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John Peter Clay

investment company executive

John Clay was the founder and patron of the Clay Sanskrit Library, a publishing venture that produced editions of Sanskrit classics with English translation on facing pages.


Clay, John Peter was born on June 26, 1934 in Paterson, New Jersey, United States. Son of Harold Peter and Mary D. (Cox) Clay.


Bachelor, University of Oxford, 1957;Master of Arts, University of Oxford, 1982.


Clay was a 1957 graduate of Oxford University where he took first class honors in Sanskrit, Avestan and Old Persian. He went on to a long career in global investment banking with Clay Finlay, Inc, New York, and before that with Vickers da Costa, New York, and the London Stock Exchange. In 1999 he decided that he wanted to give enduring patronage to his real passion: Sanskrit literature and his vision of a series that would make all the classics available to the general public for the first time.

As John Clay himself remembers: “We were inspired by a spirit of exploration.” Clay then hired Somadeva Vasudeva and Isabelle Onians (themselves Sanskrit scholars) to be associate editors for the series, as well as more than forty leading academics from ten different countries, to produce new translations of all of the classical Sanskrit texts. Later, another joint general editor was Sheldon Pollock, William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies at Columbia University. The series, co-published with New York University Press, was initially planned to consist of some 100 volumes upon completion, but was brought to an end in summer 2009 with 56 volumes published.

One anecdote told of Clay is that on graduation from Oxford, Clay was invited to make an academic career. He is said to have responded that he would prefer to go out into the world and make his fortune, but he more or less told the Academy that one day he might be back. In his decades of intercontinental air travel he wished he had pocket-sized volumes with facing pages of Sanskrit literature and English translation, the Greek and Latin Loeb analogues of which he was able to carry in his pocket.

His dream was thus to get the Clay Sanskrit Library on sale in airport bookshops.


Member Tuxedo Club New York City, Sky Club New York City, City London Club, Queens Club London.


Married Rosanagh Mary Maurice, June 20, 1958 (divorced April 1972). Children: Teresa, Lalage, Xanthe. Married Jennifer Mary Coutts, August 9, 1972.

Harold Peter Clay

Mary D. (Cox) Clay

Rosanagh Mary Maurice

Jennifer Mary Coutts

Teresa Clay

Lalage Clay

Xanthe Clay