12 New Book Covers Created for Sherlock Holmes’ 125th Anniversary

Many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-loved stories have never gotten their own covers—until now

Saturday, October 14 marks the 125th anniversary of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: the first collection of his short stories previously printed in The Strand Magazine. Despite the fact that they are amongst Sherlock’s most famous cases, few stories in this collection have ever received their own cover designs — an oversight that has now been corrected.

To celebrate this major milestone, twelve professional book designers from Reedsy have created exclusive new covers for each of these fantastic stories.

1. A Scandal in Bohemia

(Design: Rafael Andres/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Victorian Sextape”

What’s it about?

Holmes is hired by the King of Bohemia to recover a photograph showing him standing (fully-clothed) with his former lover, the American opera singer Irene Adler. In subsequent adaptations, Irene Adler would frequently be recast as Holmes’s love interest — or in the case of the recent BBC series, a bisexual dominatrix extortionist Sherlock-stalker.

The New Cover

“After reading the story it was clear that the photograph was the concept to play with,” said illustrator and book designer Rafael Andres.

“The idea of obscuring the identity of the character was the first idea that came to my mind. I considered covering the face somehow, but I decided the empty collar would have more visual impact — so I researched a vintage photo, deleted the head and reconstructed the shirt collar.”

“Combined with the title, I wanted this design to have a hint of humor — after all, for a prince in Victorian times, losing one’s head would be considered extremely careless.”

2. The Red-Headed League

(Design: Annabel Brandon/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Gentlemen Prefer Non-Blondes”

What’s it about?

Holmes is visited by a red-headed pawnbroker who’s fallen into some good luck. There’s apparently a charitable organization in London that is simply giving money away to ginger blokes in exchange for doing menial tasks. As the poor red-head suspects (and as Holmes will undoubtedly prove) this league is not what it claims to be.

The New Cover

“I just love the idea of Fleet Street filled with hundreds of red-headed men fighting for the same job,” said designer Annabel Brandon. “I took a quick look at some great illustrators of hair like Gerrel Saunders, and Sara Herranz — and used their work as a jumping off point. But instead of showing the letters of the title as hair, I used the negative space — the hair being the sideshow to the subterfuge.”

3. A Case of Identity

(Design: Cinyee Chiu / Reedsy)

Also known as…

“The One Where Sherlock Lies to a Woman”

What’s it about?

A young woman, the recipient of a minor inheritance, comes to Holmes when her elusive fiancé disappears on her wedding day. The strange part is how this mystery beau made her promise to always be faithful to him — “even if something quite unforeseen” happens to him.

Holmes solves the mystery on the spot, yet chooses to shield his client’s delicate female psyche from the truth. Sherlock’s approach to human psychology is a little bit dated, to say the least.

The New Cover

“One of my favorite illustrators is Elly MacKay — who photographs her beautiful papercut artworks to create a real sense of depth in her designs,” says designer Cinyee Chiu.

“Inspired by her work, I played with the blur and the light with the two mysterious male characters in the story.”

4. The Boscombe Valley Mystery

(Design: Elie Huault/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Sherlock and Watson Hit the Road”

What’s it about?

Holmes and Watson take a trip to a rural community in Herefordshire to investigate the murder of a local landowner. The victim’s son has been charged with the crime, and it’s up to Sherlock to prove otherwise.

Like every Holmes story published in The Strand Magazine, The Boscombe Valley Mystery featured illustrations by Sidney Paget. It was Paget who, in this story, introduced the deerstalker hat which would become one of Sherlock’s signatures.

The New Cover

French designer and comic book illustrator Elie Huault created an evocative black-and-white cover that captures the beauty and the menace of the English countryside. The low-angle perspective hints at a voyeur hidden in the grass, teasing the notion that the real killer is close at hand.

5. The Five Orange Pips

(Design: Lara Evens/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Sherlock Holmes vs. The Ku Klux Klan”

What’s it about?

A young man reveals that his father and uncle have recently passed and that the latter had extensive dealings in the American Deep South. Before their deaths, each received a mysterious envelope containing orange seeds, marked with the letters “K.K.K.” Modern readers will figure out who the murderers are even before Holmes does.

The New Cover

“I drew the inspiration for my design from Victorian wallpapers,” said designer Lara Evens. “Some of these wallpapers were embedded with arsenic, which made the colors especially vibrant — but had the downside that they were deadly. Killers hidden in plain sight, if you like.”

“I created a detailed illustration which seems innocuous at first glance. Only after reading the story, or taking a closer look, does it become clear that the illustration is conveying the details of a macabre tragedy.”

6. The Man with the Twisted Lip

(Design: Laura Barrett/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Beggars Can Be Choosers”

What’s it about?

When respectable businessman Neville St Clair goes missing, Watson and Holmes head to the seedy opium dens of East London. A beggar is charged the murder… only for Holmes to reveal that the beggar and the victim are the same man! St Clair has been living a double life as a street bum — having long ago discovered how lucrative panhandling could be. This idea of wealthy beggars may seem unbelievable, but stranger things have happened.

The New Cover

Laura Barrett is a British designer and illustrator. Among her specialties are digital renderings of traditional Scherenschnitte or paper cutting designs.

“As the two character of the beggar and rich gentlemen are the same, I thought it might be nice to flip them and create an ornate frame,” Laura said.

To accentuate this theme of duality, Laura worked to create two skylines: the background, the relatively affluent areas surrounding St Paul’s Cathedral in the background, and London’s industrial docklands in the foreground.

7. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

(Design: Andy Allen/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“A Very Sherlock Christmas”

What’s it about?

