When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first conceived of Sherlock Holmes in 1887, he probably didn't anticipate that the "consulting detective" would become the world's favorite fictional investigative logician and eventually infiltrate everything from academic curricula to Hollywood. Just last year, the BBC produced a fantastic three-part modernization of the classic, which according to many critics eclipsed Guy Ritchie's effects-driven blockbuster of the same name, released several months earlier.
So massive and wide-reaching is the cult of Holmes that Stanford dedicated an entire project to the study of Sherlock Holmes. Discovering Sherlock Holmes features 12 of the greatest stories of the Sherlock Holmes canon from The Strand Magazine, where Sherlock first made his appearance, downloadable as free annotated, illustrated PDF's. A historical essay on Holmes' epoch contextualizes the stories and features rare vintage artwork by Sidney Paget, the original Sherlock illustrator.
Note: You can also find The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in Open Culture's collections of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks. Plus, the Free Movies collection houses three vintage Sherlock Holmes films - Dressed to Kill (1941), Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943) and Terror by Night (1946).
Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.