Introduction to the Chapbook

Clare knew Chapbooks well, and it is in his honour I resurrected the form for my 32-page books.

Historically a Chapbook is normally octavo in size (A5) and is a book or made up of one or more full sheets of paper on which 16 pages of text were printed, which were then folded three times to produce eight leaves. Each leaf of an octavo book thus represents one eighth the size of the original sheet.  These eight leaves are also known as ‘signatures’. So my Chapbooks being 32 pages in length are two signatures long, or 16 octavo (A5) sheets.

Chapbooks first came about in 16th century England with popular fairy tales like "Jack and Giant Killer" which Clare mentions of course:

To John Clare
 Well honest John how fare you now at home 

 The spring is come & birds are building nests 

 The old cock robin to the stye is come 

 With olive feathers & its ruddy breast 

 & the old cock with wattles & red comb 

 Struts with the hens & seems to like some best 

 Then crows & looks about for little crumbs 

 Swept out bye little folks an hour ago 

 The pigs sleep in the sty the bookman comes 

 The little boys lets home close nesting go 

 & pockets tops & tawes where daiseys bloom 

 To look at the new number just laid down 

 With lots of pictures & good stories too 

 & Jack the jiant killers high renown 

  (written in around 1861)

 Chapbooks were cheaply constructed and often roughly printed, but during the 17th Century and later they were purchased by people who otherwise weren't able to afford books.  Very few survive as they were often thrown out after reading, or often (it is said) used as toilet paper!

The number of chapbooks printed in England is mind boggling.  During the 1660s, as many as 400,000 almanacs were printed every year, enough to distribute to one of every three households in the country.

I've been planning such for several years, to introduce the general reader to a wider range of 'Clare-related' subjects, each book concentrating on just one topic.  In keeping with their history my Arbour Editions Chapbooks are very inexpensive, but in a break with tradition the books are high quality productions with gloss covers.  

Each Chapbook - published quarterly - covers a single aspect of Clare's work in brief, and currently consists of 27 books, No. 28 is currently in the planning stage!

Drinking with John Clare (Q4 2016)

Helpston's Fountains (Q1 2017)
With the Gipsies (Q2 2017)
Playing Games with John Clare (Q3 2017)
Accursed Wealth (Q4 2017)

Trees - In a Strange Stillness (Q1 2018) - Double
Walking with John Clare (Q2 2018) - Double
Clouds (Q3 2018) - Double
The Gothic John Clare (Q4 2018)
The Revival of Interest (Q4 2018) (Guest edition)

Honesty and Hypocrisy (Q1 2019)
Childhood's Glory (Q2 2019)
Birds Nesting (Q3 2019)
A Cag of Small Swipes (Q4 2019)

O Woman Sweet Witchingly Woman (Q1 2020)
The Descending Spiral (Q2 2020)

Eden Defiled (Q3 2020)
Glad Christmass Comes (Q4 2020)

The Naked Fen (Q1 2021)
Child Harold (Q2 2021) - Double
Harvest Home (Q3 2021)
Dobbin (Q4 2021)

The Workhouse (Q1 2022)
On the Heath (Q2 2022)
Wood Pictures (Q3 2022)

The Wish (Q1 2023)
Love Songs (Q2 2023)
Old Songs and Ballads (Q4 2023)

Each of these volumes is further described via the 'Pages' list on the left-hand side of this page.  Do send me an email ( if you would like more information or to make an order.)

Introduction to the Handmade Trilogy

The particular focus of our 
first three books, published in handmade limited editions, is that of overt sensuality in Clare's poetry, revealed through both his knowledge and understanding of other poets, such as the Roman poet Ovid, and through his own undoubted experience of love and sexuality, especially with the women in his life.  These books are:

The Lovers Meeting (2013) 
The Poet in Love (2014) & 
In the Shadows (2015).

In all aspects of production a handmade book is conceived and planned as a work of art, as well as a conveyor of knowledge. The content, the images, the text, the papers, the cover materials, the style of binding are all intended primarily to enhance and add to the experience of discovering more about Clare's work.

The second and continuing publishing effort is to produce high quality paperback volumes at an affordable price.  There are two aspects to this work.  The first is to publish Clare texts are are either unpublished or little known.  To date there are two of these:

Hidden Treasures (2016) & 
Memoirs of Uncle Barnaby (2017).


'In the Shadows' makes the trilogy complete.

It seems somehow to have been a long time in gestation, but in March 2015 we collected "In the Shadows" from The Fine Book Bindery who have again lovingly created them for us.  Every copy of the limited edition is handmade and hand-finished.  The cherry cover is offset by a grey spine with a gilt title.  This is the third volume in our trilogy.

The three books taken together explore the sensuous nature of Clare's early (pre 1820 poetry in the main) from his own verse and prose.

Book One - The Lovers Meeting - (from 1818) is a reworking by Clare of Ovid's first century erotic poem.   It seems to us very much with Patty in mind. 

Book Two - The Poet in Love - is the very real story of Clare's meeting, courtship of Patty Turner, and then her subsequent pregnancy and their marriage in 1820.

Book Three - In the Shadows - is the story of Clare's largely illusory relationship with Mary Joyce ranging over his whole life.

Both 'Poet' 'and "Shadows' contain newly discovered Clare works and little known poems rejected by his publishers.

The reviews of the books were wonderful, here is Ronnie Blythe :

"I read, and re-read 'The Poet in Love'... it is a delight; beautifully presented and even revolutionary in its demand that we should look at Clare 'passionately and practically'. You have re-instated Patty... and you have dethroned Mary Joyce. The book makes us look at Clare in a fresh way, and this is no easy matter considering the stream of Clare criticism. Anne Lee's illustrations are fascinating - a kind of poetry in themselves."

"So beautiful, such treasures for my John Clare bookcase. They should lie on a table where everyone can see them, pick them up and delight in them. The end-papers themselves are a treat... they really are very beautiful." (Of 'The Poet in Love' and 'The Lovers Meeting)

And from Professor Eric Robinson on 'The Poet in Love': "No one can read this book without learning much of Clare's courtship of Patty during these formative years. It is a very strange story, but it reveals much of the essential character of a poet who had at last been recognised as a very great writer. Roger Rowe and Anne Lee have made an important contribution to Clare studies. And I am pleased to know that more is yet to come from their joint efforts."

Other reviews can be found on our 'reviews' page.

Each book is signed and numbered and is available from me.  Simply send me a message me via my own or the John Clare Poet facebook page, and I will get back to you.

Each book measures 11" x 8"


"The Lovers Meeting' is £20 

"The Poet in Love" is £25 

"In the Shadows" is £25 

Reductions for multi-copies:

(TLM & TPIL) - £40

(TLM & ITS) - £40

(TPIL & ITS) - £45

or for all three - £60


The first eight lines of 'The Lovers Meeting'

               [Clare's original manuscript from 1818]

                       Hot was the noon in summers sultry hour
                       The sun then raging with meridian power
                       When I more burning with the scorching heat
                       Of hot desire — lay hid in close retreat
                       Beneath the covert of a secret shade
                       Flush'd “with expectance of the lovley maid”
                       Sweet was the spot no one throughout the grove
                       Was better suited to the sports of Love

                  [Alongside these words, Clare has written in pencil 'Old']

Why are we 'Arbour Editions'?

[Anne's photo was taken in Holme Fen in late summer 2013]

To the wild wood shielded sweet
Where the branches branches meet
Verdant on the morning sceen
Oer the carpets spreading green
& the holly branches spread
Spreads an arbour oer my head
As the woodland paths divide
Sweet to put the boughs aside

(from "Just as mornings rosy lass")