The 221B Baker Street illustration

I first drew the 221B Baker Street illustration in pen and ink in 1995. At that time I read the entire collection of sixty Sherlock Holmes stories twice in a row, back to back, and took notes of every detail I could find of the Baker Street flat which began to take shape in my imagination. In the years since that time, this illustration has appeared on many other other web sites, and in various languages including Sherlockian-Sherlock.com and Smithsonian.com. It has also appeared in print publications around the world such as the Financial Times in London.

This is the only depiction I know of that deals with the challenges found in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone and reconciles them with the various descriptions found in other stories. If one could just ignore that story, then constructing a floor plan would be very easy -- and most reconstructions of the Baker Street have apparently done just that. The Baker Street illustration published in Strand Magazine in 1950 addresses some of the problems in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone but doesn't deal with details found in other stories. I've posted my notes on every detail I've found so you can judge for yourself.

If you rotate illustration, new elements will jump out at you. But there is no need to flip your computer:




This is the new improved version

This is a new version, finally completed in 2008, thirteen years after the first version. During that time I have read these stories again and again, and have listened to them countless times in audio book form and have come across more details which should have been reflected in the illustration (these have also been added to the notes below).

So I cleaned up the original art, removed the parchment background (which obscured details and pointed to an era earlier than the 19th century) added new items, and re-created or moved existing items.

In the new version you can clearly see Watson's revolver in the open drawer of his desk as well as the relics from criminal (and non-criminal) cases scattered about, some of them mentioned in the stories (see if you can find the rock used as a murder weapon in The Boscombe Valley Mystery, the box with severed ears from The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, and the mask from The Adventure of the Yellow Face). Part of the masthead (Times) is now readable on the newspaper on the table. I have added shelves next to Watson's chair containing the American Encyclopedia as described in The Five Orange Pips. I've also added a cupboard containing oranges from the same story.

You can now clearly see the pipes in the pipe rack next to the sofa (settee), the correspondence pinned to the mantlepiece with a jack knife, and Holmes' messy chemical table with stains. You can now see an image of a woman in the photograph of Irene Adler. The "bullet-pocks" on the wall described in The Musgrave Ritual now look more like bullet holes. I also modified some of the furniture to have a more Victorian feel. I've made a new Persian slipper, and you can even see a little bit of the tobacco which was stored in the toe. You can also see pipes and cigars in the coal scuttle now.

The sofa has been moved to allow Holmes when curled upon it to observe Watson's face as he sits in his chair as described in The Resident Patient and The Adventure of the Cardboard Box. Also from the same stories, the framed picture of General Gordon and the unframed picture of Henry Ward Beecher are now actual portraits of these men. The dining table is now big enough to accomodate five people as indicated in The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor. Holmes' bed has been moved away from the wall to allow space behind the head board for Watson to hide as he did in The Adventure of the Dying Detective.

One item which is implied but not mentioned in the stories is a place to store all of Holmes' clothes, including his costumes when he went out disguised. Obviously there is a little space in his closet for garments which must be hung, and the second exit also could act as a closet. For items which could be folded and stored, there could be storage boxes under his bed. For all other implied spaces or items, there is always the floor above the sitting room, which must contain more than just Watson's bedroom.

I've also drawn a new sculpture of Sherlock Holmes' head from the The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone. This one does not have a bullet hole in it. The wax head in the The Adventure of the Empty House had a bullet hole, but that sculpture was only wax-colored because it was only required to cast a shadow on the screen of the window, while the Mazarin Stone head was a realistic facsimile convincing enough to fool people who saw it even at close range (and the head was detachable as Billy demonstrated in the story). I based this new head on the many Sidney Paget illustrations from the early Sherlock Holmes stories in Strand Magazine.

You have probably heard that Sidney Paget supposedly used his brother Walter as the model for Sherlock Holmes. Henry Paget, the older brother of Sidney and Walter, wrote that Sidney used no model at all for Sherlock Holmes, but as an artist myself, I find it incredible that someone could create realistic drawings of the same character from imagination over and over again for several years. It's just not the way illustrators work.

Drawing a person from imagination -- with all those details such as folds in the clothing, and lighting decisions -- is very time consuming (not to mention darn near impossible for most artists). It's much faster and more practical to just use a model, and
Two Sidney Paget depictions
of Sherlock Holmes
Walter Paget
(I removed his spectacles
from this photo)
Paget had tight deadlines for these monthly stories, not to mention convenient access to a model who was the spitting image of Holmes as he appeared in Strand magazine -- to the surprise of people in London who happened to run into Walter and greet him as Sherlock Holmes!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle complained that his character was not supposed to be as handsome as Walter, but eventually came to accept this as the face of Sherlock Holmes. And all subsequent portraits of Holmes by other Strand illustrators are based on the Sidney Paget depictions -- including ones by Walter himself who illustrated
dying detective
Walter Paget
self portrait?
The Adventure of the Dying Detective after Sidney's death.

