Fascinating Facts About Sherlock Holmes

On the 22nd May 1859, the man who was to bring the world its most beloved fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. First appearing in print as far back as 1887, Sherlock Holmes has been synonymous with intellect, problem-solving and a knack for stating the obvious (in the wonderfully sarcastic isles of Britain, anyway!).

So, to pay tribute to literature's most famous detective, we have collected together our favourite facts about Sherlock Holmes which we're sure you'll have never heard...

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1. Sherlock Holmes is a Guinness World Record holder

In 2012, Guinness World Records announced that Sherlock Holmes had broken the record for the "Most Portrayed Literary Human Character in Film & TV" - an impressive feat! Although the most portrayed character overall is heavily disputed, usually with Sherlock and Dracula having a tussle for the number one spot (and who wouldn't want to see that battle play out!), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brainy detective officially tops the list for literary humans in film and TV. Since his creation, he has been played by over 75 actors and had starring roles on the big and small screens over 250 times.

2. Only one Sherlock Holmes story wasn't set in the Victorian or Edwardian periods

We will have all noticed the period backdrop to the stories of Sherlock Holmes. But in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's later collections of Sherlock Holmes short stories, the legendary detective is catching spies for British intelligence agencies, finally retiring and spending his days beekeeping!

3. Sherlock Holmes's parents are never mentioned in any of his stories

Not one mention - imagine being poor Roger and Daphne Holmes (presumed names!). You would be livid, right?! Though he was never the sentimental sort, the only mention of Sherlock Holmes's family in any of the Sherlock stories (apart from his brother, Mycroft) is in reference to his ancestors.

4. Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson"

"Elementary" - yes. "My dear Watson" - but, of course. The time-old combination of the two phrases, however - never once did it leave his lips. This, though, didn't stop it becoming a huge part of popular culture and part of Sherlockian folk law. If you're interested, it was apparently first uttered in the 1929 Clive Brook film The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

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5. Sherlock wasn't always going to be called "Sherlock"

Did you know he was almost named "Sherrinford" - just as great a name for a sleuth, or we think so anyway. The name "Sherlock" comes from (or so the tale goes) a combination of the names of two Nottinghamshire cricketers: Mortdecai Sherwin and Joseph Shacklock. Doyle himself was a keen (and talented) cricketer, so we'd like to think this is the true origin of Sherlock Holmes's name.

6. The name "Sherlock" is a little more popular than you might think... with animals anyway...

Despite his undeniable popularity, there haven't been that many children born bearing the name of this super sleuth. Just 5 new-born babies were given the name Sherlock in 2012, but, this was the most usages of the name in 17 years so maybe it's starting to make a comeback. According to the 1911 Census, the name did used to have some love as one entry from a family lists the names of two of their children as Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Now THAT'S dedication! But, bizarrely, in 2013 there were at least 30 pets sporting the name. So, why do people see the name as more suited to a dog than a child? We don't know for sure, but there is definitely something cute about the idea of a puppy called Sherlock Bones!

7. Sherlock used some detective techniques before real detectives did

Fingerprints - Sherlock. Identification of a suspect by their typewriter - Sherlock. Identifying blood stains - Sherlock. Gauging gunshot firing distance - do we need to go on..? In each of these cases, the great detective used his powers of deduction and scientific prowess to pioneer techniques before they were officially used by the police.

So, Sherlock fans, have any of our facts surprised you?

  • ATPSV
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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    HarperCollins is proud to present its incredible range of best-loved, essential classics. 'It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.' This collection of eleven stories depict Holmes and Watson at their very best and solving some of their most notorious cases, culminating in 'The Final Problem'. In this infamous tale, Holmes comes face-to-face with his greatest opponent, the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls. Each of the stories was previously published in The Strand magazine before being released together in a single volume in 1894. This is a quintessential collection, and a must-have for collectors and fans of one of the finest sleuths in English literature.
  • AAKHL
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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    A century after his first appearance, Sherlock Holmes continues to entertain audiences around the world, and has gained new fans with the success of the films starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. But the originals will always be the greatest, and this collection brings together both the short stories and longer novels that have made him, and loyal companion Watson, amongst literature's biggest sensations. Illustrated by the remarkable Sydney Paget, this is a must-have for anyone who is a big fan and wants to know Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest creation in closer detail.

  • ADAHG
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the series of short stories that made the fortunes of the Strand magazine, in which they were first published, and won immense popularity for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. The detective is at the height of his powers and the volume is full of famous cases, including 'The Red-Headed League', 'The Blue Carbuncle', and 'The Speckled Band'. Although Holmes gained a reputation for infallibility, Conan Doyle showed his own realism and feminism by having the great detective defeated by Irene Adler - the woman - in the very first story, 'A Scandal in Bohemia'. The editor of this volume, Richard Lancelyn Green is editor of The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. With John Michael Gibson, he compiled the Soho Series Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle.