Part of the fine tuning of a Sherlockian mind is to sometimes look at the Canon of Sherlock Holmes from a historical perspective, rather than just as literature. Given, however, that so many of us fall into the collecting habit, there is another frame of reference that occasionally creeps in: that of the collector.
I realized this this morning as I was reading "The Cardboard Box" for tonight's gathering of the Peoria North Branch Library's Sherlock Holmes Story Society. (This particular reading was from the Memoirs edition of Les Klinger's Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, the more portable of his two annotated sets, and the more fan-centric of the two.) The following line caught my eye:
"Holmes scribbled a few words upon the back of one of his visiting cards and threw it over to Lestrade."
While I have a few reproductions of Holmes's visiting cards that were given to me over the years, I am pretty sure I don't own an original. And I am doubly sure that I don't own that original.
Can you imagine, if at some point early in the last century, some fan of Watson's works had been of the good fortune and presence of mind to attend Inspector Lestrade's estate sale? Yes, yes, in such a world we would also have legacy items of Holmes and Watson themselves, but we would hope that Lestrade preserved a few souvenirs of his work with the famous Sherlock Holmes as well.
And that visiting card, that one particular visiting card, would be a wonderful thing.
How many other physical objects contain Sherlock Holmes's solution to a case, laid out before even Watson knew what the answer was? In Holmes's own handwriting?
That minute bit of manuscript makes this particular visiting card from "The Cardboard Box" the visiting card, the most sought-after of all its brethren for the collector. Should such a thing exist, its owner would be a proud Sherlockian indeed.
And that is something else I love about such imagined collectibles from Watson's records: No one has them. When it comes to those, the greatest of Sherlockian items, we are all on equal footing, regardless of our wealth or proximity to London. Perhaps I betray a jealous side in making that statement, but if you have been bit by the collector's bug at all and possess no envy upon occasion, either you are a true innocent or an absolute liar. A touch of avarice comes tied with collecting gene.
And it's that touch of avarice that makes one's figurative collecting mouth water sometimes when reading of an item like that calling card in "The Cardboard Box." Such a perfect, yet untouchable collectible is the sort of dream of which we can't help but dream of acquiring.