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From The British Library, London

Detailed Listing

DESCRIPTIONS [Note: measurements (height x width) refer to the dimensions of a single leaf, not of the entire opening.]


1. Additional MS 4821

Historical and philosophical notebook of Sir James Ware (1594-1666), with notes covering the fourth to the seventeenth centuries. Ware served as an MP and auditor-general, and was one of his period’s leading scholars of Irish history and literature. His signature is on fol.242v.

The volume was originally prepared as a commonplace book of philosophical definitions: running from what is now the back of the volume, each page has a subject heading -- though the majority have no entries. There is an index to these headings on fol.241v headed “Tabula alphabetica locorum generalium qui hoc codice continente.” The bulk of the volume contains historical memoranda from 1627-1648, some of which are written over the earlier philosophical material. [Similar notes from Ware’s research can be found in Additional MSS 4783-4801, 4822, 33991-4, and Lansdowne MS 418.] There is also some spurious historical material forged by Robert Ware, Sir James’s son, circa 1678: as Ware’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography explained, “[Robert] defaced some of his father’s manuscripts with controversial scribblings.” Fol.202r has a family tree of the Wares, starting with Sir James’s father and mother, and fol.242 has a list of books headed “Books lent.”

Paper, 242 fols., 185 x 140mm.


2. Additional MS 6038

Commonplace book of Sir Julius Caesar (1558-1636), with nearly sixty years’ worth of reading notes and observations, filling nearly 1200 pages. Caesar was born Julio Cesare Adelmare, the son of an emigrée Italian physician, and became one of the highest-ranking figures in the governments of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Under Elizabeth he served as MP, Commissioner of the Peace, Judge of the Admiralty, Master of the Chancery, and Master of Requests, and under James he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Councillor, and Master of the Rolls.

Caesar entered the notes from the 1570s to his death in 1636, using a copy of John Foxe’s Pandecte Locorum Communium (London: John Daye, 1572 -- an expanded version of his earlier Locorum communium tituli et ordines quinquaginta, published at Basle in 1557). This volume provided a printed title-page, address to the reader, subject headings, and alphabetical index, with the pages below the headings left blank for the reader to fill in. Surviving copies of these printed commonplace books suggest that most readers gave up very quickly, but Caesar filled the entire volume with densely-packed notes. He also added topical headings of his own, both in the printed index and on individual pages, and began an additional manuscript index at the back.

It is unusual to find a commonplace book that has been so thoroughly used, and a volume of any sort that contains records from the entire life of a major public figure: “Most young law students on finishing their studies put their commonplace books away; they might use them for future reference, but they no longer made entries in them. Caesar, however, continued to add entries throughout his life, making his last entry in 1636. Because his commonplace book is extant and because he wrote in it for nearly sixty years, it is a singular document preserving a lifetime of readings, thoughts, and observations” (L. M. Hill, Bench and Bureaucracy: The Public Career of Sir Julius Caesar, 1580-1636 (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1988), 6).

Paper, 616 fols., 315 x 215mm.

3. Additional MS 27419

Commonplace book of Henry Calverley, of Ergholme, co. Durham, containing, among other things, epitomes of Thomas Fuller, The Church-History of Britain, from the Birth of Jesus Christ, untill the year 1648 (London, 1655), and John Spotiswoode, The History of the Church of Scotland (London, 1655), both prepared by Calverley in 1658. The other end of the volume contains historical notes, political poetry, and descriptions of people and places around Europe under the heading “A Miscellaneous Collection.”

Paper, 45 fols., 175 x 110mm.


4. Additonal MS 28273

Memorandum book of John Locke (1606-61), father of John Locke the philosopher, dated between 1623 and 1655 and including family records, legal notes, muster rolls, notes on bell-ringing, definitions from philosophy (125r-126r), theological notes (129v-136v), “A Receipt against the Plague” (138r), notes on the 10 Sybils (139r), medical and culinary recipes (140v-156v), notes on shipping in England and Wales, etc.

Paper, 158 fols., 190 x 140mm. Six leaves have been excised from the beginning of the volume.

5. Additional MS 28728

Miscellaneous materials, some autograph, related to John Locke, including letters on various subjects, and a holograph copy (in English and Latin) of Locke’s treatise on commonplace books:

Fols.1-45. 21 original letters of Locke to Nicolas Thoynard on literary and scientific subjects, Latin and French, from 11 July 1678 to 13 August 1700. These were collected and sold as part of the autograph collection of M. Jacques Charles Brunet. [More of the collection can now be found in Additional MS 28753 (22 letters from Locke to Thoynard, 1679-1701) and Additional MS 28853 (6 letters from Locke to Thoynard, 1680-1700).]

ff46-63. “Adversariorum Methodus” -- a scheme for commonplace books, by Locke, in his own hand with a dedicatory letter to Thoynard. In Latin first (46-53), then in English (54-63). There are other copies at the Bodleian Library, and it was printed in Locke’s  Oeuvres Posthumes. [For a transcription and discussion see G. G. Meynell, “John Locke’s Method of Common-placing,” The Seventeenth Century 8 (1993), 245-67, Appendix I.]

