It was on this day in 1887 that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were first revealed to readers in the pages of Beeton’s Christmas Annual in the novella A Study in Scarlet. A mildly successful physician named Arthur Conan Doyle had written a story about a detective who was also a violin collector, philosopher, and amateur chemist. Conan Doyle had learned the basics of writing a short story from studying the works of Guy de Maupassant and learned the art of writing logically and with precision from his study of medical journals.
The original title for the novella was A Tangled Skein. Conan Doyle claimed to have written it in just three weeks. Other publishers deemed the story either too long for a single issue or too short for serialization, but Mr. Beeton’s wife, Mary Beeton, read the story and loved it. The magazine sold for one schilling and the issue sold out in 14 days, not because of Sherlock Holmes, but because it was the Christmas issue. Nevertheless, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson quickly became popular with readers, and led the way for fictional sleuths like Hercule Poirot and James Bond. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than 60 Holmes and Watson stories over the next 40 years.
This issue of Beeton’s is one of the rarest magazines in the world. Only 11 complete copies are left in existence; many were destroyed during enemy action during wartime. Several years ago, a complete issue sold at Sotheby’s for $157,000.