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include two issues of the hand-written magazine Conan Doyle produced when he was at school at Feldkirch in Austria, his unpublished first novel ‘The Narrative of John Smith’ which was thought not to survive, letters to him from his mother, his letters to his brother Innes and other family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 more details please contact:

For further information please contact Catriona Finlayson at the British Library Press Office, London, NW1 2DB Tel: +44 (0)207 412 7115, email catriona.finlayson@bl.uk