The Private Manuscript

Library of Francis Bacon,

Lord Verulam, and of

his Law-clerk and

Servant William



being the astonishing history of forty-seven
Commonplace and other written books, preserved
in an old country house originally owned by Tottel,
and now discovered . . . . to provide new and un-
tilled fields of research, not only in the life and
work of Francis Bacon himself, but in Jacobean
History and Letters . . . . the whole outlined by Alan
Keen and offered for sale by private treaty from his
Gate House at Clifford's Inn, London



Entered electronically and edited by Juan Schoch for educational research purposes of that which is contained in his library. Please do not remove.


'The principall use of this book is to receyve such parts and passages of Authors as I shall note and underline in the bookes themselves, to be wrytten foorth by a servant, and so collected into this book'


"Transportata" 1608



ENGULFED IN THE SEA OF TIME, THEN THROWN upon the beach of circumstance before our astonished gaze, are such books as remain of the private library of Francis Bacon; faithfully kept during the latter part of his life, and after his death in 1626 by his Law-clerk and Servant William Tottel. Bacon kept divers pens busily employed in the making of such books: we have evidence of this practice. And, as we shall presently see, Bacon made good use of the books so laboriously compiled for him, reading each attentively and often placing his mark of a trefoil in the fair margin against such a passage in the text to be especially noted and remembered.


THE APPEARANCE of a single volume of Baconian provenance upon the market has hitherto been a rare and important event. How then shall we name the phenomenon of a collection of no less than forty-seven books, each in its original state, clad either in calf or vellum, and often marked by Bacon himself . . . with an unbroken pedigree of ownership over three centuries? Let us, before we examine this wonder, go back to 1924 and to the strange event which led to the discovery of the books. In this year was sold by auction in London 'a selection of books from an old country library'. An experienced palæographer and student who happened to be at the viewing, chanced on one single item which he found to be wrongly described in the printed catalogue of sale. The manuscript, a small folio, was given as 'A Book of Tithes', whereas the actual reading, in part, of the original was 'A Book of Titles'. Had the cataloguer read this word accurately it is doubtful whether he would have recognized that 'titles' was, at the date of the manuscript, in use as a name for grants by patent from the Crown. At all events, our palæographer secured the book at the subsequent sale, having satisfied himself that it was nothing less than Bacon's original entry book containing copies of original Royal Warrants and sixty-three docquets drawn and issued by Francis Bacon.(1.) (The manuscript was later sold to Henry Clay Folger for £800 and now rests in the Folger Shakespeare Library at Washington.)


HIS CURIOSITY now fully aroused, the finder of the precious volume inquired into its source, and the identity of the 'old country library'. This transpired as that at Shardeloes, the home of the Tyrwhitt-Drake family near Amersham in Buckinghamshire, but more important, the house that William Tottel lived in three centuries ago and since always occupied by descendants! And here it will be fitting to include a brief notice of Bacon's Servant. William was the son of Richard Tottel the celebrated Law Printer of the 'Hand and Starre', Fleet Street, London, who died in 1594. Richard had, in addition to legal books, printed works by More and Surrey as well as two important pieces of Tudor literature, Lydgate's Fall of Princes, and the Songes and Sonnettes of 1557, more commonly known as Tottel's Miscellany, which Shakespeare caused Slender to bewail the lack of. William Tottel was a Six Clerk in Chancery and Steward of Bacon's Manors. He founded a county family and lived as a county magnate while his master was alive; thus it will be seen that his close association with Bacon and his practice brought him great gain. Tottel died in 1627, a year after Bacon.