It’s late December in London. Sherlock has to figure out how a Countess’s priceless jewel went missing and ended up in the neck of a Christmas goose. It’s a mystery that takes Holmes and Watson across the city — and is wrapped up in an ending that embraces the spirit of the season!

The New Cover

For his design, designer Andy Allen wanted to avoid rehashing old covers. “I was thinking of including the goose somewhere on the cover, but it feels a bit obvious, and it’s on most of the covers of previous editions.” Instead, Andy chose to focus on the gemstone that gave the story its title.

“Playing with typography is something I really enjoy doing, and this story has so many twists and turns that I wanted to experiment with how the title is revealed on the cover. The facets and reflections of the gemstone pick out different sections of the title in a random order, so the reader pieces it together themselves.”

8. The Adventure of the Speckled Band

(Design: Jake Clark/Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Dial ‘S’ for Snake”

What’s it about?

Helen Stoner (a young woman with a small inheritance, like the victim in “A Case of Identity”) fears that her stepfather is out to kill her. Just a few years before, her twin sister had died uttering her final words, “the speckled band!”

The story’s twist is fairly well-known: the “speckled band” of the title is a venomous snake which the stepfather used to kill Helen’s sister — a fate he intended for Helen until those pesky Baker Street boys got involved.

The New Cover

“I wanted to shake things up a bit — bringing in a modern style to my cover with a bit of a vintage feel,” said designer Jake Clark.

“I thought of a slightly out-of-focus look that you used to see in older film photos. So I mixed in some photo textures, distressed it some, and mixed in a blurry portion of the title, and kept a desaturated warm tone to help push that idea. With the snake wrapped around the silhouetted man’s arm, I was looking to create a dynamic focal point.”

9. The Engineer’s Thumb

(Design: Vince Haig / Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Who’s got one thumb and was almost murdered? This guy!”

What’s it about?

Injured engineer Victor Hatherley is being treated by Dr. Watson and recounts how his thumb was severed the night before. Like many victims in Conan Doyle’s stories, Hatherley was offered an enormous amount of money to do a simple job. Blinded by his greed, he notices too late that his employers are counterfeiters, and he narrowly escapes with his life (but not his thumb).

Sherlock, Watson and the police search the scene of the crime, only to discover that they are too late and the villains have escaped with their loot. It’s one of the only two stories where the villains get away from Holmes, scot free.

The New Cover

“The original idea was based around a mock technical illustration — like the diagrams you might see on a patent application,” said designer Vince Haig. “It would have been an ink sketch of a hand, with the thumb sliced into coins to represent the how the engineer was blinded by greed.”

“In the end, I scrapped the technical illustration part as it wasn’t working particularly well — and I went with a design that looks more photo-real but in keeping with the same concept.”

10. The Noble Bachelor

(Design: Phillip Gesser / Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Runaway Bride”

What’s it about?

Sherlock Holmes finds himself once more playing the role of marriage counselor.

A bride disappears from her wedding reception, and no one is more confused than the groom, Lord St Simon. Her dress and ring are found washed up in Hyde Park, and one of the few clues Holmes has to go by is an incident at the ceremony that saw a mysterious gentleman return the bride’s dropped bouquet. Who is this man? And is he responsible for the woman’s disappearance?

The New Cover

“My original concept worked around the image of smoke rings rising from a pipe to form the shape of three wedding rings,” said designer Phillip Gessert. “The idea was to hint towards a third person, the mysterious bachelor, interfering with the marriage at the center of the story.”

“This concept proved a little too enigmatic, and in the end, I took a simpler approach using a simple illustration of a bouquet.”

Phillip’s final design has nods towards the illustration style of the period and also provides a contrast between an image of a wedding bouquet and the titular bachelor — hinting at the role he will play in this mystery.

11. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

(Design: Heidi North / Reedsy)

Also known as…

“Dude, Where’s My Crown?”

What’s it about?

A banker takes a bejeweled crown home for safekeeping, and late one night, he discovers it in the clutches of his son, Arthur — with some priceless gems missing. Arthur refuses to speak, and nobody can figure out where the gems went (or how Arthur even got them off the crown). It’s up to Holmes to get to the bottom of the case.

The New Cover

“I design a lot of books for the gift market and wanted to give this story the same treatment,” said designer Heidi North, a former Art Director for Simon & Schuster whose portfolio includes covers for almost every major publisher.

“I have worked on some embossed “leatherette” covers with ribbon markers in the past. I wanted to keep a masculine feel for Sherlock Holmes with the leatherette look, but I added a sinister twist. I liked the dichotomy between the gift leatherette look and the sinister aspect.”

12. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

(Design: Jessica Bell / Reedsy)

Also known as….

Jane Eerie

What’s it about?

If there’s a recurring theme in Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, it’s that if someone wants to pay you more than you’re worth, something’s up. Young Violet Hunter is considering a position as a governess in a country estate. She’s offered an incredible salary with a number of strings attached, including the condition that she cut her long hair short. When this turns out to be just the tip of a creepy iceberg at the Copper Beeches estate, she calls for Sherlock Holmes.

The New Cover

With a plot that’s closer to a Victorian ghost story than an average Sherlock Holmes mystery, “The Copper Beeches” inspired designer Jessica Bell to create a cover that tips its hat to modern psychological thrillers and women’s fiction. The photograph of the woman could represent one of two women in the story, a mystery that’s only accentuated by the covering of her eyes.

About the Author

Martin Cavannagh is a staff writer at Reedsy, a curated marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers and marketers. Over 3,000 books have been produced via Reedsy since 2015.

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