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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlockians and other fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) are celebrating the author’s 150th birthday this month.  I wanted to mark the occasion by highlighting a few of the many Doyle works found in Special Collections’ Victorian and Edwardian literature collections.

Selected Doyle first editions in Special Collections

Selected Doyle first editions in Special Collections

Doyle began his writing career during his days as a medical student in Edinburgh, Scotland. He published his first short story and his first non-fiction medical article in the same month, September 1879.  He continued to publish a number of short stories in the early 1880’s, earning critical acclaim for his first tale of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, A Study in Scarlet, first published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887 and later published in book form.  The novel was successful enough that the publisher, Ward Lock, commissioned a sequel (The Sign of the Four).  Doyle also published a number of historical novels and other mysteries in serial form in such periodicals as The Cornhill.

Doyle found his greatest popular success in the early 1890’s with the Sherlock Holmes stories published in the Strand Magazine.  But Doyle began to fear that he would only be known as Holmes’ creator.  He published “The Final Problem,” in which Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty apparently perish.  This enabled Doyle to turn his attention to writing historical fiction, including the Brigadier Gerard stories and The Great Shadow (1892).  He also published other mysteries, medical stories, and two books defending British policy in the Boer War. Doyle returned to Holmes and Watson with The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1902, and, thanks to an offer of $45,000 from an American magazine, wrote the new stories collected in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905). Doyle continued to write in various genres: historical fiction (Sir Nigel, 1906), science fiction (The Lost World, 1912), and detective fiction (The Valley of Fear, serialized 1914-1915).  During the First World War, he served as a military correspondent and wrote several histories of the war from the perspective of the Allies.  In his last decade, Doyle published his memoirs and became a proponent of the spiritualist movement, the subject of most of his last books.

doyle-005 Special Collections owns many first editions of Doyle’s novels, including some inscribed by the author; periodicals in which Doyle’s stories and novels first appeared; and even the original manuscript copy of one of Doyle’s historical novels, The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents (published 1893).  To find them in the library catalog, limit your search to “Special Collections” in the “library” field, then perform an author search for “Doyle, Arthur Conan.” All the Doyle works in Special Collections can be accessed in our reading room.  Please be aware that Vault Collection items (which are noted as such next to the call number in the library’s catalog records) are only available before 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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