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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Very Public Library A Must for Sherlockians

I held the Noble Fragment in my own hands

At the first Gillette to Brett we attended, three years ago, we arrived late and skipped the opportunity to visit the Lilly Library on the Indiana University campus.
That was a big mistake which will never be repeated. In fact, I’d like to visit the Lilly sometime when I can stay for hours.
The Lilly is a Midwest treasure holding 400,000 books, 1230,000 pieces of sheet music, and about 7.5 million manuscripts. And here’s the best part: You don’t have to be a scholar to see and even touch these wonders. “Curiosity is enough,” director Joel Silver explained in a 40-minute presentation at the beginning of the weekend. 
Silver let us hold a First Folio of Shakespeare and a first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Later I gaped at the original manuscript of Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger and an early script of Citizen Kane, then known as American.
As you might expect, given the context, there is a strong Sherlockian bent to the Lilly collection. David A. Randall, the first director of the Lilly Library, was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. And I so we got to hold “The Noble Fragment” – Holmes’s Reichenbach Falls note to Dr. Watson, written in Arthur Conan Doyle’s own hand – and an edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual containing the first Sherlock Holmes story.
We later saw the manuscript of “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” and a script of the Basil Rathbone’s Hound of the Baskervilles with notes written in by producer Daryl F. Zanuck.
My tongue was probably still hanging out when Steven Doyle interviewed me on camera about my reactions. He asked what I would say to IU contributors who might question serious amounts of money being spent on such items. For the answer is easy: These first editions and manuscripts, an irreplaceable connection to the past, have to be owned by somebody. If they weren’t owned by a public institution such as the Lilly Library, they would be part of a private collection.
I think it’s much better for them to be somewhere with public access. And what better place than the Lilly Library, where the access is very public indeed?

Joel Silver and Beeton's Christmas Annual


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  2. The best part of Mr. Silver's presentation was the joy he expressed when showing off the Library's collection. This is a man who really loves his job, and who feeds off the energy and excitement of a like-minded group.
    I intend to make their collection a research stop for myself on many occasions.