Crime & Intrigue at the CRC

Posted on September 9, 2014 | in Collections, Featured, Library, Library & University Collections | by

Today sees the launch of a new Hercule Poirot novel, penned by crime author Sophie Hannah with support from the Agatha Christie estate. As a die-hard Agatha Christie fan, this is a great opportunity to tell you more about the Forbes Gibb collection of crime fiction at the Centre for Research Collections.

monogram murders

Professor Forbes Gibb donated his collection of books, pamphlets and journals to the University in 2001. It contains 1,565 volumes, primarily by Arthur Conan Doyle. The collection includes two first edition Agatha Christie novels:

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Ordeal by Innocence (1958) and The Pale Horse (1961) are classic examples of book cover design from the mid-twentieth century, with bold colours, simple yet balanced graphic and typography that reflects the dark content of the books.

The numerous editions of Sherlock Holmes novels acquired by Forbes Gibb are a great example of the development of book cover design during the twentieth century – ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous!

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But without a doubt my favourite item is a copy of The Sign of Four produced in Pitman Shorthand. Developed by Sir Isaac Pitman in 1837, Pitman Shorthand is a phonetic method of shorthand based on how words sounds rather than how they are spelt. I challenge anyone to translate this first page of Sign of Four for me (no cheating!).

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The Forbes Gibb collection is available to consult at the Centre for Research Collections. Please note it is not on open access. Titles, shelfmarks and catalogue entries:

The Pale Horse (Forbes Gibb 53)

Ordeal by Innocence (Forbes Gibb 49)

The Hound of Baskervilles (Forbes Gibb 77)

The Hound of Baskervilles (Forbes Gibb 198)

The Sign of Four (Forbes Gibb 339)


Fran Baseby, Service Delivery Curator, CRC

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