One of literature’s most famous detectives, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, is being honoured by a conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies on 21-22 June 2013, ‘Sherlock Holmes, Past and Present’. To provide a display of library materials to support the conference was a matter of course. Certain items were obvious candidates for display: for example, an issue of the Strand Magazine, the original publisher of 56 Holmes stories, and the first edition in book form of some Holmes stories, with Sidney Paget’s illustrations from the Strand Magazine – we chose the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Alongside these items, which have been in Senate House Library for more than half a century, we were able to show a recent acquisition. This was a sixteen-page, one-act play about Sherlock Holmes entitled Christmas Eve: An Unrecorded Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Sir Sydney Castle Roberts (1887–1966), Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and privately printed at Cambridge University Press. We further decided to approach Sherlock Holmes from the angle of Baker Street, using a special collection featuring books on London. Dickens’s Dictionary of London, 1896-1897 (Eighteenth Year): An Unconventional Handbook includes an entry for Baker-Street Bazaar, noticeable for Chinese and Japanese goods of which Sherlock Holmes sometimes made use. We also displayed the issues for 1891 and 1910 of the popular annual guidebook London: Illustrated by Twenty Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets. Whereas the map of the Marylebone Road area in the 1891 issue, which pre-dates the creation of Sherlock Holmes that July, does not show Baker Street, the map in the 1910 issue does – an indication of Sherlock Holmes’s popularity?