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  American Philatelist
Journal of the American Philatelic Society
April, 2001, p 380. Vol. 115, No.4 (Whole No. 1,203).
All text herein Copyright
© Dr. William R. Hanson, 2000,
and used here with permission.

The Philatelic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Larry Dodson. Published in 2000
as Handbook #139 by the American Topical Assoc.
Paperbound 5x9 72 pg.
Available from the publisher for $12 plus $2 s&h:
ATA, POB 50820, Albuquerque, NM 87181-0820.

 

reviewed by Dr. William R. Hanson

APS139397

 
Being a Sherlockian, I eagerly anticipated this handbook; as expected from the ATA it's neatly put together, cleanly printed with mostly clear illustrations. Unfortunately, going through it leaves one strong impression, this is a work in desperate need of an editor, not so much for the text, but to sort the jumble into a more logical system and weed out the repetitiousness. This is a small topic, yet the author has chosen to break it down into minute categories and subcategories sufficient for huge topics such as flowers, space or art on stamps. Instead of listing the far less than 50 emissions which directly relate chronologically, or by country of issue, he lists a few depicting Holmes portrait, one showing Watson with Holmes (of which there are a number), and then stamps depicting particular adventures, with countries and dates of issue all jumbled together, and sets broken up. The two cartoon versions, Goofy as Sherlock at Easter, and "The Great Mouse Detective" are relegated to yet another category, after actors who played Holmes on the stage or screen, or directed Holmes movies, and the Sherlock Holmes locomotive pair is fitted in after musical personalities who are mentioned in the Canon!!

Notably, he fails to mention Bhutan souvenir sheet (Scott #195) depicting the Northumberland Hotel with Sherlock Holmes profile in gold on the nameboards, and where important scenes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" take place, in spite of the fact it's been cataloged for a decade. Likewise there is no mention of the Canadian booklet of 42c stamps with Holmes silhouette on the cover.

For some reason Mr. Dodson arbitrarily choose to include two special categories: actors and directors involved with Holmes productions in some manner (and this is where he decided to place Guernsey #578 and Comm. of Dominica #1845d, even though each shows Basil Rathbone in full Holmes costume); the other category is musicians and composers mentioned in the Canon, which is basically a rehash of Ted Friedman's excellent article in Topical Time. If you're going to include CERTAIN people mentioned in the Canon, why not include the rest: Queen Victoria, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Pope Leo XIII, and many others portrayed on postage stamps; for that matter why not include places Watson specifically mentions visiting in the Canon: Covent Garden, the British Museum, Edinburgh Castle, etc., all would be just as worthy of inclusion.

At the back IS an index by country of all the stamps mentioned in the text, but here again the categories are jumbled, so you don't know if you're looking up a stamp depicting Chopin or of Holmes as seen through a magnifying glass. After you are done working your way through the book, you still have to compile your own checklist from the numerous categories into which the author has needlessly compartmentalized his data.

It is obvious the author has put in a great deal of time assembling his data, but useful as the information is, the confusing layout makes finding what you're looking for far more difficult than is necessary. "The Philatelic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" should really be considered a work-in-progress that with proper, extensive reorganization and the correction of omissions could be a really worthwhile addition to the literature on the subject; in fact, could become THE handbook for philatelic Sherlockians.