16th January 2023

Hand Written Arthur Conan Doyle Letter Found in College Archives

Hand Written Arthur Conan Doyle Letter Found in College Archives

Our Library and Archive coordinator Miss Lapping often gets to see lots of exciting things from throughout St Aloysius’ College’s history, from photographs to medals – even antique books.

One particularly exciting book was discovered in our College Library one day – a first-edition copy of The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard by Arthur Conan Doyle, well-known author and creator of Sherlock Holmes.

That wasn’t the only interesting thing about this particular book… as inside was discovered a hand-written letter from Doyle addressed to Archibald Forbes that provides insight into Doyle’s writing, as well as shining a light on the pair’s appreciation for one another.

Hear from Miss Lapping about the day she made the discovery, as well as what her further research uncovered.

"I wanted to use the small store cupboard next to the library but had no keys for it. With help from the janitors, we were able to break the lock and get into the cupboard. Surprisingly, the shelves were lined with over a hundred antique, dusty books which had lain untouched for years.

I thought there might be something interesting sitting on those shelves, like a first-edition book. An old red spine with A. Conan Doyle in gold lettering caught my eye, and I thought that an early copy of a Conan Doyle book could be an interesting find.

I opened the book to check for dates to see if it was a first edition (which it is), and it was then that I saw a handwritten letter had been glued into the book, addressed to Archibald Forbes, the famous 19th-century war correspondent. I thought this alone was interesting and definitely something to investigate further. However, when I scanned over the second page of the letter my eyes rested on Arthur Conan Doyle’s signature.

This lead me on a research mission to find out whether or not it was authentic - and if it was authentic, how did a letter from one of Scotland’s most celebrated writers end up in a forgotten cupboard in a school?

I think the St Aloysius' College archives give us a fascinating insight into Glasgow life and education over the past 150 years. There are so many other stories to be uncovered here, from the prominent to the personal, and it is great to learn more about the lives behind the artefacts."

Read Miss Lapping's research into the letter and book here.