HAVING THUS OBTAINED his clue, our palæographer pursued the object of tracing down any further Baconian volumes remaining in the old house. He was fortunate . . . upon the library shelves at Shardeloes lay forty-seven written and other books, and later negotiation resulted in his carrying away the last physical evidences of a most extraordinary association between the great Philosopher and his Servant in Law and Literature. Here indeed was treasure of the first order! A cursory glance at the books brought to light a quarto in limp vellum which proved by its contents to be the Commonplace Book of Sir John Hayward the historian who was imprisoned for publishing The First Part of the Life and Raigne of Henrie the IIII, dedicated to Essex, in 1599-1601. It will be recalled that Bacon was ordered to search the book for treasonable inferences; apparently Bacon seized the more personal literary property of Hayward also, and as will be seen in this Commonplace Book, freely marked certain passages therein with his characteristic 'trefoil'. A curious feature of this volume is the word, now so faint as to be discernible only under ultra-violet rays or by application of a reagent . . .
Honorificab . . ., a truncated version of the famous word of Love's Labour's Lost, and claimed as a Key word by the Baconians themselves. I do not myself suggest any occult connexion between this and the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy, but the appearance of the word is certainly curious if nothing more. Another book, this time a dumpy 'twelve' solidly encased in calf, turned out to be a most exhaustive account of the Overbury poisoning, and of the apprehension and trial of the guilty participants, including Somerset and his (later) wife Frances Howard, Countess of Essex. The manuscript account is coeval with the scandal, and may upon careful transcription yield original material not printed in that version of some thirty years later, the more especially as Bacon played a leading part in the prosecution for the Crown. King James's own share in the miserable 'backstage' workings of the plot may appear more definitely from the little volume hitherto unexplored.


AS TO THE ENUMERATION of the Collection itself, the books, as yet untranscribed or carefully examined, have been grouped together in many cases under appropriate numbers. The list is appended to this Prospectus, giving in brief some foretaste of the character or nature of the manuscripts. No. 40 in the list gives provenance of Tottel himself, being his Year Book and bearing his autograph signature on the fly-leaf. The hand of Bacon appears in the volume. The bulk of the manuscripts in this remarkable Collection is formed by the abstraction of passages from books of the period; books made in such a manner were known as Commonplace Books. Bacon himself did not record that he owned any extensive series of such books, but in 1608, when he prepared the Survey known as 'Transportata', he states what he did own, thus, among others:


(No. 9) Notae omnifarae ex depraditione Authorum sine ordine Intratae. The principall use of this book is to receyve such parts and passages of Authors as I shall note and underline in the bookes themselves to be wrytten foorth by a servant and so collected into this book.


(No. 10) is similar. (See pp. 59-62, Spedding xi)


It was indeed Bacon's habit so to mark books and to authenticate his markings by the addition of his monogram signature. Specimens of this trefoil monogram, which looks something like the shamrock leaf, may be seen in his own manuscript volume in the British Museum. The volume numbered 2 in the following list has the underlinings, the monogram signature, and a note in Bacon's handwriting.

The extensive series of commonplace books listed here were, as we have seen, the property of Bacon's Clerk and Servant, William Tottel. As an author Tottel is known by one book of Cases in Chancery but there is some evidence, in No. 43 below, that he assisted Bacon to edit West's book, Symboleography.

We have now reached the point where it is desirable that a certain entry be considered, which entry is as follows:



Tottel was a lawyer, and the monies of Bacon that he received, in his capacity of steward, would be accounted for, in the usual way, when he presented his accounts of the Estates every six months, and the balance paid over. There is no reason to suppose that this lawyer, acting as a man of business, would adopt any irregular course. On the face of the entry it is, for this reason, evident that Tottel had a sum of money, belonging to Bacon, (or his Estate) that was not receipts from sources that had to be entered in a regular system of accounts. It was money to be paid partly to two people who lived in the house where the carrying out of the ideas of Bacon, in pillaging authors, was a constant occupation. That the occupation continued long after Bacon's death indicates either the result of early training, engendering a habit, or a deliberate attempt to carry on a work which was considered to be of the greatest importance.

Still closer is the connexion shown in numbers 7 and 8 below, for there the printed text of Bacon is incorporated with the manuscript.


