As fans eagerly await the U.S. return of the BBC television series “Sherlock” on Sunday to PBS (how did he survive that fall?!), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective is once again in the spotlight.
Not that he ever really left it. The current fascination is only the most recent chapter in a long history of Sherlockian enthusiasm.
Fortunately for Holmes devotees, UT’s Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library, holds an extensive collection of materials related to both the fictional character and his creator, including Doyle’s personal effects and papers, original manuscripts and Holmes memorabilia and tributes. In November the center launched a new online collection, making some of its Holmes highlights (along with more than 8,000 items from other collections) freely available for digital browsing and download.
Below, explore items from the collection, and be reminded that Sherlock Holmes lives on.
Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was unable to kill off his popular detective: pressure from fans led him to resurrect Holmes a decade after his apparent death at Reichenbach Falls, as this sticker from the Baker Street Irregulars (the first American Holmes fan society) attests. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Arthur Conan Doyle vertical file]
It’s unknown why Doyle filled out this autobiographical questionnaire in 1893, but the answers give a sense of his humorous side. His favorite occupation: “Work.” Favorite food and drink: “Anything when hungry – nothing when not.” [Source: Harry Ransom Center Arthur Conan Doyle papers
Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes in the novel “A Study in Scarlet,” which received several rejections before being published in the 1887 “Beeton’s Christmas Annual.” The 27-year-old Doyle wrote the novel in three weeks and received only £25 for the full rights. The Ransom Center holds one of the 11 complete copies known to exist. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Ellery Queen Book Collection
Holmes inspired all manner of fan creations, including this sonnet by Vincent Starrett, seen here in its rare original issue. “221B” — a nod to Holmes and Watson’s home office on Baker Street in London — was distributed at Christmas 1942. The timing added poignancy to the line, “Here, though the world explode, these two survive.” [Source: Harry Ransom Center Christopher Morley papers]
A manuscript page dated April 1891 from “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the first of the Sherlock Holmes short stories to be published in The Strand magazine later that year. The handwriting seen here is Doyle’s. This story is the only one that contains the famous character of Irene Adler, known as “the
woman” by Holmes. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Arthur Conan Doyle papers
This original illustration for “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” is one of 356 drawings Sidney Paget created for the original publication of the Sherlock Holmes tales in The Strand Magazine. It was Paget who would later put Holmes in the iconic deerstalker hat, which was never specifically mentioned by Doyle in any Holmes story. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Arthur Conan Doyle Art Collection
In 1934 writer and editor Christopher Morley founded the Baker Street Irregulars, a fan society that also counted Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman as honorary members. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Christopher Morley Papers]
In later life, Doyle developed a strong interest in spiritualism and the supernatural. This was his Ouija board. The Ransom Center also holds a large collection of Doyle’s spirit photographs, in which ghostly apparitions hover over the living. [Source: Harry Ransom Center Arthur Conan Doyle Personal Effects Collection. Photo: Pete Smith]
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