A case study of early British Sherlockian fandom

  • Katharine Brombley University of Portsmouth
Keywords: Autographs, Celebrity, Collecting, Fan letters, Graphology, The Great Game, Sherlock Holmes, The Strand Magazine


Previous studies of Sherlock Holmes fandom have concentrated on fan letters as being exemplary of the early beginnings of the Great Game: a fantasy played by fans that acts upon the belief that Sherlock Holmes exists. Fans, while fully comprehending that it is indeed a fantasy or a game, perform fan activities such as historical and literary analysis as if Holmes were real. This paper shifts the focus away from letter writing as the central means of the expression of this ironic belief and looks at the example of collecting autographs as a means of celebration of the canon. It places the autograph in its historical context of being the meeting point between the remnants of the Romantic theory of genius, the development of pseudosciences such as the interpretation of handwriting, and the literary, cultural, and commercial landscape in which Holmes appeared.