This portrait of Jane Austen makes Clarke's Friendship Book a literary treasure of inordinate rarity. The National Portrait Gallery in England incorrectly claims an absolute monopoly in Jane Austen portraiture by owning the only depiction of Jane Austen in the world which (they say) "can be authenticated": (ie by the Gallery themselves). Their picture is a very slight and unflattering drawing reputedly made by her sister Cassandra; but largely disseminated to the public at large by numerous illustrators in an "improved" version. It has been described as "a disappointing scratch" and is a desperately poor memorial of the novelist. Nevertheless physiognomists identify the sitter as the same person appearing in Clarke's watercolour.
The National Portrait Gallery's claim to a monopoly is incorrect. There are in fact just three portraits of the novelist (including Clarke's) which are known and claimed to be authentic.
The Friendship Book itself is a time-capsule from the Age of Sensibility, beautifully bound in its original tooled green morocco.
It contains, additionally, more than 100 contemporary paintings, drawings, holograph texts, verses (mostly signed and dated) and autographs by notable artists, authors, poets, sculptors and naval characters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: (eg George Romney, John Russell, John Flaxman, William Hodges, William Hayley, Anna Seward, Charlotte Smith, Nicholas Pocock, Nelson's Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy).