Arthur Conan Doyle Collection

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One of the world’s largest research collections devoted to Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and works.

Many of our 25,000+ items relate to Doyle’s most famous character, Sherlock Holmes. It also has a range of Doyle’s fiction (adventure, sci-fi, horror) and non-fiction (spiritualism, true crime, history, issues of the day). Includes:

Jump to collection details & highlights.

Digitized items

Some items are available on the library's Digital Archive.

View digitized items

Plan your visit

Using the collection

All welcome! Our Arthur Conan Doyle Room, styled as Sherlock Holmes’ study, has books you can pull off the shelves and read.

To access other items, you simply need to fill out a brief form and show one piece of identification or your library card when you arrive.

Items are non-circulating. You can view them in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre.

Location

Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street). 5th floor. Inside the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre.

Hours

Monday
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Tuesday
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Wednesday
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Thursday
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday
9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday
Closed

Class or group visits

Contact us to schedule talks and tours for groups and classes.

Contact

416-393-7158
trlspc@tpl.ca

Collection details & highlights

The collection has 13,000+ books, 200+ manuscripts, 150+ periodical titles and 15,000+ collectables. Below are a few item highlights.

Manuscripts

Many significant manuscript holdings were purchased by the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, or acquired with their significant support.

  • Notebook on Nelson and Napoleonic Times (1885) is one of the notebooks Doyle used to record his thoughts about future writings. It covers three of his works: Rodney Stone, Uncle Bernac and Through the Magic Door. It features timelines, character sketches and quotes. ("Nelson" refers to Horatio Nelson, a British Royal Navy Officer who fought during the Napoleonic Wars.) Purchased in 2007.
  • Angels of Darkness (circa 1888) is a play written by Doyle. Our one-of-a-kind manuscript was written around the same time as “A Study in Scarlet” and has many of the same characters — but no Sherlock Holmes. The manuscript was donated by Anna Conan Doyle, facilitated by the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. It wasn't published until 2000 when the library and the Baker Street Irregulars co-published a facsimile.
  • The Marriage of Brigadier Gerard (1910) is Doyle's last short story to feature Etienne Gerard, an officer in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars. The signed manuscript was the first short story manuscript added to our collection, purchased in 2013.
  • Lady Conan Doyle's diary (1914) details the time Lady Jean Conan Doyle (Doyle's second wife) traveled with her husband in his tour of Canada and United States (May 27 to July 3).
  • Some Personalia about Mr. Sherlock Holmes (1917) is an article by Doyle about the public's reaction to Sherlock Holmes, as well as Doyle's real-life attempts at detective work. Our manuscript was donated by Anna Conan Doyle.
  • The Crown Diamond (1921) is a one-act play by Doyle, featuring Sherlock Holmes. It's almost identical to the Holmes story "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (published a few months later). The manuscript was donated by Anna Conan Doyle.
  • The Parish Magazine (1930) is a short story written by Doyle the year of his death. It tells the story of a printer tricked into printing and taking credit for tabloid gossip about parishioners. The autographed manuscript was purchased in 2015.

Other items

  • Correspondence with H. Greenhough Smith (1893 to 1929). Letters between Doyle and Smith, editor of the Strand Magazine, where most of Doyle's stories were published.
  • Beeton's Christmas Annual (1887) is a periodical with "A Study in Scarlet", the first appearence of Sherlock Holmes in print. Holmes meets Dr. Watson in the story, and they solve their first case together. Our edition is complete, including the cover.
  • Sidney Paget drawing from The Cardboard Box (1893). Original artwork by the famous British illustrator known for his illustrations of Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand Magazine.
  • Frederic Dorr Steele drawing from The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans (1908). Original artwork by the artist largely responsible for the association of Holmes with the calabash pipe and deerstalker hat.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories (1997) is a book produced by the Folio Society. It features a fore-edge painting — a painting on the side of the book's pages — by Martin Frost. The artwork is only visible when you splay the pages.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles mini dog-shaped book (2006) is a limited edition artist book (one of twenty) by J & J Sobota Book Art Studio from the Czech Republic. The text of book is mounted as the teeth and tongue of a hound. It comes in a doghouse case.
  • First edition of The Hound of Baskervilles (1902).
  • Artist book of The Hound of Baskervilles (2006).

Virtual exhibits

History of collection

1969

Hugh Anson-Cartwright, a well-known Toronto book dealer, sells a large collection of books to the library. The sale included Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes materials from the estate of Arthur Vincent Baillie.

Cameron Hollyer, a librarian at the Toronto Reference Library (then at College and St. George) becomes the first curator of the new collection. He had facilitated the initial purchase, describing it as “five hundred volumes of vintage detective stories, horror stories, thrillers of all kinds… for $1,000.”

A second acquisition, known as the Harold Mortlake Catalogue Purchase, adds 877 items. These included rare editions of the Sherlock Holmes and Doyle’s other works. It also included extensive translations and criticisms.

1970

Library purchases Judge Bigelow's Collection. It consisted of books and pamphlets as well as complete sets of the Baker Street Journal, the Sherlock Holmes Journals and multiple society periodicals.

In another major addition to the collection, the library purchases 200+ editions of The Sign of Four from collector Nathan Bengis.

1971

The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection officially opens to the public. It is located in the Toronto Reference Library (214 College Street).

1977

The collections relocates to the new Metropolitan Toronto Library (now Toronto Reference Library) at 789 Yonge Street.

1997

The Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection is established.

2001

Footprints of the Hound exhibit is held at Toronto Reference Library.

2002

The Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection establish the annual Cameron Hollyer Memorial Lecture to honour the memory of the collection's first curator.

2006

A Case of Considerable Interest, an exhibit celebrating the collection's 35th anniversary is held in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library.

2013

Arthur Conan Doyle Room is revitalized, made possible with generous donations from donors including Clifford Goldfarb, Chair of the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection.

Adventures with Sherlock Holmes exhibit is held in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library.

2014

A history of the collections is published by the Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection: The Four Pillars: The Foundations of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Toronto Reference Library

2017

Pop Sherlock exhibit is held in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library.

Support the collection

Friends of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection

Founded in 1997, the Friends is an independent group that works with the Toronto Public Library to maintain, enhance, promote and raise awareness of the collection.

Arthur Conan Doyle logo with transparent background

Friends website