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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
The British Library holds a large collection of Conan Doyle material, and occasionally issues press releases about their holdings. However, some of those releases are no longer available from the BL website.
This archive preserves those releases, with the permission of the British Library, for public reference and use by researchers. The releases are given in chronological order and include the full text of the originals. If you know of other BL press releases, or have any corrections to the ones below, please contact me.
British Library press release originally posted at http://www.bl.uk/cgi-bin/press.cgi?story=1426
17 May 2004 :: Posted by British Library External Affairs
1. On 15 March 2004, Christie's announced the forthcoming sale of 'The Conan Doyle Collection' in London on 19 May. This prompted concerns in the media and from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle experts that the auction might possibly contain material due to the British Library under the terms of the Will of Dame Jean Bromet DBE, Conan Doyle's daughter, who died in 1997, and whose estate has not yet been distributed.
2. Following the announcement of the sale, in order both to safeguard for the nation its entitlement under Dame Jean's Will and to provide the necessary assurances in respect of the public interest in the Christie's sale, the Library has with legal advice actively sought clarity as to the provenance of the Conan Doyle material to be sold at Christie's.
3. The Library has obtained written and oral assurances from the executors of Dame Jean's Will and the consignors of the Christie's sale on the issues raised by Dame Jean's bequest and the Christie's sale of Conan Doyle material. However, it has not been possible to obtain documentary evidence to provide verification of all the assurances. The detailed position is as follows:
4. It is a matter of great regret to the Library that the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are being further dispersed through the Christie's sale. It considers that the Library would have been a fitting permanent home for this remaining central corpus of material. At the same time, it recognises that the integrity of the Conan Doyle archive has long been broken through previous sales and dispersals; indeed a Christie's spokesman has estimated that 70-75% of Conan Doyle's papers have been dissipated over the last 70 years.
British Library press release originally posted at http://www.bl.uk/cgi-bin/press.cgi?story=1429
21 May 2004 :: Posted by British Library External Affairs
The British Library has ensured that a significant corpus of the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - creator of the most famous of literary detectives, Sherlock Holmes - will remain in the public domain for access by scholars and researchers and the general public. Amidst the controversy generated by the auction of Conan Doyle material held yesterday, 19 May 2004, the Library acted decisively in the national interest to secure ten significant lots, comprising over 1,000 documents in all. The Library is currently seeking to secure other items that went unsold at auction; it will make a further announcement in due course.
Items the Library has secured for the nation include two issues of the hand-written magazine Conan Doyle produced when he was at school at Feldkirch in Austria, his unpublished first novel 'The Narrative of John Smith' which was thought not to survive, letters to him from his mother, his letters to his brother Innes and other family papers, including correspondence of his second wife, Jean and of his son Adrian.
Altogether the Library acquired over 1,200 Conan Doyle documents in the sale, an important addition to the 900 documents received by the Library under the terms of the bequest of his daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Lady Bromet.
Dr Clive Field, Director of Scholarship and Collections at the British Library said: "Over the last 70 years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's death, much of his original archive of papers has been scattered. Nonetheless it remains a matter of regret to the British Library that the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been further dispersed and that some items will now not be available for access and research. I believe we have taken the first serious steps to creating the nucleus of a public archive of Conan Doyle material which we shall be able to build on through a continuing process of purchase, donations and bequests in the future. We are extremely grateful for the widespread interest and support we have received for our efforts in this regard".
The Library plans in the coming weeks to mount an exhibition to display the Conan Doyle manuscripts. It is also keen to explore with other public collections the possibility of raising funds to establish a digital archive to reunite, 'virtually', as much of the original Conan Doyle archive as possible.
