Sale of Conan Doyle papers 'a matter of great regret'

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THE British Library yesterday called the planned auction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s papers next week a matter of "great regret", and said it had not been shown key documents about the dividing up of Doyle’s papers between his heirs.

The library’s comments came a day after The Scotsman reported that the Edinburgh scholar Owen Dudley Edwards was calling for the sale to be halted.

About 3,000 personal letters, notes, manuscripts and other items from the papers of the Edinburgh-born author, mostly never published, are up for auction at Christie’s on 17 May.

The bulk of Conan Doyle’s papers were jointly the property of Dame Jean Bromet, his daughter, and Anna Conan Doyle, his daughter-in-law. Dame Jean died in 1997, and Anna in 1990.

Christie’s says it is satisfied that the items to be sold next week belong to Anna’s beneficiaries. The library said yesterday it had received assurances from the sellers to that effect. But its request to see "contemporaneous documents" to verify these assurances had met with no success. The library had asked to see the documents by 13 May.

Alex Salmond, the SNP MP, has called on the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, to prevent the sale.