ff65-66. Key to a cipher in the hand of Locke.

ff67-68. Tables of weights and measures for principal cities of the world.

f69. Note concerning the publication of a work by Locke after his death.

f70. A recipe headed “Onguant pour remedier au mal duquel Monsieur Lock vous a écrit.”

ff71-72. William Charleton [i.e. Courten] to N. Thoynard, thanking him for a box of seeds for Locke; Montpellier, 8 April 1681.

f73. Receipt by Christophe Justel, in the name of Damoiselle Vianie Le Jay; Paris 28 January 1630.

ff74-76. Henri Justel to Sir Robert Southwell; 20 Mar 1683 and 12 Sept. 1684.

ff77-78. Sir Peter (later Lord) King, Lord Chancellor, to James Reynolds, Recorder of St. Edmondsbury, 4 January 1714/5.

ff79-81. Extracts from Lord King’s Life of Locke.

Paper, 81 fols., pages of various sizes but the largest is 335 x 270mm. Individual items are bound in separately with blank leaves between them. Items 1 and 2 have printed descriptive slips from the Brunet sale catalogue (see item 1) pasted on to the interleaves.

6. Additional MS 34016

A volume of miscellaneous notes, part of which has been used as an account book and commonplace book by Stephen Humfrey of Chichester and others (1667-1674). At the beginning is a list of persons living in Westminster and its liberties circa 1657 (1r-10v). The rest of the volume contains an account of a shipment of wheat (12r); “Meditac[i]ons on a short fitt of sicknesse I had in August 1670” (12v); “Receipts for severall distempers” (13r); a “Catalogue of vnbound books” dated December 11 1668 (13v); “A note of Bills & bonds taken this 15 Febr 1672” (14r); 14v “Sentences out of my L. Bacons Advancement” (14v); the financial accounts of various people (15r-22r); and “Notes out of Davilas’s history of ye Civill warrs of France” (24r). There is an alphabetical index (25r-44r), which has some financial accounts mixed in.

Paper, 45 fols., 395 x 255mm.

7. Additional MS 35342

A collection of notes on logic, cookery, and medicine, probably compiled by Brandon Hillyarde (his signature, dated 3 April 1636, is on 3r) and John Poulett (perhaps Sir John, afterwards 2nd Baron Poulett). The volume includes a tabular summary of a system of logic, probably in hand of Poulett (4r-9r); 102 cookery recipes, perhaps in Hillyarde’s hand (10r-43r); and a few medical recipes (44r-48r).

Paper, 48 fols., 285 x 180mm. The volume is in an odd condition now: the original leaves have been remounted onto larger pages (345mm x 230mm), and many blank pages have been inserted. The pencil pagination on the original pages does not match the pencil pagination on the larger mounts, which suggests that either some leaves are missing or the blank pages in the original were removed. The number of leaves with original material is 48, but this includes a few pages that have later materials (1r, which has some notes pertaining to the acquisition of this ms; 45v, which is a page from the Somerset County Gazette regarding this manuscript; and 46r, which is an account of the Poulett Family).

8. Additional MS 35983

A volume used first as a commonplace book and then recycled as a collection of law reports. Running from what is now the front of the volume, there is a compilation of legal notes from the King’s Bench, dated 1691-92, in a minute hand, and partly in shorthand. At the other end of the volume is a student’s classical commonplace book, with Latin and Greek passages copied from various texts. The headings include “Origo matrimonij,” “Amicitia,” “Educatio,” “Fides,” “Amor Patriae,” “Fortitudinis exemplum,” “Moderatio,” and “Discordia,” and frequently cited authors include Cicero, Ovid, Horace, Martial, Terence, Virgil, Hesiod, Xenophon and Plutarch.

Paper, 186 fols., 165 x 120mm.


9. Additional MS 36354

Commonplace book of John Milton, with some additions in other hands. Passages from Milton’s reading have been entered under subheadings within three larger classifications -- Ethics (2r-49v), Economics (50r-87v), and Politics (88r-119v). There is a rough index of topics at the back (120r), listed under “Ethicus” (including “De virtute,” “De Poetica,” and “De fide servanda”), “Oeconomicus” (“Matrimonium,” “De Divortio,” and “De usura”), and “Politicus” (“Respublica,” “Rex,” “Tyrannus,” “Libertas,” “De bello civili,” and “De seditione”). The sources are both classical and contemporary, and most are in English and Latin.

Many of the copious notes on marriage and divorce date from 1643-46; other portions of the manuscript are probably much earlier. The non-autograph entries are in the hands of several amanuenses, but there are also additions apparently in the hand of Richard Graham, 1st Viscount Preston (the compiler of Additional MS 63781 below). Prefixed is a letter, found in the volume, from the musician Henry Lawes to Milton, forwarding a letter from the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports to serve as a warrant for his going out of the King’s dominions (1638), which has two lines of verse in Milton’s hand on the back. The volume has been edited and published several times.

Paper, i+120 fols., pages somewhat decayed but average size is 290 x 220mm. There is an early ink pagination (used in the index on 120r) and a later pencil foliation, and there are some blank, unnumbered leaves.

10. Additional MS 37719

Prison notebook of Sir John Gibson (1606-1665) of Welburn, Co. York, a Royalist prisoner in Durham Castle, circa 1653-1660. The volume was meant to serve not only as a record of Gibson’s readings, experiences, and political/religious beliefs during his incarceration but as his legacy to his family: the compilation is dedicated to Gibson’s son (in a letter, on 5v, dated March 1656) and some of its items are directed specifically toward him, and there are many notes in the opening pages related to parents and children in general and Gibson’s family in particular. This extraordinary collection contains medical recipes, prayers and theological notes, extracts from the Bible, political prose and poetry, copies of letters, engravings and passages cut out of contemporary printed books, and an autobiographical narrative (in verse), featuring several drawings and coats of arms.

Paper, i+284 fols., 195 x 150mm.

11. Additional MS 38482

Commonplace book of Edward Evelyn of Felbridge, Co. Surr. (b.1681), 1700-1718. The book was prepared with an alphabetical list of commonplace headings, but these have been ignored and in some cases crossed out. Instead, Evelyn entered financial records, poems, and notes on mathematics, military tactics, and travel.    

Paper, 107 fols., 290 x 185 mm.


12. Additional MS 38823

Commonplace book of Sir Edward Hoby, containing materials relating to America, Parliament, the Isle of Sheppey, the siege of Calais (1346-47), Mary Queen of Scots, and other subjects. The volume also contains The Lord’s Prayer in Turkish and a collection of aphorisms arranged in groups of four.

Paper, 105 fols., 335 x 220mm. The opening flyleaf has two vellum strips attached: these were presumably part of the original binding.

13. Additional MS 39214

Commonplace book of Nicolas Rulandt, compiled circa 1637. The text is in French and Italian and contains arithmetical sums and tables, letters from a young foreign traveller at Lyons to his father and others, a recipe for ink, puzzles and games with cards and abacus, and songs, mainly amorous and comic.

Paper, 78 fols., 185 x 150mm. In its original vellum cover, which has some printed text on it.

14. Additional MS 41068

Commonplace book of Bernardo Bembo (1433-1519), Venetian magistrate and father of Cardinal Pietro Bembo. The notes are in Latin and (occasionally) Italian: most of the extracts are from classical and patristic authors, but there are some from contemporary authors. The headings have been arranged alphabetically, and there are two indices: the one at the beginning of the volume (fols.2r-11r) not only lists words but sometimes cross-references related words, and there is a second version (on fols.20r-38r, with its own alphabetical tabs down the right margin) with some additional cross-references to associated terms. Bembo recorded his personal experiences in marginal notes (usually distinguished by a B or BB at the side), and used both visual sketches and elaborate pointing fingers to draw attention to particularly important passages.

Paper, 324 fols., 287 x 190mm.

15. Additional MS 42118

Commonplace book of H[enry?] Consett, consisting of extracts from legal, scientific, and historical works. Consett is probably to be identified with the author of The Practice of the Spiritual or Ecclesiastical Courts (London, 1685). The presentation is formal, and in places designed to look like a printed book.

ff4-5: “Forma vel modus practicandi in Curiis Ecclesiasticis...” (1674).

ff6-20: Extracts from Francis Clarke, Praxis in Curiis Ecclesiasticis (1666), divided into 29 tituli.

ff21-31: Miscellaneous extracts, mostly from Robert Boyle’s and William Harvey’s scientific works.

ff32-52: “Threnodia Carolina,” an account of the last two years of the life of King Charles I, a version of the treatise by Sir Thomas Herbert, 1st Baronet (first printed in 1678). This version was reconstructed by Consett partly from memory and partly from extracts in Wood’s Athenae and Fasti Oxoniensis. The title-page on 32r reads “Threnodia Carolina/ A Discourse writte by Sir Thomas Herbert Barronet by way of letter to Sir Wm. Dugdale, concerning such things & passages as had happened to that Prince of ever blessed memory Charles the first in the two last yeares of his life. / Which discourse was transcribed by my owne hands fair over (some 5 Coppyes) from Sir Thomas his foule over, and contained about 85 pages of a narrow folio. …This I have transcribed & collected out of the Athenae Oxoniensis & the fasti; where all the aforesaid work is here & there inserted, tho’ nott methodically as delivered by Sir Thomas Herbert. Therefore having every thing contained in the said manuscript perfect in my memory, I have reduc’d itt into the same method, as writt from him (without any additions, I am sure) as well in memory of that Prince, & martyr, as alsoe in wittnesse of Sir Thomas Herberts testimony, every word of which I can safely attest. H. Consett.”

Paper, 54 fols., 305 x 195mm.


