Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection of English Court and Manorial Documents

The Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection in the University of Chicago Library comprises a remarkably complete chronological series of English court and manorial documents spanning the period from 1250 to 1700. The core of the collection consists of the muniments of title, court rolls, account rolls, rentals, and other documents that came to Sir Nicholas Bacon (1510-1579), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Queen Elizabeth and father of Sir Francis Bacon, when he purchased monastic and other lands in the mid-sixteenth century.

For a  history  of the Bacon Collection, see the Guide to the Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection of English Court and Manorial Documents.

This database contains descriptions of each of the 4613 Bacon manuscripts. Each description contains some or all of the following fields:

Series: Series I contains primarily manorial records while Series II includes mostly manuscripts pertaining to individuals, such as title deeds, letters, and acquittances. Series III includes a small number of additional manuscripts, received separately from the bulk of the collection.

Manuscript Number: The manuscripts are sequentially numbered, from 1 to 4575. In some cases, a description encompasses several related manuscripts. Each of these manuscripts has a separate entry in the database, with a note identifying other manuscripts to which the description also applies.

Description: Descriptions of manuscripts in Series I usually include regnal dates, abbatial dates and/or episcopal dates and may include descriptions of transactions, language, and notes on atypical materials (generally paper) or other remarks. Manuscripts in Series II are described according to this formula: Regnal Date; 1. First party 2. Second party [other parties may follow]; Places and Subject of Transaction (Field names are indicated by “X"); Consideration; Description of Instrument; Endorsements [only given occasionally in this calendar] (Language, Material, and Remarks)

Date: Chronological dates are provided in the date field. Regnal, abbatial and episcopal dates may be included in the manuscript description.

Type: Manuscripts within each series are grouped by type of document. In some instances in Series II, the type field also provides information on a document’s language and material (paper or parchment.)

Manor/Location: This field indicates, the manor, estate or other physical or administrative location relevant to each manuscript in Series I. For some manuscripts, manors or locations are noted in the Description, rather than in this field.

Landowner: Landowners are indicated only for a small number of manuscripts, primarily wills and estate administrative documents in Series II.

Membranes: This field indicates the number of pages or membranes comprising each manuscript in Series I.

Seals: When a document in Series II bears seals or seal tags, this is indicated in by a fraction, such as 1*3. The first number denotes the number of seals, the second the number of tags. The symbol f*1 indicates that a fragment of a seal is attached to the manuscript; s*1 means that it has been slit for a seal but no tag is attached.

"View All" displays all of the manuscript descriptions, ordered by Manuscript Number. The date browse orders descriptions by the earliest year recorded for each manuscript. Please note that the descriptions of the Bacon manuscripts reflect the variations in spelling of personal and place names found in the manuscripts themselves.

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Browse by Date:   1100-1199 | 1200-1299 | 1300-1399 | 1400-1499 | 1500-1599 | 1600-1699 | 1700-1799


In 1972, the Library produced an exhibition based on the  Bacon collection. The catalogue of this exhibition, The Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection: Sources on English Society, 1250-1700 (University of Chicago Library, 1972), is available for sale from the Special Collections Research Center.

For further information on manuscripts in the Sir Nicholas Bacon collection or related holdings, please contact:

Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 E. 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Fax: (773) 702-3728