Desmond Clarke Collection

Scope and Content

A small collection of orginial and copy letters, manuscripts, poems and photographs and other related literary material addressed to, collected by or gifted to Desmond Clarke. The collection is about his career in publishing, bookselling and as a publisher of two limited editions of poetry. The collection includes correspondence and manuscripts from Ted Hughes, Wendy Cope and Craig Raine amongst other writers and publishers. There is a large number of poems by Wendy Cope including "The Desmond Clarke Poem" which was included in an edition of five poems from "Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis" privately published by Faber and Faber for Christmas 1985. The collections also includes press cutting and magazine articles relating to the Best of British series which Desmond Clarke created to showcase the writing of unknown young novelists and Poetry Live promotions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Desmond Clarke Clarke joined publishing after an early career in the military, training at Sandhurst and serving in the Royal Artillery. He was sales and marketing director at Faber and Faber in the 1980s, and promoted the Faber poetry list, which included Seamus Heaney and Craig Raine,and Wendy Cope. In later years, he asked by Craig Raine to join the advisory board of the journal Areté.

In 1983, as director of the Book Marketing Council, he conceived the original Best of Young British Novelists campaign, persuading 2,000 bookshops, including all the branches of WH Smith, and several hundred libraries, to stock and display the then largely unknown novelists' books. The idea, and a striking group photograph taken by Lord Snowdon, grabbed media attention, and Bill Buford, then editor of Granta, seized the opportunity to publish a special issue introducing each of the authors' work. Granta has made further high-profile selections of the best young novelists every decade thereafter.

Meanwhile in 1979, Clarke also led the Lost Book Sales research study, the first ever industry-wide research project, which was supported by both the Publishers and the Booksellers Associations and by leading retailers. This study highlighted the importance of impulse purchasing and was to influence the development of book retailing in the 1980s.

Clarke worked for The Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters), across two periods, for a total of 17 years, retiring as president and c.e.o. of its publishing services businesses in North America and Europe.

Thereafter he became a non-executive director of three book trade businesses and an active campaigner for public libraries, including many contributions to The Bookseller. (The Bookseller 12 June 2017)

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Desmond Clarke

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website .

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.