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Born in Cambridge in 1789, Richard Clay was to become an important figure in british printing, setting the foundations for a firm which would bear his name up to the present day. Throughout Richard's active working life his firm was based in London. In 1876 his sons moved the company to Bungay where, over a hundred years later, Clays Ltd were to print the famous Harry Potter series of books.

The purpose of this post is to look at the influence of Richard Clay up to his retirement in 1868. As a young man he first apprenticed with Richard Watts of Temple Bar, London and then with John Smith of the Pitt Press (Cambridge University Press).

In 1817, Richard Clay went into partnership with Samuel Burton and Samuel Smith as printers in Devonshire Street, Bishops-Gate. Although short lived, the partnership being dissolved in 1822, it was an important step which established the Clay name. It was followed by another shortlived partnership: With Samuel Burton again, and with Henry Batty. This partnership was dissolved in 1824.

There followed a period trading under the name "House of Richard Clay and Co. Ltd" and in 1830 the company moved to Bread Street Hill, London.

During his lifetime the Clay name was synonymous with quality and this family business worked with some leading publishers of the time. The bibliography below shows some important publications printed by Richard Clay and his family, while he was active. The prices are for guidance only. These are publications which have been recently offered for sale. Keep in mind that book prices are affected by many considerations: Hence, further research is advised.

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1828 An address Delivered at the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace, by Thomas Hancock, bound with Tract No. 1 by Noah Worcester, eight edition, published by Richard Clay for Hatchard & Son, fair condition, £445

1836 The Two Charters of the Society for Advancing the Christian Faith in the British West India Island, first edition, a bound pamphlet, published by Richard Clay, VG condition, £275

1839 Royal Mail Steam Packet Company - Prospectus for Service Between England and the British West Indies by James MacQueen and John Arrowsmith, published by Richard Clay, VG condition, £1,100

1841 South Australia, by George Palmer (jnr), first edition, published by Richard Clay, VG condition, £425

1842 A Sermon On the Death of the Hon. and Rev. George Ruchout, by Rev. John Pearson (Rector of Suckley), softcover, published by James Burns, VG condition, £75

1847 An Tiomna Nuadh (The New Testament in Irish), Ar Dtiearna agus ar Slanighheora Josa Criosd: ris an tahair is onorsighhe a Ndia Uilliam O'Domnuill, Aird Easpoug Thuai, published by The British and Foreign Bible Society, re-bound, VG condition, £150

1849 Report of the British Association for the Relief of the Extreme Distress in Ireland and Scotland, published by the British Relief Association, VG condition, £645

1850 Wild Flowers. (Complete Set of 192 Lithograph Colour Pictures on 96 Plates), by Anne Pratt, first edition, softcover, published by Richard Clay for the SPCK, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, good condition, £140

1851 The Maiden & Married Life Of Mary Powell (Afterwards Mistress Milton) And The Sequel Thereto Deborah's Diary, softcover, by Anne Manning, published by Hall Virtue & Co, VG condition, £85

1852 The Social Effects of the Reformation, by William Cobbett (a Fellow of the Statistical Society), softcover, published by Richard Clay, VG condition, £155

1855 History of The Conquest of Mexico, With A Preliminary View of The Ancient Mexican Civilization, and The Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortes, by William H. Prescott, seventh edition, published by Richard Bentley, VG condition, £515

1857 Rhymes and Roundelayes I Praise of a Country Life, published by David Bogue, second edition, full morocco binding by M.M. Holloway, VG condition, £475

1857 Poets of the Nineteenth Century, edited by Robert Aris Willmott, first edition in fine binding, published by George Routledge & Co, fine condition, £285

1858 Gertrude of Wyoming; or, The Pennsylvanian Cottage, by Thomas Campbell, published by D. Appleton & Co., VG condition, £100

1859 Scion College, Founded by Thomas White, first edition, by Dr. Russell and Mr. Scott, published by Richard Clay, VG condition, £100

1862 Flindersland and Sturtland, or, The Inside and Outside of Australia, in two volumes, by William Rowlestone Henry Jessop, published by R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Richard Bentley, VG condition, £225

1863 The Illustrated Natural History, in three volumes, half leather binding, by Rev. J.G. Wood, published by Routledge Warne & Routledge, good condition, £190

1865 Poems, selected and edited by Robert Aris Willmott, illustrated by Birket Foster, J. Wolf, and John Gilbert etc, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel, published by Richard Clay for Frederick Warne and Co, VG condition, £400

1866 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, second edition, by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel, published by Macmillan and Co, VG condition, £14,900

1867 Two Centuries of Song: Or, Lyrics, Madrigals, Sonnets and Other Occasional Verses of the English Poets of the Last Two Hundred Years, first edition, edited by William Thornbury, published by Sampson, Low, Son, & Marston, VG condition, £215