16. Additional MS 42121

An adjunct to Additional MS 44963 and partner to Additional MS 44964 (see below): miscellaneous biographical notes on Revd. Anthony Scattergood (1611-1687) and his son Samuel (1646-1696), compiled by Thomas Scattergood of Leeds (1826-1900), first Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Leeds, with some additional notes by Bernard P. Scattergood. Many of the details found their way into Thomas Scattergood’s Dictionary of National Biography entry for Anthony Scattergood.

Paper, 105 fols., 262 x 210mm.

17. Additional MS 43410

Commonplace book of Charles Caesar of Great Gransden, Co. Hunt. (1636-1707), grandson of Sir Julius Caesar (compiler of Additional MS 6038 above). This is the second of six commonplace books compiled by Caesar between 1704 and 1706 and is an extremely miscellaneous collection, including poetry, mostly religious or moral (and some apparently Caesar’s own compositions), prayers, notes on contemporary events, the Caesar family, sermons, supernatural occurrences and jests.

Paper, ii+192 fols., 320 x 207mm. The original vellum cover has been preserved as pastedowns in the newer binding: the front cover reads “The Second Volume. 1705” with a CC monogram, and the back has the date 1705 with the CC monogram. The spine has been pasted on to the second flyleaf at the front. Each gathering is now sewn on to a separate tab.

18. Additional MS 44963

Commonplace book of Revd. Anthony Scattergood (1611-1687), containing poems in Latin, Greek, and English, medical recipes, academic exercises, and copies of letters and orations. Although the poems are generally unsigned, their authors are usually known: they include Thomas Carew, Richard Corbet, Ben Jonson, Bishop Henry King, Thomas Randolph, William Strode, Henry Wotton, and others. The volume also contains a copy (on fols.41r-81v) of the Latin play Adelphe by Samuel Brooke, Master of Trinity College Cambridge, performed on 27 Feb. 1612 and 2 March 1613. The volume was probably compiled when Scattergood was at Trinity College Cambridge, between 1632 and 1640. His signature is on 3r, 4r, and 133v, and on 130v is “Elisabeth Scattergood her Boke 1667/8.” Elisabeth (1653-1686) was Scattergood’s daughter.

Paper, i+134+ii fols. (now lacking fols.131-2), 147 x 95mm. Bound in the original vellum cover (with “Common Place Book of Anthony Scattergood, MS” written on the spine), and kept in a modern leather wallet with the Scattergood family arms on the cover.

19. Additional MS 44964

Biographical and bibliographical material related to Anthony Scattergood and his commonplace book (Additional MS 44963 above), compiled by Thomas Scattergood and Herbert John Davis. The volume contains notes and drafts related to Thomas Scattergood’s Dictionary of National Biography entry for Anthony Scattergood (fols.1-51), a detailed description of Scattergood’s commonplace book (52-64), and a draft (65-85) and offprint (86-92) of an article by Herbert J. Davis on the commonplace book.

Paper, 92 fols., 262 x 210mm.

20. Additional MS 45154

Commonplace book, perhaps compiled by Adam Airay (Principal of St. Edmund Hall Oxford, d.1658). It contains notes and extracts, with page references, from early seventeenth-century printed books, for the most part related to biblical, classical, and medieval history. The text runs from 1-108 and continues, volume reversed, from 132 to 109.

Paper, i+132 fols., 183 x 140mm. Every leaf has been pasted on to a separate tab, and pasted on to fol.ir is a photograph from a ms at the Bodleian Library with an entry related to Adam Airay.


21. Additional MS 47113

Commonplace book, chiefly compiled by Sir Philip Perceval, 2nd Bart., circa 1669-1677. There are also some notes in hand of Sir John Perceval, 3rd Bart., dated 1681 and 1684. The volume contains financial notes concerning Perceval lands in Ireland. There are also extracts from French poetry, “advise concerning travell” (5r-11v), passages from texts on country life, observations on national characteristics (14r-17v), and “An Impartial Discourse uppon the present wars in Flanders with Englands enterest in it/ Writt by Mr Jon Guilhard” (18v-33v). At the other end of the volume, there are detailed lists of court offices and their salaries (dated 1669), of military and ecclesiastical officers, Irish nobility, parliamentary representatives from Ireland, provinces, counties, and parishes in Ireland, rents from Perceval lands, and some notes on globes and maps.

Paper, 94 fols., 143 x 85mm. The front pastedown is now marked as fol.1, followed by a later flyleaf, and the text begins on fol.2. The last page of the text is fol.93, after which there is a later flyleaf and then the back pastedown (marked as fol.94).

22. Additional MS 48097

A lawyer’s commonplace book from the early seventeenth century, containing notes, treatises, and records relating to the Court of Chancery. These materials were commonly found in Chancery collections, but were copied out of the usual sequence, with some omissions and differences in content. There are also some pen trials and mathematical calculations.

