A Study in Scarlet: Stephen Fry and friends mark 125 years of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes

By Rosy Matheson | 23 November 2012
A photo of a woman holding a book called A Study in Scarlet up to the camera
Museums volunteer Aneta Martiskova prepares for Sherlock Holmes' 125th anniversary in Portsmouth© Courtesy Portsmouth City Council
Exhibition Preview: A Study in Scarlet, Portsmouth City Museum, Portsmouth, November 24 2012 – January 31 2013

Sherlock Holmes aficionados will be able to see a rare first edition of the earliest book starring the famous detective in a celebration of the character's 125th anniversary at Portsmouth City Museum.

Portsmouth lays claim to the “birthplace” of Sherlock Holmes, as Arthur Conan Doyle started writing the sleuth series in the city.  

Museum visitors can gaze at a copy of A Study in Scarlet, which is not usually on permanent display because of its fragile condition, as well as being able to view the permanent Conan Doyle Collection.

It is the world’s largest private collection of Conan Doyle books, objects and documents, donated by the collector and writer Richard Lancelyn Green after he died.

The collection is worth more than £3 million and features more than 55,000 items, including first editions of all Conan Doyle’s novels and items from Richard’s faithful recreation of 221b Baker Street.

“Holmes is imperishable”, says Stephen Fry, the patron of the Lancelyn Green Bequest, who narrates the museum’s audio tour.  

“Sometimes his reality, manners, traits, habits, turns of phrase, style of dress, his violin, cocaine, tobacco, deerstalker and magnifying glass obscure the achievements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a man quite as remarkable as his best known creation.

“It is Conan Doyle we honour, thank and remember.

“The collection of his papers in Portsmouth is a fabulous treasure that Sherlockians, admirers of Doyle’s writing and those curious to find out more are grateful to know exists.

“It is carefully and professionally curated in the town for whose football club he once played in goal.

“So, raise a glass to the greatness of Doyle and the eternal glory of Sherlock Holmes ushered into this world 125 years ago.”

There’s also a Conan Doyle trail which has been created for adults and children to follow, starting from the Central Library.

Local artists have created a route which visitors can follow using hand-crafted maps featuring Conan Doyle-related landmarks across the city.

200 copies of the latest Study in Scarlet edition will be given away to people taking part in the trail.

Film maker Annis Joslin will be making a short film documenting visitors’ reactions to the city’s connection with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes which will be broadcast later this year.

“We’re incredibly proud and honoured to have Richard Lancelyn Green’s bequest, and encourage residents and visitors to come and see for themselves what treasures are in the collection,” says Stephen Baily, Portsmouth City Council’s head of culture.

  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm (closed December 24-26, January 1, open Bank Holiday Monday). Admission free.
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