LONDON - Sherlock Holmes never existed but his fictional address of 221B Baker Street still receives a steady flow of letters addressed to the famously intuitive detective.
The latest tribute comes in the form of a Museum of London exhibition opening Thursday entitled "The Man Who Never Lives and Will Never Die" and billed as the biggest in 60 years.
Part and parcel of London's literary universe, Holmes was created in 1886 by the author Arthur Conan Doyle and has lived on in television series, films and video games the world over.
"His profile and the tools of his trade - pipe, magnifying glass and deerstalker hat - are instantly recognised across the globe," said Alex Werner, head of the museum's history collections.
The exhibition, which will run until April 2015, divides into three sections - the first devoted to the books, the second to London in the Victorian era and the third to objects that have anchored the detective's image in the popular imagination.
The highlights of the show are a handwritten manuscript by Doyle that shows the genesis of the character, and a jacket worn by actor Benedict Cumberbatch in 2011 in the TV series "Sherlock" - a testament to the enduring power of the detective's image.
Broadcast by the BBC from 2010, this adaptation of Sherlock in a contemporary context proved hugely popular in Britain and has now been sold to more than 180 countries.
"The character has timeless values," said Pat Hardy, one of the museum's curators.
"There is something very reassuring about having a superman in our society, someone that you can go to who will solve your problems.
"In times of change and flux and great technological upheaval, that is something very reassuring and stable," he said.
Once visitors push through a "secret door" in a fake library to begin the exhibition, they are immediately faced with a wall of screens showing the multiple adaptations of Sherlock Holmes in cinema and television.
The Guinness Book of World Records regards the detective as the "most portrayed" human character in history - just ahead of Hamlet and just behind the "non-human" Dracula.
Despite all the TV fame, Hardy said many people are still finding out about Sherlock through the original books.
"It's a very easy route into English literature for lots of different nationalities," he said.
This has encouraged Conan Doyle's heirs to commission a second Sherlock Holmes book from author Anthony Horowitz, which will be entitled "Moriarty" after Holmes's nemesis.
"The mystery of Sherlock Holmes is as fresh now as when it was written," said Horowitz, who next year will turn his hand to a modern adaptation of another enduring British cult creation - James Bond.