Paper, 88 fols., 220 x 170mm. This volume is now kept in a box with three related manuscripts, originally forming Yelverton MSS 106-109. All are in their original vellum bindings: this one has “Chancery” and “J T” on the cover, and “Canc” and “106” on the spine.

23. Additional MS 52585

The “Waferer Commonplace Book,” compiled circa 1591-1627. The text is in several hands, and includes a copy of “Sr Gouldsmith his Exercise at the salting of his Fresh men at Trinitie Colleg in Cambridg,” poetry (including an extract from Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece and verses attributed to Ralegh and Essex), aphorisms, medical recipes, lists of books, and notes on arithmetic and rhetoric.

On the front of the original vellum cover (now bound in separately at the front of the volume) is written “A book of general collections,” and on the back are signatures of “Marth: Waferer” (probably Myrth Waferer, Canon of Winchester) and Walter Jesson. Inside the front cover there are some religious notes (including some Biblical citations “Against the pride of women,” and the Ten Commandments). The name of R[ichard] Waferer also appears on fol.43 and as the author of anagrammatic verses “in prayse of Isabell Spencer” on 76v.

Paper, 77 fols., 215 x 157mm. The volume has been damaged, resulting in the loss of most of fols.6, 37-9, 43, 68-71, and 77, and is now bound with every gathering stitched to a separate tab.

24. Additional MS 52800

Heraldic and genealogical commonplace book of Sir Richard St. George, Clarenceux King of Arms, 1623-35. The notes are mostly compiled from the cartularies of Meaux, Daventry, and other monastic houses, and the collections of John Leland, William Burton, John Lumley and others.

The extracts are followed by an index to families (fols.174-85) and a contents list (186). At the end of the volume (fols.187-205) there are additional heraldic and genealogical notes, mostly by Sir Richard’s Son, Sir Henry St. George the elder (d.1644), and his grandson, Sir Henry St. George the younger (d.1715), both Garter Kings of Arms, and by Robert Dale, Richmond Herald (d.1722).

Paper, ii+205 fols., 350 x 240mm.


25. Additional MS 54332

Commonplace book, probably produced by Henry Oxenden, circa 1630-68. Aside from extensive memoranda related to the Oxenden family (including records of household activities and local events, copies of wills, and sketches of coats of arms), there are detailed lists of commentators on different books of the Bible (one of them attributed to Mr Simon Alderich, and dated 1640) and other religious notes. Once again, the compiler turned the volume over and began again from the other end: fols.152-207 are written upside down from the back.

The Dictionary of National Biography identifies Henry Oxinden or Oxenden (1609-1670) as the eldest son of Richard Oxinden (1588-1629) of Little Maydekin in Barham, Kent. Henry was a student at Corpus Christi College Oxford and later published religious and political verse.   

Paper, 207 fols., 187 x 135mm. The volume is now stored, in its original binding, within a larger leather wallet. The front pastedown is marked fol.1 and the back is fol.207.

26. Additional MS 56279

The “Aston Commonplace Book,” an extremely varied compilation of heraldic and genealogical material, poetry, historical notes, music and medical recipes. Some of the pages in the volume were associated with the Aston family and were probably the property of Sir Roger Aston (d.1612), Master of the Great Wardrobe to King James I. The volume was later owned by Warren Dawson (1888-1968), an antiquarian and egyptologist, and broker at Lloyds. 

ff1-3: Flyleaves with notes of ownership (incl. Thomas Davis), unfinished sketch of arms, etc.. Inserted between fols.1 and 2 is the original front cover.

f4: An unfinished sketch of a coat of arms.

f5: “Two verses more of hermitt pore,” the second and third stanzas of the poem of that name attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh.

f6-15: Lyra viol music in tablature. The title page of this section should be fol.12, which has Silvanus Stirrop His Booke” on it, and which is bound out of order. Added at 15 is “the base to hermitt powore,” a musical setting of Sir Walter Ralegh’s poem (see item 3 above). The music has been described in detail in P. J. Willetts, “Silvanus Stirrop’s Book,” Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle 10 (1972), 101-107.

f16: Extracts from medieval deeds relating to Aston, Co. Chester.

ff17-20: Blazons of arms by Jacob Chaloner, Arms Painter of Chester, along with genealogies; painted before 1627.

ff21-24: Six songs with a bass, circa 1620.

f25 is a later note transcribing the text of the now-restored music on fol.24 (Ben Jonson’s “For love’s sake kiss me once again”).

After fol. 25 is the original back cover followed by miscellaneous documents (medical recipes, letters, shipping lists, etc.) from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, collected by Warren Dawson.  

Paper and vellum, 45 fols., pages of various sizes but the largest is 312 x 200mm. The volume was badly decayed when Dawson acquired it in 1933: he had the covers removed and rebound any leaves that could be salvaged.

