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The popular conception of Sherlock Holmes varies depending on who you talk to. The most basic image is that he’s the guy who smokes a pipe and wields both a magnifying glass and his intellect to solve mysteries. He’s a mercurial brainiac, someone so smart that he coldly dismisses anyone who isn’t his mental equal. If you crack open what’s arguably the most important Sherlock Holmes book of all time, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, all of those impressions appear in some form or another. But what these generalizations leave out is that Holmes has all sorts of other moods—including total hilarity. In “The Red-Headed League,” after he and Watson burst into laughter over some absurd details of a mystery, Holmes says to a client, “There is if you will excuse me saying so, something just a little funny about it.” Most Holmes short story titles are each preceded by the phrase “The Adventure of…,” and when you re-read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, it makes sense. These are bonkers adventures first and complex mysteries second. 130 years later, it’s easy to see why this book is still so thrilling.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published in the United Kingdom on October 14, 1892, with a print run of 10,000 copies. On October 15, 1892, 4,500 copies of the American edition arrived. This was the third Sherlock Holmes book published overall, following the novels A Study In Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of the Four (1890). In total, there are only 60 total canonical Sherlock Holmes stories (not books) written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: four novels plus five collections, which together consist of 56 short