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December 19, 2009

Autographed Holmes found in BSU library

MUNCIE — When the Ball State University library was young — during the late 1970s — students could check out a book autographed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes legend.

That open accessibility changed when librarians learned of the valuable book. It’s now in the special collections area of Bracken Library.

“It’s got one of the library’s old call numbers on the binding, so at one time, it was in the stacks,” acknowledged John Straw, assistant dean for digital initiative and special collection at Bracken.

“They (librarians) noticed it was signed and as soon as it was brought to their attention, it would have been moved here,” Straw said.

As a side note. The Herald Bulletin columnist Rodney Richey, a Ball State graduate, maintains that a fellow freshman discovered the book in the stacks and brought it to a librarian’s attention in the late 1970s.

However, Straw said he was not sure of the circumstances leading to the book’s discovery.

The book is now kept in the special archives on the second floor of the Bracken Library, along with other valuable books and letters.

Doyle’s signature accompanies the first book in a 24-volume set of his collected works. There were 760 numbered sets, each signed once by Doyle in the first volume.

The volumes include all of Doyle’s work, including the Sherlock Holmes series.

The set was published in 1930, the year that Doyle died. The signature is “A Conan Doyle,” which is slightly different from a letter signed “Arthur Conan Doyle” in 1911 by Doyle that is also in the Bracken archives.

That letter is addressed to Normal Angell, an English lecturer and journalist who won the Nobel prize in 1933. Much of Angell’s works were donated to Ball State.

Doyle wrote the letter upon publication of Angell’s “The Great Illusion.”

The public can still read the items, but none is to leave the library, Straw noted.

Contact Scott L. Miley, 648-4230, scott.miley@heraldbulletin.com

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