Paget, Wiles and the importance of illustration

Take a look at this advert that the Strand ran for The Valley of Fear, featuring a facsimile of the first page of Conan Doyle’s manuscript, complete with crossings-out and revisions:


The eagle-eyed among you will notice that, despite it being recognisably of Holmes, the illustration is not by Sidney Paget. Perhaps the most well-known of the Holmes illustrators, Paget’s illustrations were a huge part in shaping the popular image of Sherlock Holmes. As well as his work for Conan Doyle’s stories, he contributed to exhibitions at the Royal Academy, and drew for many different publications. Here are a couple of particularly well known examples of his illustrations for Sherlock Holmes stories: first Holmes and Watson discussing their case in ‘Silver Blaze’ (featuring Holmes in deerstalker and Inverness cape!), and secondly Holmes fighting his arch-enemy Moriarty at the Reichenbach falls in ‘The Final Problem; both tales are to be found in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Paget died in 1908 after suffering from a painful chest complaint.

The fantastic illustrations for The Valley of Fear are by Frank Wiles, and we will be looking at them in their original places in the story when we read each chapter. It is worth remembering that for the first readers of the story the illustrations were just as much a part of the experience as the writing. Have a think about how the illustrations impact on the way we read and interpret the tale. Anyway, it is a curious advert for the novel. I always think it makes it look as though Holmes has received the manuscript of his own story in the post. I would be curious to hear your ideas on why you think the manuscript was used to advertise the upcoming story.

Cheerio for now,



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