find the culprit, the police announce that they have the murderer in custody, only to be presented with another victim. In the end Sherlock solves the case (of course) in a fashion that leaves everyone, even the reader, surprised.
In the second story, Sherlock and Watson make their way to America where they investigate another murder amidst the Mormon community. (Something Doyle would later end-up apologizing for.) In the final chapter, Doyle connects the two stories and the reader is left once again in an ah-ha moment.
Thanks to Project Gutenberg you can read the book in its entirety below.
For more Sherlock Holmes content see these articles:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – July 7th Sherlock Holmes Returns – August 30th
Joseph Bell – October 4th The Death of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson – December 1st
The Hound of Baskervilles – April 15th
The Adventure of the Empty House – September 26th
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Not only was “A Study in Scarlet” the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, it is also said to be the first time a magnifying glass was used as a detective’s tool.
When explaining the creation of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle stated, “I tried to build up a scientific detective who solved cases on his own merits and not through the folly of the criminal”.