On March 2nd… Beeton’s Birthday

by Julian Portch, photograph of crayon drawing, (circa 1853)

On March 2, 1831, Samuel Orchart Beeton was born in London.

To the rest of the world, if the name Beeton means anything, it brings to mind Isabella Beeton’s classic Book of Household Management, a staple reference for British households for well over a century and, as of this writing, still in print.

In the world of Sherlock Holmes, however, the name means only one thing: Beeton’s Christmas Annual. More specifically, it means the 1887 edition with its image of a boy lighting a lamp and the title, A Study in Scarlet, featured so prominently that it dwarfs all the others, and may as well be the only one in the magazine. Which is, of course, how it should be.

The eponymous publisher of the Christmas Annual did not live to see this particular issue, having died of tuberculous ten years before. He had a rapid rise to the top and just as fast a fall. Before he died, Beeton found himself forced to sell off to Ward, Lock, and Taylor.

Original copies of the magazine are valuable collector’s items, considered “”the most expensive magazine in the world” by the Antique Trader Vintage Magazines Price Guide. A copy sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $156,000.

From the great volume A Curious Collection of Dates by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”). Additional information from Randall Stock’s “Best of Sherlock Holmes“.

Posted by Chips and Selena Buttons, co-columnists.