Robert Sterling Clark Collection of Rare Books

ABOUT THE COLLECTION AND THE COLLECTOR


Robert Sterling Clark’s interest in collecting art was almost equally matched by his interest in collecting books. It is no longer possible to recreate his collection or to know how many books it contained or the titles it included, but three extant collections suggest the nature and extent of his collecting interests. In Lexington, Kentucky, the library of the Thoroughbred Club of America was initiated through Clark’s gift of his collection of racing manuals and stud books. The Beinecke Library at Yale University houses the Robert Sterling Clark Collection of Books on Horses and Military History, which includes about 1,100 titles. The Clark Art Institute's library houses the Robert Sterling Clark Collection of Rare Books, which numbers about 1,600 titles. It is estimated that together, these three collections represent about half of the books Clark acquired, many of them through the firms of James F. Drake, Inc., and Bernard Quaritch, Ltd.
 
Clark began collecting rare books by acquiring books on horses and horsemanship, partly for the information they contained but also for their illustrations. Although books on horses constituted Clark’s first purchases as a collector, he quickly began to branch out, eventually building a collection that—like the collection of books on horses—included major classics in rare editions with an emphasis on fine illustrations. Costume/fashion books and works of literature make up an important part of the collection. Most of the literature is in French, but Clark’s tastes also included English literature, and he was especially fond of the work of Rudyard Kipling. The Clark library has acquired, by gift and purchase, books that complement and augment the Robert Sterling Clark collection; some examples can be seen below (and in the fine binding of Faust, to the right).

Sterling Clark collected and in many cases commissioned fine bindings, a selection of which can be seen to the right.


 
Clark’s collecting of books on horses and horsemanship continued throughout his lifetime. One of his most notable purchases was Antoine de Pluvinel’s L'instrvction dv Roy en l'exercice de monter à cheval (Paris, 1629), with plates designed by Crispijn de Passe II. The book is an important equestrian classic, with illustrations that depict the fashions of the day as well as Pluvinel’s innovations in training horses.
 

 
 
The Robert Sterling Clark Collection of Rare Books includes many fine editions of literary classics: Ovid's Metamorphoses, the fables of La Fontaine, Boccaccio's Decameron, Longus's Daphnis and Chloé; works by Corneile, Racine, Moliere, Rabelais, Montaigne. Some are represented here by their illustrations, below, and some by their fine bindings at right.

Les metamorphoses d'Ovide (Paris: Guillyn, 1767–71) includes designs by three generations of the greatest French illustrators of the period. In this illustration by Charles Eisen, Phaethon, having demanded of his father Phoebus that he be allowed to drive the chariot of the sun across the heavens for one day, and having lost control of the horses so that the chariot came perilously close to scorching the earth, is being struck down by Jupiter's lightning bolt to plunge blazing into the river Eridanos.




In Fables choisies (Paris, Chez Desaint & Saillant [et] Durand, de l'imprimerie de Charles-Antoine Jombert, 1755–59), with engravings after J.B. Oudry, La Fontaine's fable "Les Devineresses" tells of two fortune-tellers, one of whom becomes rich but loses her customers when she adopts a lavish lifestyle, while the other lives in a garret and thus retains the [misplaced] trust of her gullible clients. 


 

Giovanni Boccaccio’s Le Decameron de Messire Iehan Bocace novvellement tradvict d’Italien en Francoys par Maistre Anthoine le Macon (Paris: Etienne Roffet, 1545), with illustrations attributed to Etienne Delaune, is a collection of 100 stories told over ten days by young men and women to distract themselves as they vacation away from the city to escape the plague. This illustration depicts Masetto da Lamporecchio, a young laborer who hires himself out as a gardener at the local nunnery by pretending to be deaf and mute to fool the nuns into hiring a strong young man. Thinking he can’t speak, several of the nuns and then the abbess find him sleeping in the garden and take him to their chambers to enjoy his prowess. Upon discovering that he is neither deaf nor mute, the abbess has no choice but to promote him to steward so that he won’t give away the nuns’ reputations. 
 

