Could you tell me if there is a Coventry Street in Minneapolis. It sounds most unlikely but I am bound to inquire as it affects an experiment in psychic Research. The name & address of Philip Jackson, architect, at that address was the reference. Probably it is an error. I could not think of anyone else to whom to apply. Pray excuse me.
Yours faithfully, A. Conan Doyle
The short letter quoted above, dated September 14, 1923, came to my attention in late February. A Sherlockian collector on the East coast--and a Friend of our Sherlock Holmes Collections--alerted us to its existence and the fact that it was being auctioned on ebay. A link to the item was provided by our collector-friend and so I looked at the description and images on the ebay site. Along with the letter was the original envelope, addressed to "The Chief Librarian, Public Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA." The reactions of a couple of our local Friends of the Holmes Collections were unanimous--we had to have this item for the Library. And so began "The Adventure of the ebay Auction."
My initial reaction was the same. Doyle's letter, with its local connection to Minneapolis, was too good to pass up. But I had no idea about proper library procedure in acquiring items through online auctions. I knew that we could--and do--purchase items through traditional auctions. But online auctions are slightly different animals. After conferring with colleagues in the acquisitions department it was determined that the best approach was for me to purchase the item and then seek reimbursement for my expenses.