Orford Books

The Merchant of Naples

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The cover shows James Close's Sibilla in the Bay of Naples in 1863

28 plates of illustrations

312 pages hardback

ISBN 978-0-9546653-2-6

RRP £20.00

Available now, The Merchant of Naples. The Story of the english entrepeneur, James Close (1799-1865) and his family. A wide ranging book compiled largely from James Close's own writings, from letters and diaries kept by his friends and recounted by the family themselves as daily entries in a journal.

James Close was born in Manchester in 1799, the third son of a family of calico merchants. At the age of fifteen, after unhappy school years, he was sent to Frankfurt and Le Havre in the closing years of the Napoleonic wars to study business; on return to Manchester he was teased for his "frenchified ways". After falling passionately in love he departed for Sicily aged twenty to manage the Italian end of the family firm. Subsequently living in Naples he set up the company of Giacomo Close & Co., and became the most diversified and successful of the many British merchants there, acting as banker to King Ferdinand II but with a foot in the Republican camp. His travels were on board the Sibilla, formerly the royal yacht. This was to become a second home for himself, his wife and nine children plus staff and crew of around twenty.

Events described at first hand include:

- News of British Victory after the Battle of Waterloo

- Major eruption of Vesuvius

- Shipwreck of the Sibilla

- Arrival of Sibilla in Sebastopol Harbour at the end of the Crimean War

- Entry of Garibaldi into Naples

- Attack by pirates and kidnap in Constantinople

- Retirement to Antibes - James Close's pioneering development of land on the Cap

James's son William opened up vast stretches of virgin prairie in Iowa, going on to trade in hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. He founded the firm of Close Brothers in Chicago and London to finance this. His most spectacular venture was the construction of a railway linking the coastline of Alaska with the Yukon goldfields, so saving thousands of gold prospectors and their horses from a perilous trek.

This book, with its mass of new material, will appeal to social and political historians alike as well as to the ordinary reader.

'A fascinating family saga about an English entrepreneur who towards the end of his career set sail in the Mediterranean with his adventurous young wife, educating their eight children at sea. Their unusual way of life is brought vividly alive by the voices of the family themselves, cleverly edited from their extensive journals' Josceline Dimbleby, author of A Profound Secret

'This wonderful story of one merchant family sheds new light on the British in 19th Century Italy' Lucy Riall, author of Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero

The Merchant of Naples was published in November 2008. The book is available at the Aldeburgh Bookshop, 42 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AB and other selected bookshops. Alternatively, you can order your copy of The Merchant of Naples now, direct from Orford Books - Enquiries to merchant@closebrooks.co.uk