We are proud to announce the worldwide publication of Clarence Bicknell’s Book of Guests in Esperanto, a masterpiece of dedication and arts-and-crafts talent in watercolours by a light-hearted polymath of the late 19th century.
Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) built his summer house, the Casa Fontanalba, in the Italian Maritime Alps in 1906, and year after year created hand-drawn vellum-bound albums featuring the wild flowers of the area. The Book of Guests was the vehicle for him to combine his artistic talents with a bit of humour while promoting the universal language Esperanto.
In this book, created between 1906 and his death in 1918, he wrote on the left page descriptions in Esperanto of friends, family and others who stayed overnight, and on the right page painted watercolours of flowers, framed with arts-and-crafts motifs in matching colours. Individuals range from eminent botanists and archaeologists to three dogs: Leo, Capi and Clarence’s much-loved Mahdi. The page for Emile Cartailhac shows how proud Clarence was that the distinguished French prehistorian visited the rock engravings of the Val Fontanalba: the initials “E.C.” are illuminated with features from the rock art including plough and oxen.
Clarence wrote of Casa Fontanalba in 1916: “The walls are painted in laburnum & dandelion and there is a deep dado with the initials of all the different people who have slept in the house. There have been about 110 up to this point. A short biography with these initials is written in Esperanto in a book for the information of posterity.”
Susie Bicknell has appraised the book in her article about Clarence’s art, and Nicolas Bell of the Wren Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, also praised the book after it was displayed there in 2018.
The original is in the Bicknell family collection. It is now seen for the first time in this full-colour life-size reproduction, published in July 2022 and available on Amazon worldwide and in specialist bookstores. The book (8×5 inches, 204 pages) includes translations of the Esperanto texts into English, French and Italian, an introduction to the book in all four languages and an index of names. It can also be purchased from the Clarence Bicknell Association where members get 20% discount.
The Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book, an album of larger format in which visitors wrote their signatures opposite a watercolour of a mountain flower, has been available in print since 2017.