"You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae," Dr. Watson observed about his friend Sherlock, early on in their relationship. And, indeed, the greater share of Sherlock Holmes's genius at his work is due to his love of the finer details that tell larger stories. So is it any wonder that his fans are likewise happily afflicted?
I was reminded of this today upon reading Ray Betzner's latest "Studies in Starrett" entry, "The Sherlockian World's Most Famous Bookplate, Part 1." What I love most about that title is the "Part 1." He's writing about a bookplate. And he has so much info that he had to split it into two parts.
And as Ray dubs it, the world's most famous Sherlockian bookplate, at that. I think when I first became aware that bookplates did exist, that was one of the first ones I ever saw. I'm not even sure where, at this point, whether in the library of a proud collector or reprinted in a book. It's one of those images that pops up a lot when dealing in Starrett's era of Sherlockiana.
But you can almost feel the delight coming off every detail in Ray's write-up about Starrett's bookplate and its connections to other people and things. I won't mention a one here, so as not to spoil the experience at reading the blog for yourself, but it's the kind of minutiae he writes about that are, perhaps, the great saving grace of the collector, as I've known them in the Sherlockian world.
Because true collecting isn't really about the rarity or the value of an object -- it's about the little piece of history that it represents. The best collectible items will always be the ones with some new secret to share with us, some bit of data we didn't have before that object came along. Good collections can have an invisible network of lore linking the individual objects within them, and a great collector is good at passing along the stories of what he's acquired over time.
And a simple, little thing like a bookplate can lead one to a lot of fascinating places.
I'm really looking forward to the second part of Ray Betzner's bookplate blog, for more of that marvelous minutiae that the Sherlockian world has such a great facility for. In a way, it feels as comfortable as sitting in one of the chairs by the hearth at 221B itself.