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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 14:56 GMT
Unseen Conan Doyle work unveiled
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Admission to the Conan Doyle exhibition is free
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's unpublished first novel The Narrative of John Smith is to go on display at the British Library in London on Thursday.

Letters, diaries and photographs, including a telegram from escapologist Harry Houdini, will also go on show.

The library saved a large collection of Conan Doyle work earlier this year, including 800 letters to his mother.

His first Holmes work, A Study in Scarlet, was first printed exactly 117 years ago on 1 December 1887.

One of his final Holmes mysteries, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman, written in 1926, will also go on display.

Houdini's telegram to Conan Doyle
Houdini and Holmes shared an interest in the spirit world

Notes about the books and plays he was reading will also feature, including his comments on Shakespeare's history play, Henry VI.

"Much struck by his blunders. No doubt that first part of Henry VI is his earliest," he wrote.

He did not seem impressed by his own early work either. In 1897 he wrote of The Narrative of John Smith, which was thought to have been lost in the post: "I must in all honesty confess that my shock at its disappearance would be as nothing to my horror if it were suddenly to appear again - in print."

The British Library's head of manuscripts, Christopher Wright, said he was delighted with the exhibition.

"The present display gives some idea of the sheer richness of the collection which will now be available for scholars and researchers to explore," he said.

The artefacts will be on display until the end of January.

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