27. Additional MS 57555

Sir Walter Ralegh’s notebook, compiled circa 1606-8, while he was imprisoned in the Tower and working on his History of the World (1614). The volume contains a detailed historical gazetteer (an alphabetical guide to places in the ancient Middle East, derived from the Bible, Church Fathers, etc.), library lists, and poetry. The gazetteer of the Middle East (fols.1-140, 172) is illustrated with 13 manuscript maps, mostly in watercolour. The library lists (140-141 and 158-171) describe some 500 printed volumes in his possession, and they have been printed and discussed in Walter Oakeshott, “Sir Walter Ralegh’s Library,” The Library 5th ser. 23 (1968), 285-327. At the end of the volume (172v) there is an autograph fair copy of a poem addressed to Queen Elizabeth, “Now we haue present made,” part of the “Cynthia” cycle.

Paper, 173 fols., 240 x 170mm.


28. Additional MS 61490

A volume of financial accounts and household memoranda from the second half of the seventeenth century, partly written over an earlier commonplace book. It came to the British Library as part of the Blenheim Papers (the archive of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland and his agents, 1660-1697), but the records in this manuscript involve a wide range of people and places:

Notes of John Stanley from 1678 to 1683, including accounts of wood sales in Wicken and Newbottle, both Northamptonshire.  The “Newbottle wood book” (fols.19-24) is written on pages taken from a mid-seventeenth-century commonplace book: some entries for topics (“Venia,” “Mala,” “Innocentia,” “Servus & Servitus,” and “Virtus”) can be found upside down in a different hand.

Robert Jaycock, 1665-1684, mostly relating to the manor of Wormleighton, Warwickshire. Disbursements, mostly for household expenses, by an unidentified agent, 1682-3. Accounts and financial memoranda by unidentified agents, 1665-1697.

Paper, 217 fols., pages of various sizes but the largest is 375 x 250mm. The leaves have been sewn onto separate tabs.

29. Additional MS 61903

Diary and commonplace book of Peter Le Neve (1661-1729), Norfolk antiquary and Norroy King of Arms, from 27 November 1678 to 10 February 1685. The notes are chiefly concerned with public affairs, including trials connected with the Popish Plot and parliamentary proceedings. Le Neve also included copies of satirical verses by Andrew Marvell, John Oldham, and others, and fol.64v has the key to a simple cipher, labelled “My Brothers character.”

Paper, 93 fols., 145 x 95mm. There are some blank leaves at the end of the volume.

30. Additional MS 61942

Legal commonplace book of Sir Thomas Pengelly (1675-1730), dated 1691, consisting of notes from decrees, statutes and legal commentators, and including a list of law books with comments on their authors, dates, and usefulness. Pengelly was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1692, and he later rose to become Chief Baron of the Exchequer. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Pengelly’s other commonplace books can now be found in the library of the Inner Temple.

Paper, i+52 fols., 150 x 100mm.

31. Additional MS 62540

The “Nowell-Burghley Atlas,” a “geographical commonplace book” containing two maps by Lawrence Nowell, with itineraries partly in the hand of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, circa 1564-1570.

The volume begins with 3 blank paper leaves. The fourth leaf  (marked “2” in pencil) has Nowell’s map of Sicily on the reverse: it is in pen and wash and was possibly copied from the Lafreri Atlas at Hatfield House. After this there is a piece of vellum (folded and sewn in to form two leaves, fols.3 and 4): fol.3r has two itineraries (one in French, from Anuers to Auguste) and the other in English, in Burghley’s hand (from Dunkirk to Augsburg). 3v-4r is Nowell’s map of the British Isles, headed “A general description of England and Ireland with the costes adioyning.” Nowell prepared this map in ink and coloured wash circa 1564. It was annotated, probably by Burghley, to show positions of Framlingham, Suffolk, and Lopham, Norfolk.  (For Nowell’s proposal to Burghley for more accurate mapping of the country, of which this map was an example, see Lansdowne 6, item 54.) 4v has a sequence of itineraries (“The east way from London to York”, “The west way from London to York,” “The way from London to Barwik and ye border by ye est way”, “From London to Carlile & ye west border”, “From London to York,” From York to Lincoln,” etc.). The last item, “From London to Edinburgh 288,” is in Burghley’s hand.

At the end of this little volume there is another paper leaf (marked “5”), and 5r has two more itineraries, “From Latham in Lanc. to Windsor” and “Postes layd from Windsor to Couentry.”  The back pastedown, marked “6,” has some sort of scale drawn in pen and ink. See Peter Barber’s essay on the volume in The Map Collector XXII (1983), 16-21.

Paper and vellum, 6 fols., pages of various sizes. The volume is in its original binding of limp vellum with remains of silk ties: a note on the cover reads “Lord Burghley carried this map always about him.”

32. Additional MS 63075

A notebook of prayers and moral and religious extracts in prose and verse, compiled by Henry Sturmy circa 1696. The volume also contains the ownership inscription of Susan Hayward. On fol.2r, Sturmy’s initial miscellaneous notes from 1696 are crossed out and replaced with the formal inscription, “I writ for my own directions, and Meadit[at]ions what is contained in this booke and though not Artificially Sett together Notwithstanding I hope it may bee of good effect and vse to Henry Sturmy.”

