Photographs and Fairies

CCL co-founder Dr David Clarke presented a paper on the legend of the Cottingley Fairies at the Royal Photographic Society Research Day held at Sheffield Hallam University on the 16th November 2019.

‘Francies and The Faries’ from ‘The Coming of the Fairies’ by Arthur Conan Doyle pub: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. (1922)

The story of the Cottingley Fairies is one of the greatest photographic mysteries of all time. In the summer of 1917 three images were taken by two young girls using a borrowed camera of tiny fairy creatures playing in and around a small stream in the West Yorkshire village where they lived. When these photographs were added to by two others obtained in 1919, they became the centre of a mystery that lasted more than 60 years, ensnaring many high profile figures who wanted to believe including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes who circulated reproduction of the photographs and in 1922 published a book about the mystery entitled ‘The Coming of The Faries’.

The legend of the Cottingley fairies continues to capture the popular imagination today.  There have been dozens of books about it, two Hollywood movies and numerous TV programmes and documentaries. Many original documents and photographs are preserved in the Cottingley Fairies Collection at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds and the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford while other copies occassionally appear at auction and even occassionally on ebay.

Currently (June 2020) there is a damaged copy titled ‘Alice and the Gnome’ available for £600 on the auction site – shown below and available HERE

“This is one of the original Cottingley Fairies photographs. Less than 6 are known to have survived and they rarely appear at auction. Taken in 1917. The photographs were championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and sold at theosophical society events. Provenance: This copy was given by Conan Doyle to his close personal friend the Reverend George Owen and passed through the family. The photograph has damage as shown in the images, hence the low price. Undamaged examples sell for £5,000 to £6,000 at auction. Please ask any questions.” Item Description from eBay.