 

The library's purchase of a later edition of the Decameron, Il Decamerone di M. Giovanni Boccaccio (Paris: Prault, 1757), complements Clark’s 1545 Roffet edition. Plates and tailpieces created by Hubert Francois Bouguignon, known as Gravelot, perfectly capture the essence of each story. In this engraving the hapless Calandrino is caught by his wife as he attempts to seduce Niccolosa. Calandrino's friends, who together with Niccolosa have arranged the discovery, are visible in the loft. The wife’s anger, Calandrino’s helpless dismay, the pranksters’ delight, and a very detailed setting are all captured in an image slightly smaller than 2 ½ x 4 inches.

 



Les amours pastorals de Daphnis et Chloé by Longus (Paris: Quillau, 1718). Illustrated by Philippe d’Orléans.
A young boy named Daphnis and a girl named Chloé are abandoned by their parents and raised by shepherds on the Greek island of Lesbos. The two meet and fall in love as they grow up. After various trials, including Daphnis' capture by pirates, Daphnis and Chloé are reunited with their families and married to each other. In this exquisite engraving, with the full moon reflected in the water in which dolphins swim, Pan appears to the Methymnaean general Bryaxis, who has carried Chloé away, and commands him to bring Chloé back to Daphnis.


 

A later edition, Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et de Chloé (Paris: P. Didot l'aine, 1800), includes plates engraved after drawings by Prud'hon and Gerard. This gorgeous illustration depicts Daphnis and Chloé at the happy end of their trials, newly married and with the wedding party serenading them outside the door, as they enter their nuptial chamber.




An example of the purchase of a later book that complements the RSC collection is Les pastorals de Longus, ou Daphnis et Chloé (Paris: A. Vollard, 1902), exquisitely illustrated by Pierre Bonnard.
 

 
 
Costume books were a strong area of interest for Sterling Clark. One of the earliest works he acquired was Le jardin de la noblesse francoise… (Paris, 1629), with plates by Abraham Bosse that depict the costume of the aristocracy during the reign of Louis XIII. 
 

 

Other costume books include color plates that depict not only the fashions but also the pastimes and occasionally the oddities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This plate from Modes de Paris (Paris, 183-?) depicts a young man of fashion, while behind him—in a humorous touch—two soldiers are shown, one in outrageous headgear and one of prodigious girth.
 

 

The costume of the eighteenth century seemed to lend itself naturally to caricature, which must have greatly appealed to Sterling Clark. Below, an illustration of the latest fashion in bonnets from Costume of the Ladies of Paris and London, a collection of actual fashion plates, can be compared to the illustration entitled "the hindrance of the hats" from Observations sur les modes et les usages de Paris, pour servir d'explication aux 115 caricatures publiées sous le titre Le Bon genre, depuis le commencement du dix-neuvième siècle (Paris: Chez l'editeur, 1827), which caricatured the fashions of the day. It is not easy to tell which is the caricature.


 




Exquisitely illustrated by the most renowned fashion artists of the day, including Armand Vallee (below) and Georges Barbier, fashion plates from Journal des dames et des modes (Paris, 1912–14) show the influences on fashion of cultures considered at that time to be exotic, colorful, and fascinating.




Sterling Clark collected many books on Parisian life, particularly the fun-loving, slightly scandalous side of Parisian life. In Les lorettes, Ire serie.  (Paris: Aubert et cie., 1841–43), Paul Gavarni's lithographs (which first appeared in Charivari) caricature a particular type of nineteenth-century Parisian courtesan, the lorette, who entered into temporary liaisons with men who could offer a life of luxury—at least for a while. Here, two lorettes are speaking about their approaching lovers. One says, "Mine is blond...I hate blonds; you hate brunettes, so let's switch." The other replies, "You have no shame! Mine is wearing a dressing gown lined with silk throughout. I want to switch back..."
 

