It is with great pleasure that we can record that Christopher Clarkson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate on 16 July by the University of the Arts London, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the conservation of parchment and paper manuscripts, early printed books and book-bindings. It was an occasion on which to remember his first contact with the then independent Camberwell College of Arts and Crafts as a 13-year-old schoolboy and to mark his continuing dedication to the education of young conservators not only in the United Kingdom but across the world. In doing so he has kept alive and carried on the work of Sidney (“Sandy”) Cockerell and Roger Powell, taking his skills to the Library of Congress, the Walters Art Gallery and the Bodleian Library, amongst other institutions. He was heavily involved in such events such as the rescue of the flooded libraries in Florence in 1966 and the repair of such famous material as the Codex Sinaiticus and the Hereford Mappa Mundi. The continuation of traditional skills did not prevent innovative developments, such as perspex exhibition cradles for books and the stepped wedge foam-block book supports for general reading room use. He has always striven to instil the highest standards not only of craftmanship but also of historical awareness, and this he emphasised in his brief address after receiving the award. In 2004 he was awarded the Plowden Gold Medal of the Royal Warrant Holders Association in recognition of his significant contribution to the advancement of the conservation profession. An extract from the citation reads, “… Chris's contribution to training and educating young conservators around the world has lead to the invaluable dissemination of his approach to conservation and the paradigm of minimal intervention. As an archaeologist of the book, his teachings have fostered a deep historical awareness of the object, requiring profound knowledge of a wide variety of materials and a broad repertoire of techniques…”.
The award made yesterday was the first time that the university had offered such a distinction to a book conservator, and it is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man and a remarkable – and continuing – lifetime of work.
For more details of his career, see: http://www.clarksonconservation.com/profile/