Approximately 20 book lovers and collectors joined the UC San Diego Library’s Collector’s Corner group on February 1 for an all-day road trip to visit the glorious William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, located about ten miles from UCLA in the historic West Adams District. The visit included a tour by Clark Librarian, Gerald Cloud, who had retrieved a variety of rare volumes, manuscripts, and other materials to share with the group.
The Clark Library was built by William Andrews Clark, Jr. in the mid-1920s to house his growing collection of rare books and manuscripts. After the Library’s completion in 1926, Clark announced his intention to donate the collection—about 13,000 books at the time—the buildings, and the square-block property to UCLA, which at the time was the fledgling Southern campus of the University of California. When Clark died in 1934, the property and its holdings—along with a $1.5 million endowment—were transferred to UCLA. The generous donation was UCLA’s first major bequest.
Nick Ervin discussing early American overland expedition materials with a Clark Library staff member.
Today, the Clark is administered by UCLA’s Center for 17th - and 18th Century Studies, and boasts a collection of approximately 110,000 books, along with archives, manuscripts, prints, maps, and other materials. The Clark’s collections are focused primarily in three areas: books printed between the mid-1600s and 1800; materials on Oscar Wilde and his coterie; and examples of fine printing and the book arts. While the Library is best known for its extensive collections on British literature and history—the Oscar Wilde collection is considered to be the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world—other collections of note include Montana and the American West (Clark’s family was from Montana), French literature, and materials devoted to 16th century writer and dramatist Pietro Aretino.
Illustration of the coffee tree and roasting instrument in Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, The Manner of Making of Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate (London: W. Crook, 1685).
The Clark also houses a rich collection of materials related to Shakespeare, including a set of books donated in 2009 by physicist Paul Chrzanowski. The books, published between 1479 and 1731, include a 1685 fourth folio of Shakespeare’s works.
While the Clark is open to all readers, the Library’s holdings must be consulted on site, due to their rare, valuable, and often fragile nature. In addition to serving as an outstanding intellectual resource for researchers with an interest in 17th and 18th century history, culture, and art, the Clark maintains an active schedule of scholarly conferences, chamber music concerts, lectures, plays, and exhibits. At the time of the Collector’s Corner group visit, on display was a very fascinating and entertaining exhibit on coffee and coffeehouse culture in 17th and 18th century England. Reader Services Librarian Shannon Supple, who helped curate the exhibit, provided an overview of the topics covered and answered questions from the group.
Richard Wagener, "A Newe Mappe of the Cinema Heavens Locating the Stars in Their Firmament" print of a wood block engraved by Paul Landacre.
“Bittersweet Uprising: Coffee and Coffeehouse Culture in Early Modern England” shed light on early modern definitions of coffee; the coffee plant and its preparation into beverage; coffee’s Eastern roots and arrival in England; and coffeehouse culture, including women and gender, and daily life and business in the coffeehouse. Materials on display, including Samuel Pepys’ diary (Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, esq., 1875-79), make it clear that coffeehouses at the time were lively venues for socializing, conducting business, holding auctions, staging performances, selling books, and exhibiting curiosities. Unfortunately, women were largely excluded from these activities and entered coffeehouses at great risk to their reputations. Although some women were known to conduct business there, said Supple, women tended to frequent “ladies tea-tables,” and for the most part avoided coffeehouses, with their potential for scandal. In The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, both coffee and coffeehouses were presented as dens of inequity and depravation “wasteful of the substance of English manhood.”