 

La Famille Cardinal by Ludovic Halévy (Paris: Calmann Levy, 1883) was a limited edition of fifty copies printed with wide margins so that each collector could commission illustrations from the artist of his or her choice. Illustrated on every page with lively watercolors by Henriot that play with the whole concept of how illustrations and text interweave, the Clark copy is one of a kind. In this illustration, a couple meets at the top of a ladder that appears to lean against the back of the text block. On the following page the couple falls as the ladder tumbles, perhaps kicked over by the dancer in the left margin.
 



Below is an illustration from a later edition of La Famille Cardinal (Paris, A. Blaizot, 1939), acquired by the library to complement the Robert Sterling Clark Collection. Illustrated by Edgar Degas, who was fascinated by the world of the theatre, this edition of La Famille Cardinal has a moody, brooding, interior flavor compared to the edition illustrated so playfully by Henriot.



A marvelously illustrated handbook on gastronomy must also have appealed to Sterling Clark's sense of humor, as well as his interests in fine cuisine and fine wines. Brillat-Savarin’s gastronomic classic Physiologie du gout, with drawings by de Bertall (Paris: Furne et Cie, 1864), takes the form of various “meditations” on such culinary subjects as appetite, thirst, and digestion. In this meditation entitled "Les Boissons," a flying demon uncorks a bottle of wine as people (including a king, a judge, and a priest) kneel in worship around it. In the foreground, people drink more healthfully: two Chinese men drink tea, a farmer carries buckets of fresh milk, and an old man is served something hot, perhaps broth.


 


 

