It is no surprise that on World Book Day, we are thinking about Charles Clark, and his books. At the time of his death, Clark had amassed a library of over 2,500 volumes. From his letters, and the size of his numerous orders to London booksellers, we can tell that many more hundreds passed through his hands. Clark read, and made, books. He printed his own works, and copied several others. His habit of printing different signifiers of his ownership has made it possible for us to identify books which he owned, and has made it easier for other people to help us ‘Find’ Charles Clark, for example, his volume on balloons and ballooning is now held at Princeton University Library (see our blog post here.)
Recently, we were delighted to receive an email from Tim Tijssen, in Holland. Tim had purchased a copy of the 1797 edition of James Hervey‘s Meditations and Compilations from a bookshop in Canterbury. On the inside cover board is a small white label, indicating Clark’s ownership of the volume (see the image to the right). The label reads ‘Charles Clark, Great Totham Hall’. Intriguingly, all over the inside covers, is the name ‘Susannah Clark’. From the varying size and quality of the handwriting, it seems obvious that Susannah used the book to practice her handwriting. We are still in the process of finding out about Clark’s family, but to our knowledge, he had no adult siblings. The signature could not have been that of his mother: his parents were named Robert and Mary Ann. It is possible that the book belonged to a previous occupant of Great Totham, perhaps a cousin or aunt. We are fascinated to learn more about Susannah, whoever she was!
Its definitely the kind of book and the kind of inside cover that would have appealed to Clark. His fascination with provenance and ownership is evident from his letters and from the attitude to his books discernible in them: he would have no doubt placed his self-printed label, an example of just one of several that he used in his books, on this page with a great sense of contributing to a palimpsest of names and marks of ownership.
Stay tuned for more on our search for Susannah Clark …