Clemmie Jackson-Stops is the founder of Vellum – a private library and book consultancy.
Clemmie is a true believer in the restorative and civilising power of books in our high-speed digital age. having worked first in publishing and more recently for one of London’s finest bookshops, she sourced both single volumes and entire libraries of books for discerning readers and businesses around the globe. Clemmie is passionate about the power of recommendation, the written word and the joy of handling books every day and she believes creating a library, whether small or large is the ultimate literary experience.
Clemmie Jackson-Stops is known for reorganising, curating and installing libraries in homes, jets and cruise ships as well as in alpine chalets, London show homes, hotels and offices. Topics have included military history, modern art, exploration, English literature from the last century and Scottish heritage – to name but a few.
1. What is the most memorable book you have read this year?
Well…I can’t shake the impression left on me by the first book I read this year which was Fateless by Imre Kertesck – it is a profoundly moving tale of a fourteen-year-old Hungarian boy’s journey into the concentration camps of WWII. His naïveté and innocence are a heart-stopping foil to the unexpected truths he reveals about human nature and the power of our minds. However, on a completely different note can I also choose Michelle Obama’s Becoming (along with probably everyone else)? Her dignity, intelligence and strength are so apparent throughout the book and I took away many lessons about being a mother, wife and working woman.
2. What makes the perfect library?
To me, the perfect library is any collection of books that truly reflects the interests, life story or loves of its readers. To see the character of a reader or collector reflected in their shelves is uniquely exciting. Alberto Manguel wrote ‘My library was to me an utterly private space that both enclosed and mirrored me’. I think this says it all.
3. Carte blanche, which individual or brand’s book collection would you most like to curate?
This is a bit of a cheat but honestly curating a collection for anyone who is passionate about a particular topic is my dream. I love getting deep into a topic and following unexpected paths to the very best books.
4. Where are you happiest?
At home with my family. Failing that, anywhere in the Himalayas. Since first laying eyes on them in my twenties I have had a constant desire to see them again and again. It is like a gentle white noise in my life. I can’t seem to shake it.
5. It’s 2030 and you’re on Desert Island Discs. Which book and which luxury?
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I love it and have re-read it many times but for some reason can never quite remember the story, so each re-read is full of surprises! Could a library be my luxury?!
6. We often gift books to our clients ahead of their travels. Which titles might you recommend to a Latin America bound traveller?
I could go on forever but here are a few that might fit in a suitcase:
Fictionwise, I would, of course, choose ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and ‘The House of Spirits’ by Isabel Allende.
For those looking to brush up on Latin American history, it would have to be ‘Life and Death’ in the Andes by Kim MacQuarrie as well as ‘Open Veins of Latin America’ by Eduardo Galeano.
A personal favourite is ‘A Tale of Two Horses’ by A.F. Tschiffely. This is the fictionalised account of his actual 10,000-mile ride from Argentina to Washington D.C. told from the point of view of his two horses. I loved it as a child – perhaps it was when the travel bug bit. Tschiffely’s account of the actual journey Southern Cross to Pole Star is also excellent.
7. Real deal or Kindle?
I think it is wonderful that we can choose between the two but my heart lies with the real deal.
8. What are the top three places on your travel list?
Anywhere in South Asia – I particularly want to go to Northern Pakistan and the Wakhan Corridor one day.
Transylvania. I have spent a lot of time there in recent years in pursuit of my pedal-powered husband, The Slow Cyclist. I have fallen in love with its wildflowers, beech forests and Saxon villages.
Patagonia. I feel a horse-powered adventure coming on…
9. Alive or dead, which writer would you most like to meet?
I think this question is too hard! How can I choose?!
However, as we are talking Latin America maybe I will choose Jorge Luis Borges – he was an extraordinary mind and he loved libraries too.