For further information please contact Catriona Finlayson at the British Library Press Office, London, NW1 2DB Tel: +44 (0)207 412 7115, email email@example.com
Notes for editors:
1. The following items were secured by the Library at auction:
2. On 15 March 2004, Christie's announced the sale of 'The Conan Doyle Collection' in London on 19 May. This prompted concerns in the media and from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle experts that the auction might possibly contain material due to the British Library under the terms of the Will of Dame Jean Bromet DBE, Conan Doyle's daughter, who died in 1997, and whose estate had not yet been distributed. In order to safeguard for the nation its entitlement under Dame Jean's Will and to provide the necessary assurances in respect of the public interest in the Christie's sale, the Library actively sought clarity as to the provenance of the Conan Doyle material to be sold at Christie's. The Library obtained written and oral assurances from the executors of Dame Jean's Will and the consignors of the Christie's sale on the issues raised by Dame Jean's bequest and the Christie's sale of Conan Doyle material.
British Library press release originally posted at: http://www.bl.uk/cgi-bin/press.cgi?story=1459
02 December 2004 :: Posted by External Affairs
The manuscript of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's unpublished first novel, 'The Narrative of John Smith', goes on display for the first time, along with letters, photographs, diaries and other previously unseen material, at the British Library from Thursday 2 December until Monday 31 January 2005.
An account book from 1902 reveals how indebted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was to his most famous creation, Sherlock Homes with recepits from the serialisation of the Hound of the Baskervilles to magazines including The Strand and American magazine McClure'. Conan Doyle totted up £2005/11s/8d in royalties for the month of April - equivalent to hundreds of thousands of pounds in today's money ....making today's million pound advances seem less extravagant.
The display includes letters and works from Conan Doyle's youth and apprenticeship as a writer, material illustrating the scale of the literary sensation of Sherlock Holmes and fascinating insights into the author's passionate interest in spiritualism and psychic phenomena in later life. This represents a small selection of the Conan Doyle material saved for the nation by the British Library this year. In addition 900 documents received under the terms of the bequest of the writer's daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Lady Bromet, the Library also bought 10 significant lots - comprising over 1,200 documents in all - at auction last May.
Writing in 1897, Conan Doyle said of 'The Narrative of John Smoth', which he believed to have been lost in the post years before, "I must in all honesty confess that my shock at its disappearance would be as nothing to my horror if it were suddenly to appear again - in print. If one or two other of my earlier efforts had also been lost in the post, my conscience would have been the lighter. This one was ... of a personal-social-political complexion. Had it appeared I should have probably awakened to find myself infamous, for it steered, as I remember it, perilously near to the libellous. However, it was safely lost, and that was the end of another of my first books."
Together with 'The Narrative of John Smith', the manuscript of 'The Adventure of the Retired Colourman' (1926) - one of the final Sherlock Homes mysteries he wrote - will feature. The display also includes a telegram sent by master escapologist Harry Houdini, thanking Conan Doyle for a visit, and the author's notes about the books and plays he was reading - along with jotted verdicts of each work. About Shakespeare's Henry VI he remarks: "Much struck by his blunders. No doubt that first part of Henry VI is his earliest."
Conan Doyle spent much of his life researching psychic phenomena and the spirit world. His diaries include notes on seances he held and attended, descriptions of dreams he had and newspaper clippings relating to earthquakes and other natural disasters, indicating that he may have regarded these as omens.
"We're delighted to have been able to save a substantial quantity of Conan Doyle manuscripts from dispersal," said Christopher Wright, Head of Manuscripts at the Library. "These acquisitions were further augmented by the bequest from Conan Doyle's daughter - not least an unequalled series of 800 letters he wrote to his mother. The present display gives some idea of the sheer richness of the collection which will now be available for scholars and researchers to explore."
The display will run until January 31, 2005, in the Front Hall of the British Library at St Pancras. Admission is free.
For more details please contact:
For more information please contact: Ben Sanderson or Catriona Finlayson, the British Library Press Office. Telephone: +44 (0)20 7412 7790/7115 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Notes for editors:
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The British Library's collections offer an unequalled treasure trove for the creative researcher: they include 150 million items from every era of written human history beginning with Chinese oracle bones dating from 300 BC, right up to today's newspapers. Further information is available on the Library's website.
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