Notes from the Fore-Edge:

Notes from the Fore-Edge:

History, Politics, and Practices in Museum Studies

Investigating the Owner of the Zodiac Book of Common Prayer

In further investing the books of common prayer, I wanted to learn more about Sir Simon Clarke who owned the book published in 1745 with the zodiac painted on the fore-edge. I quickly found that Simon Clarke is quite a common English name. However, I did find the biography of a Sir Simon Haughton Clarke who collected art and books.

Sir Simon Haughton Clarke apparently had an estate in Jamaica with slaves and participated in the slave trade. Nevertheless, he was also active in England where he was recorded trading art pieces in London.[1]

Knott #116

It would make sense that this is the Simon Clarke who owned the Book of Common Prayer. While the book was published in 1745, most fore-edge paintings are added to the books later. The biography I found says that Clarke worked with a man named George Hibbert from around 1801 to 1802.[2] If Clarke was most active around this time, it would make sense for him to collect the book with the fore-edge painted on it, as it would have been considered a rare book.

After investigating Clarke, I thought I might also investigate George Hibbert. Hibbert, like Clarke, was a slave and plantation owner. His biography also states that he was a West India merchant and a collector/philanthropist. Also like Clarke, he and his family owned estates in Jamaica. His biography also states that among the things he collected were books.[3]

It could be that Clarke acquired this book of common prayer while working with Hibbert, as Hibbert was a fellow collector with an interest in books. I was disappointed to find more information on Hibbert than Clarke, but both biographies were quite interesting to read about. Many fore-edge painted books are mysteries and I was happy to find the information that I did, although it isn’t much.




[1] ‘Sir Simon Haughton Clarke 9th Bart.,’ Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, accessed 2 November 2017,

[2] Ibid.

[3] ‘George Hibbert,’ Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, accessed 2 November 2017,