I have a copy of the facsimile edition of the original illustrated stories as they appeared in Strand magazine, and have observed that each illustration which depicted the interior of the Baker Street flat was arranged to best portray that particular scene, and not necessarily to give us more data on the arrangement of the flat itself. The Sidney Paget illustrations teach us as much about Sidney Paget's own dwelling and furniture as they do of Baker Street, just as the drawings of Sherlock Holmes teach us as much about Sidney's brother as they do of the detective.

wontner
Arthur Wontner
I should mention that of all the actors who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes on the stage or in film, British actor Arthur Wontner is widely acknowledged as the man who most resembled the Sidney Paget depiction. He was born in London in 1875 and had been told for years that he resembled Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even said that he was the most qualified man to play the part. Wontner played Holmes in five films, and brought out the detective's studious and unruffled nature with a touch of levity in his performance, which is how Holmes is portrayed in the stories. When I watch these films I get the eerie feeling that I'm looking at the real Sherlock Holmes. Granted, these old movie plots deviated greatly from the original stories, and like many films of the 1930's suffered from poor picture and sound quality (and sometimes a bit of over-acting by some of the cast), but they are still great fun to watch.

The film plots which are most faithful to the original stories are still the Granada Television Series starring Jeremy Brett.

Back to details of this Baker Street illustration, some of these items such as the deadly black and white ivory box from The Adventure of the Dying Detective and any such evidence required by the court to try a criminal would have been subsequently taken away by the authorities. During the course of the stories, many items were brought in and later removed. Keep in mind this illustration is not a snapshot taken at any particular time during the chronology of Sherlock Holmes' long career. If that were the case, then many of the elements could not be included (for example, Watson's things would not be there during the time he had temporarily moved out). Rather than choose a specific point in time and exclude all objects which were not present at that moment, I chose to include everything from all the stories. It's like a collection of old watches that have completely stopped and yet each one in turn still gives the correct time throughout the day. This illustration can be used as a guide as you read all the stories.

The general impression of this new Baker Street illustration is of an old print from a wood engraving, which was the method of image reproduction still widely used in the 19th century.

What in the world am I looking at?

Here is the illustration with notes identifying the various objects mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories. If you click on the illustration at the top of this page, you will find a slightly different annotated version.

Would you like to own this illustration?
High resolution prints of this art are available on various products from Zazzle or CafePress.

A version that includes the 221B Baker Street title is also available from CafePress and the original version which many people still prefer is available at my other CafePress shop.