Many of the poems are taken from Quarles’s Divine Fancies and the prose extracts are largely from Felltham’s Resolves. There is also a musical setting for a poem, for which Purcell also composed music. For another commonplace book by Sturmy see Additional MS 63782 below.

Paper, 88 fols., 133 x 75mm.

33. Additional MS 63781

Commonplace book of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Graham), 3rd Bart. of Eske and Netherby, 1st Viscount Preston, Envoy Extraordinary in Paris (1682-5), Master of the Great Wardrobe (1685-8), and Secretary of State (1688). The volume was compiled circa 1675, and chiefly concerns legal subjects. On fol.1v there is a historical note about death of John of Gaunt and on 2r there is a general heading for the volume: “Excerpta…ex Corpora Juris Civilis Justinianei Accursij et Gothofredi Commentarij et Glossij illustrato, et Lugduni Impresso Anno Domini….”

Paper, 29 fols., 295 x 190mm. Notes on the original vellum cover read “Scrap Book by Lord Preston” and, below that, “Ricardi Grahme liber” (dated March 15 1674/5). Many blank leaves have been bound in after fols.13, 23, 26, and 27.

34. Additional MS 63782

Another commonplace book of Henry Sturmy, also dated 1696. The first opening contains miscellaneous notes of a religious and moral character, including notes on sugar and conversation. From fols.3r-29v, Sturmy entered a formal text headed “An account of the Year,” containing various details about the workings of the calendar.

The volume also contains basic information about the geography of the British Isles (30r), a text headed “Against discemblers” (30v), a note reading “What I have writ in this Booke is Intended for my own meaditations And though not Artificially Sett together, yet I hope it may bee of good effect and vse unto Henry Sturmy” (31r), a note “Of Law” (31r),  miscellaneous notes on religion, some prayers, and a quotation from Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici (1642). Some of the verse comes again from Quarles, and some of the prose from Felltham.

Paper, 137 fols., 155 x 83mm.


35. Additional MS 64078

Notes on metaphysics and theology, attributed to Thomas Harriot, with anonymous extracts from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I. The Harriot notes are headed (in various hands) “De Deo.,” “Et prima Causa & de multis aliis rebus. Notae ex discussionibus Sarbonicis. Parisi 1594” and “Notae ex discursu Thomae Harrioti (vt Credo).” At the end of the volume is part of the text of a letter written in a late seventeenth-century (probably female) hand. The Shakespeare extracts are written, volume reversed, on the final flyleaf and pastedown, and they correspond to approximately 62 lines of the play. They do not seem to be based on the first quarto (published in 1598) or any other contemporary edition. This is the earliest known quotation of any consequence from Henry IV, possibly even predating publication of the play, and the earliest substantial excerpts from any of Shakespeare’s plays. For a detailed analysis, see W. H. Kelliher, “Contemporary manuscript extracts from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I”, English Manuscript Studies 1 (1988), 133-181.

Paper, ii+48 fols., 295 x 200mm. After the Harriot notes there are stubs from 34 excised leaves.

36. Additional MS 70590

Commonplace book of Sir William Trumbull (1639-1716), Secretary of State (1695), and friend of Dryden and Pope, mostly consisting of a “Synopsis Logicae” (fols.4r-35v). After many blank leaves (36r-90r) there are some historical notes relating to 16th-century Flanders (90v-96v, volume reversed). The manuscript seems to date from circa 1657, when Trumbull was a student at Oxford: for another commonplace book from later in Trumbull’s career, see Additional MS 72544 below. The front flyleaf (now numbered “ii”) has the partly legible signature of Trumbull on the recto, and on the verso the heading “Synopsis Logicae” and “Gulielmus Trumbell liber ejus.”

Paper, i+101 fols., 125 x 72mm. Fols.1-3 are stubs of excised leaves, and the text now begins on fol.4r.

37. Additional MS 71134

Legal commonplace book from mid-sixteenth century, partly compiled by Sir William Stanford (1509-1558), Judge of Common Pleas (1554), with later additions. The volume opens with notes on arithmetic and continues (to fol.36r) with legal notes in several hands. On fols.37r-69v there is an account of financial “gains” from legal work (with dates and names of clients). After another set of legal notes (70v-76v) there is the beginning of a diary of public events for 1641-2, notes on political prophesies and medical recipes from the middle of the seventeenth century, and a list of “common liveries” in English courts.

Paper, 122 fols., 207 x 140mm. In its original leather wallet binding, closed with a strap and buckle. Between fols.29 and 30 there are the stubs of three excised leaves.


38. Additional MS 72544A

Another legal commonplace book of Sir William Trumbull (see Additional MS 70590 above). This massive volume is arranged under alphabetical headings, and was used in Trumbull’s practice as a civilian lawyer in the 1670s-1680s. It is interleaved with folios apparently in the hand of his father, William Trumbull II (1594-1668), clerk of the signet. Fols.645-8 have an alphabetical index of subjects (with page numbers referring to the earlier ink pagination) and there is another alphabetical index (649-661) referring to a different system of pagination.

