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"The date being–?" [CREE]

LitHub's erroneous claim

A number of sites across the Internet mentioned that December 1 is a day that Sherlock Holmes fans should celebrate, since Beeton's Christmas Annual — containing A Study in Scarlet — was published on that date in 1887. It would seem to make sense, as the beginning of December would be the natural time for a Christmas annual to make its way to the newsstand.

However, this is not the case.

No information about the exact date is to be found on the Annual itself, but since it's a Christmas publication, December would not be a terrible guess. The first thing to do is to check what the foremost experts on the subject have said about it, in this case A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle by Richard Lancelyn Green and John Michael Gibson. They mention that the Annual was issued in November 1887.

To get even closer to an exact publication date we must check the British newspapers for November 1887, searching for advertisements. And the very first one we find is in the Standard, November 21. It states that the Beeton's Christmas Annual is "Just Ready, in Picture Covers. One Shilling." The same advertisement is then repeated in the newspaper on several occasions that week, and it can also be found in other newspapers, e.g. the Daily News, November 22, the Yorkshire Post, November 23, and the Glasgow Herald, November 24. Remember: these were the days before Amazon's pre-order system was in place; Ward, Lock, and Co. wouldn't have advertised if the publication wasn't for sale yet.

The Nov. 21 ad in The Standard.

November 21 was a Monday, and no advertising for the Beeton's Christmas Annual can be found in the Standard during the previous week. In 1886 we find an advertisement for the Annual as early as Wednesday, November 17. And in 1885 on Monday, November 16.

We can therefore be sure that the 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual wasn't published on December 1, or on any other December date. It was definitely issued in November— most likely on November 21. If it had been published the week before, it seems strange that the publisher didn't advertise it.

Editor's note: Mattias Bostrom, together with Matt Laffey, is co-editor of the series of books Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle in the Newspapers, an exhaustive collection of contemporary news and commentary relating to the Great Detective and his creator.