Explore the Collection

[cover] Faust, tragédie de M. de Goethe. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (Paris: C. Motte, 1828)
[cover] Flirt.  Paul Hervieu; illustré par Madame Madeleine Lemaire.  (Paris: Boussod, Valadon et Cie., 1890)
[inside cover] Flirt.  Paul Hervieu; illustré par Madame Madeleine Lemaire.  (Paris: Boussod, Valadon et Cie., 1890)
[cover and spine] Les amours de Psyché et de Cupidon, avec le poème d'Adonis, par Lafontaine. Édition ornée de figures dessinées par Moreau le jeune, et gravées sous sa direction.  Jean de la Fontaine. (Paris, Didot le jeune, l'an troisième [1795])
[inside cover] Les pastorales de Longus; ou, Daphnis et Chloé. Traduction de Messire J. Amyot... Revue, corrigée, complétée de nouveau, refaite en grande partie, par Paul-Louis Courier... Lithographies originales de P. Bonnard.  (Paris: A. Vollard, 1902)
[cover]  Les pastorales de Longus; ou, Daphnis et Chloé [par] Paul-Louis Courier. Illustrations de Carlos Schwab.  (Paris, H. Piazza [1926])
[inside cover]  Les pastorales de Longus; ou, Daphnis et Chloé [par] Paul-Louis Courier. Illustrations de Carlos Schwab.  (Paris, H. Piazza [1926])
[cover]  Le decameron de Messire Iehan Bocace, Florentin, novvellement tradvict d'italien en francoys par maistre Anthoine le Macon.  (Paris: Imprimé pour Estienne Roffet dict le Faulcheur libraire demeurant sur le pont sainct Michel à l'enseigne de la Roze blanche, 1545)
[inside cover]  Le decameron de Messire Iehan Bocace, Florentin, novvellement tradvict d'italien en francoys par maistre Anthoine le Macon.  (Paris: Imprimé pour Estienne Roffet dict le Faulcheur libraire demeurant sur le pont sainct Michel à l'enseigne de la Roze blanche, 1545)
[cover and spine]  Rubáiyát.  Omar Kháyyám; illustrations de Edmond Dulac.  (Paris: L'Edition d'art H. Piazza, [1910])
[inside cover]  Rubáiyát.  Omar Kháyyám; illustrations de Edmond Dulac.  (Paris: L'Edition d'art H. Piazza, [1910])
[cover and spine] La gastronomie, poëme.  J. Berchoux, suivi des poésies fugitives de l'auteur.  (Paris, Giguet et Michaud, 1805.--an XIII)
[cover and spine] Les amovrs et novveavx eschanges des pierres precieuses: vertus & proprietez d'icelles. Discovrs de la vanité, pris de l'Ecclesiaste. Eclogves sacrees, prises dv Cantiqve des Cantiqves.  Remy Belleav.  (Paris: M. Patisson au logis de R. Estienne, 1576)
[inside cover] Les amovrs et novveavx eschanges des pierres precieuses: vertus & proprietez d'icelles. Discovrs de la vanité, pris de l'Ecclesiaste. Eclogves sacrees, prises dv Cantiqve des Cantiqves.  Remy Belleav.  (Paris: M. Patisson au logis de R. Estienne, 1576)
[cover and spine] The works of Mr. Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Containing five Books of the Lives, Heroick Deeds & sayings of Gargantua, And his sonne Pantagruel. Together With the Pantagrueline Prognostication, the Oracle of the divine Bacbuc, and response of the bottle...  Francois Rabelais. (London, Printed for Richard Baddeley, within the middle Temple-gate. 1653-[94])
[inside cover with bookplate]  The works of Mr. Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Containing five Books of the Lives, Heroick Deeds & sayings of Gargantua, And his sonne Pantagruel. Together With the Pantagrueline Prognostication, the Oracle of the divine Bacbuc, and response of the bottle...  Francois Rabelais. (London, Printed for Richard Baddeley, within the middle Temple-gate. 1653-[94])
[cover and spine] Psiché, tragedie-ballet.  I.B.P. Molière.  (Paris: Chez Claude Barbin, 1673)
[inside cover with bookplate]  Psiché, tragedie-ballet.  I.B.P. Molière.  (Paris: Chez Claude Barbin, 1673)
[cover] La famille Cardinal.  Ludovic Halévy.  (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1883)
[inside cover] La famille Cardinal.  Ludovic Halévy.  (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1883)
[cover and spine]   Les oevvres poetiqves de G. de Salvste, Seignevr dv Bartas, prince des poetes françois.  Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, seigneur.  (Roven: Chez Lovys Lovdet, 1616)
[inside cover]  Les oevvres poetiqves de G. de Salvste, Seignevr dv Bartas, prince des poetes françois.  Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, seigneur.  (Roven: Chez Lovys Lovdet, 1616)
[cover] M. Annaeus Lucanus De bello civili, cum Hug: Grotii, Farnibii notis integris & variorum selectiss. Accurante Corn: Schrevelio.  Lucan.  (Amstelodami: Ex Officina Elzeviriana, Ao. 1658)
[inside cover with bookplates of Robert Hoe and Edward Rahir] M. Annaeus Lucanus De bello civili, cum Hug: Grotii, Farnibii notis integris & variorum selectiss. Accurante Corn: Schrevelio.  Lucan.  (Amstelodami: Ex Officina Elzeviriana, Ao. 1658)
[cover with armorial crest] De l'universalité de la langue française;q discours qui a remporté le prix à l'Académie de Berlin en 1784.  Antoine Rivarol.  (Berlin; et se trouve á Paris: Chez Prault, Bailly, 1785)
[inside cover] De l'universalité de la langue française;q discours qui a remporté le prix à l'Académie de Berlin en 1784.  Antoine Rivarol.  (Berlin; et se trouve á Paris: Chez Prault, Bailly, 1785)
[cover] Julius. Dialogue entre Saint Pierre et le Pape Jules II à la porte du paradis (1513) Attribué à Érasme à Fausto Andrelini, et plus communément à Ulrich de Hutten. Traduction nouvelle en regard du texte latin par Edmond Thion.  Ulrich de Hutten.  (Paris: I. Liseux, 1875)
[inside cover] Julius. Dialogue entre Saint Pierre et le Pape Jules II à la porte du paradis (1513) Attribué à Érasme à Fausto Andrelini, et plus communément à Ulrich de Hutten. Traduction nouvelle en regard du texte latin par Edmond Thion.  Ulrich de Hutten.  (Paris: I. Liseux, 1875)