Sherlockian.Net: A note on early illustrations

by Theodore W. Skinner (, managing director, The Paget Press

A note about Sidney Paget

Although there have been many fine artists who have risen to the challenge of providing illustrations for the Sherlockian Canon, Sidney Paget stands out as the vanguard craftsman who literally created the personification of Sherlock Holmes. Relying on Watson's description of Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, Paget alone created the man who stepped out from the pages of Doyle's wonderful prose and into the world of our imagination. Those who followed Paget were mere imitators; some were good, and some were disparaging, but they all mimicked Paget. Actors were chosen more for their resemblance to Paget's Holmes than they were for their artistry upon the stage, and that inclination continues to this day, more than ninety years after Paget's pen was laid down for the last time.

The Paget Press was started to venerate the memory of Sidney Paget and to provide reproductions and memorabilia of his work to Sherlockians world wide. In addition to the work of Sidney Paget, The Paget Press has embraced the work of several of Paget's successors.

The little-known 'double illustrations'

In 1893, when Sidney Paget drew his immortal illustration of Holmes and Moriarty in their death struggle above the Reichenbach Falls, hand engraving and acid etching was still the only way to incorporate companion art into finished print. Due to its unusually large size, and for what would appear to be the first time, the engravers were required to divide the Paget Reichenbach drawing into two parts and etch each half onto a separate block for printing.

This use of double engravings, to produce a single large illustration, accounts for the tell-tale dividing line so readily visible at the horizontal mid-point of the drawing.

Whether or not Frank Wiles was influenced by the size of the Reichenbach Falls Illustration, which was Paget's largest and the only one (we believe) to require double engravings, is food for speculation. We do know that in 1914 and 1915 Wiles introduced the concept of legitimate double-drawings to the Canon for his illustration of The Valley of Fear.

Following the publication of The Valley of Fear the technique entered a dormant period until it was revived by A. Gilbert in 1921 for "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" and again in 1922 for the serialized adventure, "The Problem of Thor Bridge." Howard Elcock followed suit and adopted similar double-illustrations from 1923 through 1926 in "The Creeping Man," "The Three Garridebs," "The Illustrious Client," "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane." Finally, Frank Wiles enjoyed a reprisal in 1927 with his final double drawing (the last created) in "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger."

For sale from The Paget Press

[Paget Press logo]
The complete collection of Sidney Paget's illustrations as originally printed in The Strand Magazine, in individual reproductions (8 1/2 x 11) -- $5.95, (11 x 17) -- $9.95 US. The Double Drawings by Frank Wiles, A. Gilbert and Howard Elcock, spliced together and presented as a single illustration. (8 1/2 x 11) -- $6.95, (11 x 17) -- $10.95. All reproductions are printed on heavy card/framing stock. Add $1.75 shipping and handling, All orders pre-paid. Please identify which Illustration, from whichever story in the Canon, you desire.

The Paget Press, Inc.
5215 North Illinois Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46208

Technical note

I have computer enhanced more than 300 of the other Strand illustrations which are also in the book I hope to publish.

The "doubles" presented some tricky problems in that the shading and contrast of the two halves was very different from page to page. I scanned each half into my computer using one set of software, I "stitched" them together using a different set of software, I edited them (pixel by pixel) using a third set of software and I finally printed them with a fourth set of software. Each set of software had some unique qualities for the purpose it was used and I narrowed them down after going through 13 different software packages. Once I found the right software and then experimented with its settings, it took me about three days per drawing to get an acceptable recipe for printing.

Some of the illustrations were reproduced in the Sherlock Holmes Journal, summer 1999.

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