FOR NEARLY a quarter of a century the Collection has been preserved in a strong-room in London not two hundred yards from the British Museum. The original finder and purchaser was interrupted in his examinations (prior to offering the whole for sale) by the failure of the Stock Market in New York. He had a certain market in the U.S. This had now collapsed and so he consigned Tottel's garner to a place of safety to await better times. It was only six weeks ago that I learnt of its existence, and the account given to me by the owner, now advanced in years and a sick man, struck a chord in my memory. I too had owned a manuscript from Tottel's library at Shardeloes! It is now in a private collection in New York, but an account of its contents must surely forge the most astonishing link in a remarkable chain. About the year 1935, ten years after the dispersal of the Shardeloes books, I picked from a barrow on the Farringdon Road, London, a small handwritten book bound in early calf and having the remains of clasps to its covers. I shall not weary the reader as to my subsequent study of the contents, suffice to say that my half-crownsworth proved to have belonged originally to John Harrison the third, or fourth, of the family of Elizabethan publishers. It was John Harrison the Elder who put forth Shakespeare's 'first heir of mine invention', Venus and Adonis. The first leaf of this little book of mine had Harrison's signature John Haryson and beneath it the note Mr. Blunt dwels in Pauls Churchyard at the syne of the Black Bears, a reference to Edward Blount the famous publisher and man of letters, who in company with Jaggard issued the First Folio of Shakespeare's Comedies Histories and Tragedies in 1623. On the same leaf was scribbled a hasty memorandum in reference to a certain my lord who was apparently in great fear of his life. Had I then known the significance of entries within the volume from Sharlowes, the identification of my lord with Francis Bacon would have been proved! Another memorandum referred to certain books to be (evidently) procured from Cornhill, among which were written Amyot on Plutark; Peter Martyr Meditationes; Davy Epigrams . . . Ovidus Epigrams (i.e. Sir John Davies' and Christopher Marlowe's Elegies and Epigrams, published in London under the spurious imprint of Middleburgh). Throughout the book were numerous 'borrowings' from contemporary authors and old classics under their several headings of Dallingston Aphorismes . . . Harington Essays . . . Lord Bacon . . .Mr. Askam . . . fflorio; and others. Under Proverbs occurred two used by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice . . . fast bind fast find; and All's not gold that glisteneth. This intriguing article I sold through Sotheby's in January 1936, blissfully unaware of its Shardeloes provenance and import, and at this time of writing the little book rests over the Atlantic. Its presence there is valuable testimony to the significance of the present Collection, and I find myself asking, what was Bacon or his Clerk doing with Shakespeare's publishers? There is a mysterious link somewhere, perhaps divorced from Baconian theories, but just as sensational in its eventual outcome. (2)

(2)-During the printing of this Prospectus I have been extremely fortunate in purchasing by cable The Commonplace Book of John Harrison described on page 8 (J. S.i.e. described above) from its American owner. Thus the mysterious link between Bacon and the Shakespearean printers is added most fortuitously to the Collection.--A.K.


IT IS HOPED that this, The Private Manuscript Library of Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, and of his Law-Clerk and Servant William Tottel, will be purchased by a private collector of sufficient means to enjoy its possession over long years of fruitful research, or better still find its way by means of a princely gift (by some donor yet to be disclosed) to a State Library or University where the resources of learning will give to the assemblage of books that serious study and transcription they so richly deserve. As a dealer I am proud to have even so inadequately announced their being, and to be the means of handing them over to the advantages of scholarship. Recently my Company had a similarly great privilegethat of consigning to the Rt. Hon. Lord Kemsley the newly-discovered evidences of the family and associates of William Caxton, our Prototypographer, in a precious and unique collection of seventeen charters and deeds of the fifteenth century, on vellum. Through the munificence of Lord Kemsley the Caxton Documents are to go to the British Museum, and the circumstance of their romantic finding was in December last, the subject of a special article by Sir John Squire, in the Sunday Times.






(a) LIST OF THE BOOKS. The following are all in manuscript except where noted:


1. A Collection of tracts bound together in a folio volume, containing contemporary copies of treaties between Philip and Mary of England and also Instructions to Plenipotentiaries.

