Saturday, July 24, 2010

Allen Mackler on Collecting

These series of posts relate to one of our current Sherlock Holmes exhibits, "Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast -- The Allen Mackler Collection," on display through August 29 in the T. R. Anderson Gallery in Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota. The text comes from the accompanying exhibit booklet. Photographs are from the booklet and also of the exhibit.


Allen, an avid member of many societies associated with Holmes, appeared in a Baker Street Journal (BSJ) report on the activities of The Red Circle of Washington D.C., which revealed yet another indication of his interests and depth of knowledge. This time it involved a quiz on "Canonical Courtship and Marriage." Allen was the winner. (Francine Morris and Wayne Swift, soon to be married, tied for second place.)

A later article from 1981 entitled "Collecting the Uncollectible" gives us a glimpse into the world of the collector, from Allen's perspective. In this case the items to be collected were phonograph records.

The impecunious always at the mercy of the factor of price, no matter what his field of interest. But in almost every field, not even a ready supply of cash will necessarily flush out a desired item, especially if it happens to be one never intended to serve as a collectible and is therefore not generally available to the public at large. Take for example the area of record collecting, in which I indulge myself in a small way. Here the affluent Sherlockian can with relative ease accumulate just about everything ever released commercially, and even perhaps lay his hands on what are referred to in the trade as "bootleg" items. But it requires considerable perseverance and no small amount of good fortune, rather than a prodigious bank account, to add to one's holdings certain legitimate recordings of more than marginal interest not likely to appear on the market under any circumstances, let alone for the delectation of avid collectors.

For Allen, it was his good fortune "to acquire for my own collection a full run of the series of Sherlock Holmes radio broadcasts featuring Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast, Part 2

These series of posts relate to one of our current Sherlock Holmes exhibits, "Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast -- The Allen Mackler Collection," on display through August 29 in the T. R. Anderson Gallery in Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota. The text comes from the accompanying exhibit booklet. Photographs are from the booklet and also of the exhibit.


The first hint of Allen that I find in the literature is from a 1975 article that appeared in Baker Street Miscellanea (BSM), "Carina: An Identification." In this piece we are pointed to another interest of Allen's -- classical music. As his obituary noted, "his first interest was in classical music. Recognizing that his talent at the piano wouldn't be adequate to achieve the goal he envisioned, he became the host of programs at Public Broadcasting Station WETA in Washington, DC focusing on the broadcast of rare recordings of classical music." Allen's article on Carina begins:

"It will be recalled in the account Watson recorded under the title of The Adventure of the Retired Colourman -- dated summer, 1898 -- that Sherlock Holmes invites the good doctor to hear Carina sing at Albert Hall. This reference has always troubled me because no mention of a singer with that name is made in Grove's Dictionary or any other musical reference work which I have consulted."

Allen goes on to solve the mystery and ends his piece with a poetic salute to musicians in the Sherlockian Canon.

The next time we see Allen, again on the pages of the BSM, is in a review of Rosenblatt and Sonnenschmidt's book Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook. Here is a different pointer to another of Allen's abiding interests: good food. He wrote:

"...when Holmes states that Mrs. Hudson's idea of breakfast is as good as a Scotchwoman's, he implies that not only will it be hearty, but that it will be sensible and maybe even utilitarian as well. All of this and much more about the gastronomic Holmes and about cooking and dining in Victorian Britain is explicated in the delightful, authoritative, and above all hunger-provoking commentary which appears before each group of recipes."

Case 1: The Great Illustrators
1. F. D. Steele illustration for The Hound of the Baskervilles, Limited Editions Club
2. F. D. Steele illustration for 1939 film, The Hound of the Baskervilles
3. S. Paget illustration for The Strand Magazine, No. 8, "all afternoon...stalls"
4. Charles Schulz cartoon strip, 12/30/93

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sherlock Holmes and Allen Mackler

At the moment there are three Sherlock Holmes exhibits on display in the University of Minnesota Libraries, all built around the theme for our August 6-8 conference, "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes." My posts over the next days will talk about each one, taking text from the exhibit booklets and a few pictures I've taken of each exhibit.

I'll start with the exhibit that has been open since June "The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes: Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast ­-- The Allen Mackler Collection." This exhibit will be open through August 29th.

I met Allen Mackler for the first time in January 1998. I was about to make a public presentation, a part of the interview process for the position I eventually obtained --­ Curator of Special Collections & Rare Books at the University of Minnesota. Allen was seated in the front row. He was there because of his love of nineteenth century literature and his enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes. The presentation was a bit unnerving, in part because it was the middle of the afternoon, I had just returned from the Middle East (still suffering from jet lag), and because Allen fell asleep during my talk. (I don’t think he would mind me telling the story.) It was, I found out, part of his charm. From that time onwards our paths crossed, often at Holmesian gatherings, or else during his wanderings through the library. Occasionally, he sought my advice on a specific book repair or to point out a particular volume (or to talk about the best place to find a hamburger). More than once we traveled to New York together, to attend the annual gathering of the Baker Street Irregulars. There was always something interesting that drew Allen’s attention (and which drew our attention to Allen).

Allen’s interests in Sherlock Holmes and Victorian literature are apparent in this exhibit. We are delighted to share a bit of his life through the contents of these cases and in the replica of the sitting room from that most famous London address, 221B Baker Street, found in the adjacent room. A separate booklet describes the sitting room and its fascination with Sherlockians.

We lost Allen five years ago, on December 29, 2005. His presence lives on through his collection, the sitting room, and his generous spirit. It also lives on through his writings and past reports of his activities within the Holmesian world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sherlock Holmes at the U

The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes


What: The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes
When: June 1 - August 29
Where: Wilson Library, T.R. Anderson Gallery
When: July 12 - October 15
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library, Exhibit Gallery
Free and open to the public.

The Sherlock Holmes Collections present two exhibits in conjunction with its triennial conference. The Andersen Library exhibit will explore the many meanings of the word "spirits" and how they relate to Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Victorian Era. The concurrent exhibit in the T. R. Anderson Gallery will highlight items from the collection of the late Allen Mackler, whose replica of the sitting room at 221B Baker Street is on permanent display adjacent to the exhibit gallery.