"Education never ends, Watson"

Reflections, corrections, additions and other stuff as the year turns.

The start of a new year is a good time to clean up the editorial offices here at Studies in Starrett and take care of those items that have been gathering dust over 2015. Here are a few things I have been meaning to write about, a few corrections I am embarrassed to acknowledge, and one highly self-serving note at the end. Nothing too heavy, I assure you. Grab a sidecar, and let’s begin.* (For more about sidecars and other items marked with an asterisk, scroll down to The More You Know at the end of this column.)

A Box o' Starrett: A recent acquisition by the University of Minnesota Sherlock Holmes collections. Photo by Timothy J. Johnson. Used with permission.

A Travel Worn and Battered Box

The September 2015 newsletter from the Friends of The Sherlock Holmes Collections at the University of Minnesota has a cover article about a recent acquisition that should delight all those who seek out treasures relating to Starrett. Purchased from a St. Louis dealer, the library has acquired a bankers box full of Starrettiana. If I may quote myself:

“There are lots of letters here, some by names familiar with the Sherlock Holmes movement: Irregulars John Bennett Shaw, Herb Tinning and Don Yates have letters here, as does Sean Wright.** There are also notes about Charles Honce, who wrote the only detailed bibliography of Starrett’s work in 1941. That book, A Vincent Starrett Library, contains Starrett’s 1917 poem “Self Portrait,” and Starrett’s copy of the poem is among the box’s treasures.”

A signed copy of Starrett’s immortal sonnet “221-B” (of which we will say more in the new year) is among the items to treasure here. And there is a battered box that must have come from Starrett's visit to Asia, which inspired his book, The Laughing Buddha.

Don’t have a copy of the Friends of The Sherlock Holmes Collections newletter? If you get in touch with the good people at the Sherlock Holmes Collections I’m sure they would send you a copy. Write to Timothy J. Johnson, Curator; Suite 111, Elmer L. Anderson Library; University of Minnesota; 222 21st Ave. S.; Minneapolis, MN 55455.

Tell him Ray sent you.

Tim has always been generous to Studies in Starrett with his time, expertise and scanner.  If you have a few dollars for a good cause, let me recommend you support the Sherlock Holmes Collections. I have done so for several years, and believe it is a wise investment.

A few errors:

VS and the 1934 Baker Street Irregulars Dinner

The invaluable Peter Blau generously helped clear up an item from this blog post about Starrett and the only BSI dinner he attended. I had made an error in discussing Alexander Woollcott’s report about Starrett’s role at that first dinner.

Peter produced Woollcott’s original report about the dinner from The New Yorker, and a more careful reading here and in the version reprinted in Woollcott’s anthology Long, Long Ago, put me to rights. I’ve corrected the reference in the original.

As always Peter, thank you.


The last word is "Mark" not "Work." Sigh.

"Endorsed/Vincent Starrett/His Mark"

Many decades ago, I worked the copy desk at a daily newspaper. I hated it. Unlike reporters, who got to run around and poke their noses in all sorts of things, copy editors sat at their computer terminals, and sliced stories so they fit in between the ads. Then they tried to summarize a 15-inch story in five or six words.

I was lousy at headline writing.

Apparently, I still am.

In this post, the original headline was “Endorsed/Vincent Starrett/His Work.” That was wrong. As you can see, it clearly says “mark” not “work.” How I got this wrong I’ll never know, but the eagle-eyed Christopher Redmond picked it up and gently remonstrated me.

Thanks, Chris. I owe you one.

My wife took this photo and got credit for it in Fine Books & Collections magazine. It's her first professional appearance as a photographer.

And one more

Fine Books & Collections magazine is book lovers porn. There are stories here of beautiful tomes, lovingly pursued, carefully cared for and cataloged. Every issue of the quarterly also has a column by Nicholas Basbanes, whose A Gentle Madness is a delight on the topic of collectors and their passions. The periodical's audience is clearly those with grand libraries, major collections and homes built to show off their beauty.

I don't fit that description at all. But I somehow found myself in the summer issue in 2015. Here's how it happened:

In 2014, Scott Monty and I stole a few hours from the BSI weekend to see the Morgan Library's exhibition built around the works of Edgar Allan Poe. That visit was the basis of a January 2014 blog post on Starrett's fruitless but well publicized efforts to find a copy of Poe's first and most rare work, Tamerlane and other Poems.

It so happens that the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine, Rebecca Rego Barry, was researching a book on unexpected finds made by contemporary bookmen and bookwomen. She ran across my little posting on Starrett and Poe, and asked if I wanted to be the subject of the mgazine's "How I Got Started" column.

I was pleased and intimidated and a little apprehensive. Did I mention pleased? Even though I felt like a kid at the Thanksgiving adult table, I answered their questions and there I was in the Summer 2015 issue. Wow. What an honor! ***

By the way, Rebecca Rego Barry's book, Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places is a delightful series of anecdotes about the one that didn't get away. Barry's preface uses Starrett's attempt to find a Tamerlane as a fun jumping off point for the stories that follow. Anyone who enjoys rummaging through library book sales and the community garage sales for special books will get a charge out of the stories here. I recommend getting a copy.

Her book also gives me hope that one day, I'll run across a first printing copy of "The Unique Hamlet" for $10 somewhere.

Hey, it could happen!

In 2016, anything's possible, right?

The More You Know

  • Check out Starrett’s account of the first BSI dinner for a mention of this estimable concoction, which reached its height of popularity during Prohibition and has been revived in recent years.
  • An appreciation of John that briefly discussed his affiliation with Starrett was published here in October 2014.
  • You can order the Summer 2015 number of Fine Books & Collections magazine from their website.