The second tract is dated on the first leaf 1558, and has a monogram which is undoubtedly F.B. These markings are scratched through. The volume was probably official, originally.


2. Wales and its Marches. King Jame's Instructions to the President of the Court. Folio manuscript.

This has a recipe, also a list of books on blank leaves at end. On the front flyleaf is a rough Latin cipher probably, but not certainly, written by Bacon.


3. Touching the Commendams 6 June 1616. F. Bacon is one of the signatories.

'That which was spoken by . . . Francis Bacon Knight att the takeing of his place in the Chauncerye . . .' 7 May 1617 etc. Thin folio manuscript.


4. (First leaf missing) The King's Speech to Parliament with the Lord Chancellor's (Bacon's) Speech 3 Feb. 1620.

Bacon's 'Submission to the Lords' contains the famous phrase '. . . you all sitt upon one high stage . . .'

Sir Henry Yelverton's Speech. The Lord Chancellor's Prayer. (2 leaves)

A Poem commencing:

Beware fayre mayd of Musky
Courtiers oathes
Take heede what guiftes & favours
ye receive

A declaration of His Majesties thanks to Parliament. Sir Edward Sackffeildes Speech (This has been hinged in on stubs).Coronell (Colonel) Cecill's Speech.
Copy of a Letter to Mr. William Bonington from his son in Virginia,
22 May 1621.

Forty pages of various speeches etc. connected with the Parliament concluding with
'Verses made by King James vpon his queene Anne dying the year after the blasing starr' (Folio)


5. A book originally belonging to Sir John Hayward, there being on the fly-leaf two 'receipts' (cancelled) of money from Mr. doctor Hayward dated 1607.

Hayward being a Civilian or Doctor of the Civil Law practised in the Ecclesiastical Courts which normally dealt with cases such as the Essex Divorce

Contains a Treatise Reasons for Precedence of Doctors before Sergeantes (at Law) and many extracts from Latin authors extensively marked with the Bacon monogram.

On the cover is the word 'Honorificab . . .' but a reagent is required to make it legible. Quarto vellum.

The latest account of Hayward, with original matter, is by John Bruce. (Camden Society 1840 Vol. 7). The two receipts give a history of a single transaction.

John Pigott promised to pay £4 on the 8 August but on the 12 August Pigott says

'owe and have borrowed' £6 payable on the 20th.

This almost suggests that Hayward was a money lender and added these profits to the extensive gains of his profession.

In the volume also appear some notes for Hayward's Henry IV and Two Realms followed by heads on the matter of Appeals, and a Treatise. After this is a collection of extracts. One of these is interesting because Hayward gives his version from Cæsar de Bello Gallico in English where it concerns London, but being a true Civilian goes on 'uxores habent dein inter se communes', etc.


6. Universal Treaty of Peace &c. A Latin manuscript concerning Venice.

Quarto vellum.

 7. Pages 71-93 of the printed edition of the Advancement of Learning bound up with about 260 pages of extracts from authors, recipes, wise sayings, remedies, etc., some from Bacon's own writings. Quarto calf.


8. Sigs. ZZ 1 to Ddd 4 of the same, bound up in a similar form.

Quarto calf.


9. A Commonplace Book about 300 pages.
Quarto calf.


10. A Commonplace Book. Much the same as the last but later in parts.

Quarto vellum.


11. The volume with the memorandum concerning Lord Bacon's money on the fly-leaf. The middle pages are missing.


Notes of Star Chamber Cases including one against Moseley, Markall, Greene, for singing songes in the nature of a Libell against the Duke of Buckingham. Also Prynnes Case, 1633, concerning Stage Players, &c. Quarto calf.


12 to 21. A series of Commonplace Books with extracts similar to the Quarto Series.

Octavo, 10 vols.


22 to 31. A similar Series of Commonplace Books with Extracts. Octavo, 10 vols.


32 to 38. A similar Series somewhat smaller. Octavo, 7 vols.


