At U. of Minnesota Libraries, a Curator Beckons Holmes, Sweet Holmes

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If you ever catch Timothy J. Johnson in a deerstalker hat, it's more likely to be blaze orange than the subdued houndstooth associated with Sherlock Holmes. The game Mr. Johnson stalks really is deer, not London's criminal element. As the recently appointed E.W. McDiarmid curator of the Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries, though, the native Minnesotan has developed a close bond with the fictional London detective and his world.

Mr. Johnson has charge of what he describes as the world's largest collection of material related to Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The archive includes the 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual, which contained the first Holmes story to appear in print ("A Study in Scarlet"); 31 copies still exist worldwide, and Minnesota holds four of them. The collection also features many letters from Doyle to various correspondents as well as original artwork and sketches done by Frederic Dorr Steele, who illustrated Holmes stories for Collier's Weekly. And it contains the correspondence of John Bennett Shaw, a collector of Sherlockiana with close ties to the organization of Holmes enthusiasts known as the Baker Street Irregulars.

Before being named the Holmes Collections' curator, Mr. Johnson, 53, was already the Twin Cities campus library's curator of special collections and rare books, and he continues to oversee those areas. "When you have Holmes and Watson waiting for you and you have all the other stuff besides," he says, "it's not too hard to get up in the morning."...

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