Friday, May 7, 2021

A new tool to be added to your Sherlockian toolbox

 I don't get into my day job on this blog, but one of the parts of it is working with a software that is always under development. It's makers are constant adding new parts and pieces, new abilities, and then kind of going "you guys figure out the best use for this." And with their substantial user base, and the more clever among my ilk, folks do often come up with some pretty good ways to use the latest thing.

One of Sherlock Holmes's greatest strengths was doing that very thing -- looking at techniques and tools from other professions and going "How can this benefit detection?" It's a very human talent that has served us well, for the most part. I bring all this up, because this week, somebody handed Sherlockians a tool that we don't quite know the best use for yet.

The energetic and imaginative mind of Paul Thomas Miller gave us "Chapter and Verse Holmes" this week, a version of the complete (depending upon where you are, due to copyright) Canon that has Bible-like numbering of each line of the sixty stories. We've been using the Jay Finley Christ abbreviations for a very long time now (much to the whiney consternation of some anti-Christs) and this takes it to the next level.

Remember when Watson considered breaking up with Holmes? (STUD 1: 60)

Now, you're probably going "Sure, you saved time typing that reference, Brad, but I don't have 'Chapter and Verse Holmes,' despite the fact you linked in in this post twice now!" True, but you know what that also means? I now have a secret code for communicating with my fellow adoptees of "Chapter and Verse Holmes" for passing messages in Canon-speak.

The Porlock-like use of this new work for secret messages is just one of the potential applications for it. Paul didn't create it for that, but like I said, we humans like to find other uses for our tools. It's what we do.

Over the decades, Sherlockians have been handed a lot of tools for our study of Sherlock. Getting a "search" function for the Canon was a very big deal, but before that, we had concordances -- three different ones, each created with different thoughts in mind. Now, you might wonder what use a concordance has when searches are available, but can a search engine find every first name in the Canon? Can it list every insect? Nope. Concordances are still great for subject listings.

Sherlockians have traditionally like to do a massive amount of work to hand their fellow Sherlockians a treat, and some go really go that obsessive extra mile. Sherlockian chronologists fall into that category and since Paul Thomas Miller has already done that deed once, we can certainly see he has the gene for it, and he's young enough that you have to wonder what comes next. Hopefully he'll never succumb to the Ron De Waal bug and try cataloging everything ever written about Sherlock Holmes, which was once almost possible and now is beyond the grasp of any mere mortal.

But he is to be much congratulated in this moment, however, for handing us one of those tools we can play with now or tuck away for use decades from now as suits our fancy. Get out there and download whatever version of "Chapter and Verse Holmes" that your local copyright restrictions allow -- it won't be there forever (at least not on Paul's site), and you may wish you had someday, especially if some of us annoyingly tell you things like "Quit STUD1:72!"


  1. You mention three concordances - it would be useful to give their titles and authors here.

    1. Good Old Index by William D. Goodrich
      The Canonical Compendium by Steve Clarkson
      Harrington's Canonical Index by Hugh T. Harrington