Here are some notes related to the Baker Street flat:
A Study in Scarlet
a couple of bedrooms
large airy sitting room
two broad windows
sofa in sitting room
arm chair
table for dinner
stairs going down to the street level
Holmes' door at top of stairs
also a passage at the top of the stairs
landlady passes their door to go to bed
The Sign of Four
cocaine bottle on corner of mantlepiece
velvet lined arm chair
gasogene and spirit case in corner
seventeen steps
Watson's room is upstairs of the sitting room
A Scandal in Bohemia
gasogene and spirit case in corner
seventeen steps
The Five Orange Pips
chairs on either side of the fireplace
lamp by Holmes' chair
coat hook
side board
shelf next to Watson's chair containing the American Encyclopedia
cupboard containing oranges
Watson's room is upstairs of the sitting room
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
Pipe rack within reach on the right of the sofa
wooden chair
basket chair
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Watson's room is upstairs of the sitting room and it has a mantlepiece with a clock
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
two easy chairs
line of reference books beside the mantlepiece.
The Adventure of the Beryl Cornet
one bow window
window big enough for Watson to stand in
window big enough for Holmes to look over Watson's shoulder and see the street below
Holmes' chamber is upstairs of the sitting room
Watson's room is upstairs of the sitting room
The Musgrave Ritual
coal scuttle
Persian slipper
letters stuck to the center of the mantlepiece by a jack knife
"V.R." in bullet holes on the wall opposite Holmes' arm chair
chemicals and criminal relics
bundles of manuscript in every corner which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner
stool
large tin box in Holmes' bedroom.
The Resident Patient (also in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box)
framed picture of General Gordon with a corresponding bare space
unframed picture of Henry Ward Beecher which stands on top of Watson's books
Watson could see these from his chair
Holmes could see Watson's face from his position curled upon the sofa
The Adventure of the Priory School
bearskin hearthrug near the table
table was between the hearthrug and the door
The Adventure of Black Peter
a room just off the sitting room
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
lumber room upstairs of the sitting room which was packed with daily papers
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Holmes' chair at the breakfast table faces away from the hearthrug
the sofa is a settee
Watson has a small medical shelf of books placed high
The Adventure of the Dying Detective
Holmes' bedroom had pictures of celebrated criminals adorning every wall
black and white ivory box on mantlepiece
space behind the head of the bed large enough to allow Watson to hide
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
scientific charts on the wall
acid-charred bench of chemicals
violin case leaning in corner
coal scuttle containing pipes and tobacco
waiting room downstairs
bow window alcove large enough to hold a chair
curtain in front of this alcove
Holmes' bedroom is just off the sitting room*
second exit in Holmes' bedroom
gramophone in Holmes' bedroom
second door in Holmes' bedroom leading to the bow window behind the curtain
The Adventure of the Three Gables
low arm chair on one side of the fire
another chair opposite it
table between door and Holmes' chair
The Problem of Thor Bridge
back yard is visible from Watson's room
Watson's room is upstairs of the sitting room
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
pile of commonplace books in the corner
* A note regarding the location of Holmes' own bedroom: The Adventure of the Beryl Cornet implies that Holmes' room (called his "chamber") is on the floor above the sitting room while The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone clearly puts Holmes' bedroom just off the sitting room where it communicates with the alcove of the bow window. If you need to reconcile these two descriptions you can assume that at some point in time, Holmes moved his bed down to the room next to the sitting room. This could be the same room just off the sitting room which had been used as a temporary waiting room in The Adventure of Black Peter . The room upstairs could then be used as a lumber room dedicated to Holmes' stacks of newspapers and "bundles of manuscript ... which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner" as mentioned in the The Musgrave Ritual . The Adventure of the Six Napoleons does mention a lumber room upstairs packed with daily papers.

For those who were looking for the free downloadable copies of the old version, they are still available on my web site here. I haven't left you out in the cold, the free stuff is still free. Even the image of the new version on this page is big enough to download and print out as well. I know you will try it, so I won't tell you not to. Definitely not as sharp as the Zazzle product, but it is free.




Did you know...
The pen Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used when he wrote the later Sherlock Holmes stories was a Parker "Big Red" Duofold. This pen was introduced in 1921, and was originally made in red-orange hard rubber (ebonite). In a letter to Lord Molesworth, a member of the Parker board of directors, he wrote of the Duofold, I have at last met my affinity in pens.



The Parker Big Red Duofold
From Russ' collection, acquired from Len Provisor

More information and links related to fountain pens, especially in Japan, can be found at the Tokyo Fountain Pen Scene.




The Dancing Men in Japanese?

I thought it would be fun to create a code in Japanese based on characters from the Dancing Men story. I did it mainly for my kids, to give them something challenging to do. The Japanese hiragana system can be arranged on a grid, and is perfectly suited for codes like this because you can quickly zero in on characters by finding key elements along the top and left of the grid. My kids loved it, and I'm sure any Japanese Sherlockians out there will also find it amusing.




Here are some links of interest related to Sherlock Holmes:



Sherlock Holmes free e-books and stories by Arthur Conan Doyle:
A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of the Four
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Valley of Fear
His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
The Field Bazaar
How Watson Learned the Trick

Some Kindle editions of Sherlock Holmes books and related works:
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories
The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Complete Tales of Terror and Mystery
The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes For Dummies
Sherlock Holmes in America
The Science of Sherlock Holmes
The Sherlock Holmes Handbook
Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Second Edition
How Sherlock Holmes Lived: Victorian Customs
The Apocryphal Cases of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes books:
The Complete Sherlock Holmes: All 4 Novels and 56 Short Stories
The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Movies:
Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four / Triumph of Sherlock Holmes / Murder at the Baskervilles (Three films with Arthur Wontner)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone and others)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection (Basil Rathbone)
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Television Series (Ronald Howard)
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series (Jeremy Brett)
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Robert Downey Jr.)
Sherlock: Season 1(Benedict Cumberbatch)
Sherlock: Season 2 (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Sherlock: Season 3 (Benedict Cumberbatch, Original UK Version)

Sherlock Holmes Goodies:
Sherlock Holmes Cap
Sherlock Holmes Cap
Sherlock Holmes Cap
Sherlock Holmes Costume
Men's Sherlock Holmes Coat & Hat Sewing Pattern
Sherlock Holmes Costume Pipe
Sherlock Holmes Real Pipe
Sherlock Holmes Real Pipe
The Sherlock Holmes Handpainted Chess Set

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