39. Guicciardini Politics, 1597. In Latin. A printed book with some manuscript notes.


40. A Year Book. With autograph of William Tottel (Tothill) on fly-leaf dated 1590 with one Bacon entry. Octavo.


41. A Volume containing copies of Lord Robert Cecyll & Bacon's Letters. About 140 pages. Octavo calf.


42. Proceedings in the Essex Divorce and Overbury Case. Octavo calf.


43. Symboleography Part II Indictments: The printed text bound up with some manuscript additions. A single note in the autograph of Bacon reads 'leave this out if there were no alienacon', with monogram.


44. Arte Aulica di Lorenzo Ducci, 1601. With the autograph of Henry Cobham Lord Brooke on the title.
Cobham lived over by Shakespeare's Theatre and no doubt this volume was part of the spoils of the lawyers upon his attainder.


45. A Commonplace book. On the fly-leaf is a note of Books to be had also 'Heinsius Hercules'. A Satyricall peece of Hensius against Scoppius . . . as Mr. ffarnaby told me '3 things to be mainly studied:

I mo. A competent knowledge of the law

2. An understanding in matters of Trade and Commerce

3. An ability to use eloquens et temperatum genus loquendi'

At the other end of the book is a note dated 1634 mentioning grandfather Tothill 1606 &c. Octavo vellum.


46. A Collection of Treatises. Impositions by Sir John Davies. Remonstrance on Impositions Discourse of Trade 3 Sept. 1622 Written by Sr Walter Cope (probably a wrong ascription).

A Light for Merchants and Directory for Factors (with a cipher and key on last leaf).
Project for an Imposition on Sea Coals. J. A. Bacon quoted on fly-leaves.

Folio calf.


47. A Treatise of Wills and Executors. 227 folios. On the fly-leaf is ffor eyes good An Apothecary dwellith over against halsburg house. The Preface quotes a speech of the King, March 1609.
Folio calf.





1. William Tottel or Tothill, (son of Richard Tottel the printer) one of the Six Clerks in Chancery, and Steward of Bacon's Manors, died 1627. Will P.C.C.72 Skynner. His Overseers named are Sir Randall Crew kt. chief justice K.B. and his brother Sir Thomas Crew, sergeant at law.

Sir Thomas Crew was Bacon's trustee; (see his Will in Spedding xiv 539-545.)


2. Richard Drake, Equerry to Queen Elizabeth, died 11 July 1603.


3. Joan, daughter of William Tottel (1), married Francis Drake, son of (2), gentleman of the Privy Chamber to James the First, died 17 March, 1633. In his Will P.C.C.43 Seager he mentions Johanna Hooker of New England.

The issue of Joan and Francis Drake was Sir William Drake the last owner of the library to add to the work carried on in connexion with Bacon.


In the interest of the ultimate purchaser, the price of the Collection is not here disclosed . . . but will be furnished in strict confidence to any recipient of this Catalogue who is interested and will communicate with The Managing Director, ALAN KEEN LTD. The Gate House, Clifford's Inn, London, E.C.4.


¶ NOTE. Copies of this Catalogue intended for the United States will be posted by Air Mail one month before release of the English issue, to allow for the receipt of cabled enquiry coincident with those enquiries within the British Isles. Every facility will be given for the intending purchaser to appoint such an Agent or other representative as he may desire for scrutiny of the Collection in London before shipment to the U.S.




ADD. NOTE: THIS COLLECTION has been examined by Mr. Stanley Morison, Sandars Reader in Bibliography to the University of Cambridge, and world-authority on Typography and Palaeography, who has prepared a Report in proof of Bacon's actual association with the Shardeloes Manuscripts. A copy of the Report is available to those interested in the purchase of the Collection, together with extra evidence of the existence of other books in private ownership which form part of the original Bacon-Tottel Library.

This Collection can be found in University College of London, UCL

MS OGDEN 7 - Bacon/Tottel Collection

54 volumes Commonplace books, c1590-1660 A detailed description and catalogue of the collection by Stuart Clark was published in Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, VI, 1976 and VII,1977. Much of the collection has been microfilmed.

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 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning