I mentioned The Oxford Sherlock Holmes in an earlier blog post about "Sherlock Holmes in Print," but I thought I'd spend a little more time on the collection in this post. You see, I recently got a little closer to acquiring the whole set; I had found three of the nine volumes used online awhile back, and now I've just gotten two more, with two on the way. Finally, I found the other two volumes that I needed as Kindle ebooks, which will complete my Oxford collection. (Word of warning if you're looking for the individual volumes on Amazon: if you just search for "oxford sherlock holmes," you may get other editions of the books, without annotations, that Oxford University Press has released over the years. So be careful.)
Some Sherlockians may find the Oxford annotations to be rather a let-down, especially if they're used to Baring-Gould's Annotated Sherlock Holmes, or Leslie Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. The Oxford editors approach the canon purely from the standpoint of fictional literature, authored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No "Sherlockian Game" for the Oxford folks! However, the introductions are full of useful information about the publication history of the stories and novels, and many of the notes have useful background on historical references found in Doyle's work. Moreover, the Oxford notes quite usefully point out differences in text between English and American editions of the canon, as well as meanings of words that are different in modern usage, or words that are no longer used in contemporary English.
In a novel such as A Study in Scarlet, for example, which contains numerous references to Mormon history, the Oxford notes can be absolutely indispensable. A good example comes in A Study in Scarlet in the second part, which is, of course, mostly a flashback to Jefferson Hope's background in America on the Mormon frontier. One of the Mormons who rescues Lucy and John Ferrier refers to "the Angel Merona." The Oxford note reads as follow: "Angel Merona: the Angel was in fact called Moroni, whose Irishness ACD may have subconsciously rejected. He was the son of Mormon." (I can't help but think, the way the note is written, the syntax makes it seem as if ACD was the son of Mormon!) These kinds of historical/literary details are very useful to help the modern reader appreciate the Sherlock Holmes canon more fully.
The interested reader may like to know that the full 9-volume set of The Oxford Sherlock Holmes is available as a box set (pictured above), so it's not necessary to acquire the set piecemeal, as I have done over the past few years. However, it's rather pricy--$199 or more. Incidentally, the Kindle versions that I have of a couple of the volumes are nicely laid out, with in-text links to the annotations, which enable the reader to flip back and forth between text and note, without the tedious flipping of pages one has to do with the print versions. (In print, the notes are all at the end of the book, which enables the reader to read the stories without being interrupted constantly by footnotes.) I would say The Oxford Sherlock Holmes collection is a must for any serious Holmesian's collection.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.