Wild Flower watercolours from Clarence’s Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book of 1906.


The original Visitors’ Book of the Casa Fontanalba, Clarence’s house at Casterino in the mountains above Bordighera, has 80 cartridge paper pages and is bound in vellum with leather decorative stitch work. Every opening of the Visitors Book is illustrated by Clarence Bicknell with water colours of flora of the region on the right page. The left hand pages were left empty so that guests who stayed at the Casa Fontanalba could sign their name and the date. Read more below the gallery of images.

Bicknell created the book with its watercolours in 1906 and left a space at the end for the last date it was used – in vain, as it turned out, because Clarence died in 1918 when the book was only half full with visitors’ signatures. Although the terms of Clarence’s use of the land under the Casa Fontanalba gave the house to the landowners, the family of the Count Guido d’Alberti de la Briga, Clarence’s nephew Edward Berry and his wife Margaret were able to continue using the house, and having guests sign the book, until the early 1930s. The last Berry friends appear to have signed in 1931, while those in 1936 are the Count d’Alberti himself and some of his friends. The Visitors’ Book was repatriated to the UK by Margaret Berry when she returned there and she gave it, and other belongings of Clarence’s, to Peter Bicknell of Cambridge to add to the rest of the family collection.An image of the outer of the book is shown to the right, and 4 samples pages below.In 2005 Marcus Bicknell transcribed of names in the visitors book of the Casa Fontanalba into an Excel spreadsheet and made it available on the internet. It is available on www.clarencebicknell.com on the Documents page (consult tab 1 Visitors Book at the bottom left). This list of visitors, including famous archaeologist, botanist, writers and politicians, shows the wide range of Clarence’s interests and the company he kept.This facsimile reproduction was printed as part of the 2018 programme of commemoration of the centenary of the death of Clarence Bicknell. The splendour of the watercolours of flowers make it a decorative and interesting book. Scholars will pore over the signatures of the famous and not-so-famous visitors. Home-minded and practical souls will use the book as their own visitors’ book; their guests will continue the list of signatures.

Marcus Bicknell, June 2024