«What began as a hobby became a consuming quest»: American bibliophile William Lawrence Clements and his collection of incunabula
Keywords:History of collecting, Auction catalogs, Library history, Incunabola, MEI, Americana
This paper aims to describe the activity of the bibliophile William Lawrence Clements, an American industrial businessman and one of the greatest
collectors of the 20th century. During the golden age of American book collecting, William Clements managed to set up an outstanding book collection
specialized in Americana, never seen before in the Midwest of the United States. Through the study of the William L. Clements Library’s incunabula collection, it is possible to reconstruct the history of the individual copies and the cultural environment in which William Clements worked. Sold through auctions and individual merchants, these incunabula belonged to prestigious collections and still retain fundamental provenances that allow the reconstruction of their journey. The study of the itinerary of the incunabula throughout the centuries, from Europe to America, is reconstructed by analyzing elements such as ex libris, inscriptions, bindings, stamps, reading marks, and manuscript notes.
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