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Portsmouth City Libraries’ History Centre is fortunate in owning fine collections of works by two of Britain’s best-known writers, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930). Read more about these writers below.
The local history collection also contains information about other writers connected with Portsmouth and some of their works, such as Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling and H G Wells (1866-1946).
Visit our History Centre page for opening times and facilities at the centre.
Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in the house which is now the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum. The museum’s collection of books by and about Dickens is now housed in the Dickens room on the second floor of the central library.
There are 1,500 books and 100 reels of microfilm which can be viewed by appointment. Staff can retrieve individual books for you to study at History Centre tables, or you can make an appointment for up to one hour supervised by a member of staff.
Anyone contemplating long term research is advised to write to the City Librarian, supplying a reference, asking for written permission to use the collection unsupervised.
The core of the collection consists of the various editions of Dickens’s novels, including some of the monthlies in which many were first published, individual editions and sets of novels by Dickens’s main publishers and others.
Also on display are Dickens’s main periodicals ‘Household Words’ and ‘All the Year Round’, along with plays, poems and letters.
There are also many critical studies, biographies of Dickens and books about Dickens and places associated with him, notably London and Kent.
Conan Doyle lived and worked in Portsmouth as a doctor for eight years as a young man, and wrote the first Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson story here.
Portsmouth History Centre houses the Arthur Conan Doyle collection, bequeathed by Richard Lancelyn Green, who collected many papers, magazines and photographs relating to Arthur Conan Doyle and his family. Work to catalogue the collection is still in progress.
A selection of 1,000 books are available to view, which represents about 9% of the book collection, and it is possible to see most of the other titles by arrangement. They include works on spiritualism, other fictional detectives and foreign language titles.
Some of the collection’s books appear at Portsmouth City Museum in the permanent exhibition exploring the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation of Sherlock Holmes. ‘A Study in Sherlock’ features interactive displays and a ‘new’ Sherlock Holmes mystery, and is narrated by Stephen Fry, the collection’s patron.
For more information on the work being carried out by Portsmouth City libraries on Richard Lancelyn Green’s Arthur Conan Doyle collection, phone 023 9268 8043.