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Vincent Starrett Papers (SCRB Collection Number 12)

Identifier: SCRB 0012

Scope and Content

The collection contains the papers of Vincent Starrett. The papers consist of manuscript materials, including typescripts, illustrations and jacket covers, newspaper clippings, correspondence, "Books Alive" materials, and plays. It is organized into five series: Series I. Starrett Manuscripts, Series II. Correspondence, Series III. Sherlockiana, Series IV. Personal and Family Papers, and Series V. Manuscripts by Others.


  • 1881-1981
  • Majority of material found within 1919-1969


Language of Materials

Collection materials in English

Use of Materials

Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the Special Collections reading room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.


All rights have been transferred to the Special Collections and Rare Books Division except for individual authors who retain copyright to their manuscripts. This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical Note

Charles Vincent Emerson Starrett (October 26, 1886 – January 5, 1974) was born above his grandfather's bookshop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada . At first, the child was believed to have been born dead and was wrapped in that day's edition of the Toronto Star. In a short time, however, he began to cry and was quickly retrieved. Later in life, Starrett would tell his fellow newspaper reporters that he had appeared "in print" at a much earlier age than any of them. His father moved the family to Chicago in 1889 where Starrett attended John Marshall High School. Starrett landed a job as a cub reporter with the Chicago Inter-Ocean in 1905. When that paper folded, two years later, he began working for the Chicago Daily News as a crime reporter, a feature writer and finally a war correspondent in Mexico from 1914 to 1915. Starrett turned to writing mystery and supernatural fiction for the pulp magazines during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1920, he wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche entitled The Adventure of the Unique 'Hamlet'. This story involved the detective with a missing 1604 edition of Shakespeare's play, which included an inscription by the playwright. Starrett's most famous work, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, was published in 1933. He retired from The Chicago Tribune in 1967 where he had written a book column, "Books Alive," for 25 years. Starrett was an early member of the Sherlockian literary society The Baker Street Irregulars and also one of the founders of The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic), a Chicago chapter of Irregulars.

In addition to his book reviews and commentary, Starrett also wrote horror/fantasy stories, primarily for the pulp magazine Weird Tales (collected in The Quick and the Dead, Arkham House, 1965) as well as poetry (collected in Autolycus in Limbo, Dutton, 1943), detective novels (Murder on 'B' Deck, Doubleday, 1929, and others), and detective short stories primarily about Chicago sleuth Jimmie Lavender (The Case Book of Jimmie Lavender, Gold Label, 1944), many of which first appeared in the pulp magazine Short Stories. Starrett was a major enthusiast of Welsh writer Arthur Machen and was instrumental in bringing Machen's work to an American audience for the first time.

Vincent Starrett died in Chicago on January 5, 1974 at the age of 87. At the time of his death, Starrett was impoverished. His funeral and burial expenses were covered by a friend. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Graceland Cemetery, next to his wife. Twelve years later, in 1986, friends and followers raised funds to erect a permanent marker.


43 Linear Feet (86 boxes)


The collection contains the papers of Vincent Starrett. The papers consist of manuscript materials, including typescripts, illustrations and jacket covers, newspaper clippings, correspondence, "Books Alive" materials, and plays.


The Vincent Starrett Papers are arranged into five series:

Series I. Starrett Manuscripts

Series II. Correspondence

Series III. Sherlockiana

Series IV. Personal and Family Papers

Series V. Manuscripts by Others

Related Collections

Other libraries holding letters and works of Vincent Starrett include the University of Iowa, Henry E. Huntington Library, Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, Newberry Library, and Knox College.

Vincent Starrett Papers, 1881-1981
Tim Johnson and Lisa Calahan.
October 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Special Collections and Rare Books Collecting Area