Years ago when I took up the charge to tackle the subject of chronology, I knew I was going to need a system to follow that would help me make sense of the dozens of little facts and tidbits in each of the stories. I thought back on the days of seeing church-going friends of mine use highlighters in their Thompson-Chain Reference bibles and it gave me an idea. I gave it some thought, bought a five-pack of highlighters, and got to work on my beloved copies of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes.
Inside each of the 60 stories are pieces of info that would assist someone in not only putting together a chronology column/paper, but that would also help in writing a term paper or a presentation of some kind. To make sense of it all I needed to go through each tale and notate each of the necessary bits. I broke it down to five basic items, and thus used five different colors. They are as follows:
Any time there is a reference to the layout of 221b, or to Watson's wife/wives, or to the partnership in any way, I would use Blue.
Whenever the age of a canonical character, or something that helps determines their age, is mentioned directly, Green was used.
Orange was used to mark passages that referred to anything historical - a newspaper, a historical figure, a business, a word/phrase, etc.
Used when a past case is mentioned.
Denotes anything that directly concerns the dating of the story.
(I seem to remember someone else doing something similar to this, but for the life of me I can't find the info.)
A good example of what it looks like would be this page from 'The Adventure of the Second Stain.'
In this particular example the colors were used for the following items:
"...our humble room in Baker Street."
"...since he has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs."
"...Secretary of Foreign Affairs..."
"...since I have notes of many hundreds of cases to which I have never alluded..."
"It was, then, in a year, and even a decade, that shall be nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn..."
I colorized the text of my well-worn copies of The Annotated many years ago. Whenever I have to use the system nowadays I find that not all of the colors land true. Some of the things I have highlighted could be another color, especially when it comes to Blue and Yellow. For the most part, however, it seems to work. I also find myself highlighting things I had missed before. In fact, if you look closely at the picture you'll see that I completely missed using Pink in the very first few words of the story. (I need to fix that.)
Perhaps one day I'll find the strength to actually make liner notes in the books. Adding my own annotations to an annotated book...now that's the mark of a true scrutinizer.