Paper, ii+662+ii fols., 345 x 210mm.

This is continued on the next reel.


38. Additional MS 72544B (continued)

39. Egerton MS 3536

Commonplace book of William Pierrepont, second son of Robert Pierrepont, 1st Earl of Kingston, consisting chiefly of copies of leases and rents of Pierrepont lands in Cos. Nott., Linc., and Salop, 1565-1658. The volume also includes medical recipes by Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, 1637-39, seventeenth-century prognostications on Robert Pierrepont, and anagrams and epigrams on Sir Thomas Middleton, Lord Mayor of London, and others, most of them satirical and many bawdy, and at least some of them attributed to George Tash.

Paper, i+87 fols., 270 x 210mm. In its original binding, stamped with “Anno/ Northamp/tonsheir/ 1625.”

40. Egerton MS 3537

Commonplace book with miscellaneous notes in several hands, but chiefly the financial records of William Rayner of Orton Longueville, Co. Hunt., compiled between 1554 and1578. What makes this volume a commonplace book and not just an account book are the entries on “copia,” notes on English-Latin translation, and extracts from the Gesta Romanorum.

Paper, 75 fols., 220 x 155mm. There are some blank, unnumbered leaves.

41. Lansdowne MS 638

Legal commonplace book, interleaved with a printed work entitled, A Brief Method of the Law, Being an Exact Alphabetical Disposition of all the Heads Necessary for a Perfect Common-Place. …Printed in this Volume for the conveniency of Binding with Common-Place-Books (London: Richard and Edward Atkins, 1680 [Wing B4435A]). The entire printed text is here, with some manuscript additions, and the blank pages have been filled with sequentially numbered entries of texts and/or cases in at least two hands.   

Paper, i+132+i fols., 355 x 230mm.


42. Lansdowne MS 695

Commonplace book of Robert South, DD (1634-1716), probably dating from his time as a student at Christ Church Oxford. The volume contains Latin and English poetry; some ludicrous orations; precepts concerning globes and calendars; and problems in geometry and arithmetic.

South matriculated at Christ Church on 11 December 1651, received his BA on 24 February 1654/5, his MA on 12 June 1657, and his BD and DD on 1 Oct 1663. He was installed as Canon of Christ Church on 29 December 1670, and in June 1676 he traveled to Poland as chaplain to the English ambassador.

The first section is headed “Orationes & Poemata ex varij Authoribus tam Anglicano quam Latino Idiomati usis Selecta,” and it contains several poems by South himself. On fol.30 begins a section of notes “Out of Heylins Geography” and, after another poem and some blank leaves, “A Systeme of Praecepts concerning the Coelestiall & Terrestrial Globe.” After some mathematical notes, the volume ends with short note of instructions for finding leap years.

Paper, ii+132+ii fols., 185 x 105mm.

43. Royal MS 8 B XX

Commonplace book of John Harpsfield, DD (1516-1578), with religious, political, and financial notes from 1572-1577. Harpsfield was appointed Dean of Norwich in 1558, but for him and his brother Nicholas the transition to Elizabeth’s reformed church was very rocky. In 1559 John he was deprived of his preferments and committed prisoner in Fleet; Nicholas was imprisoned in the Tower from 1559 until his death in December 1575. John was eventually released on giving security that he would not speak or write against the doctrines of the established church, and he died in London on 19 August 1578. The notes in this volume date from 1572 to 1577, and touch on a wide range of subjects related to the Harpsfield brothers:

f4-62: Notes, dated 14 September 1572, of sermons apparently by Cornelius Janssen, Professor of Theology at Louvain, Bishop of Ghent.

f83b: Excerpts dated 14 Feb. 1573, of several controversial works by Jodocus Ravesteyn published at Louvain in 1567-8.

f94: Mnemonic verses, dated 4 Mar 1573, written in mixture of Latin and Greek, relating to Old Testament history.

f103b: Notes dated 1 March 1575, from the Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica of Nicholas Harpsfield.

ff153b, 157b: Notes dated 12 June 1575, from the Historia Wicleffiana of Nicholas Harpsfield.

Three letters (Greek and Latin) in which Harpsfield petitions for renewed leave of the Privy Council to go to Bath for his health.

ff160b, 183b: Metrical abridgement of the ecclesiastical history of England, dated 6 Dec 1575 to 18 May 1576. A few notes relating to personal matters (including Nicholas Harpsfield’s death on 18 December) are interspersed.

f182b: Extracts of newsletters relating to current events.

Copies of defeasance of the bond on which the Harpsfield brothers were released, with Privy Council’s letter to Brian Ansley, Warden of the Fleet, for their discharge, 19 August 1574.

Notes on the weather for Christmas 1575, and 12 days following, apparently regarded as forecast for next twelve months.

f160-end: Misc notes and accompts, 1575-1577. Many of these appear to relate to legacies left by Nicholas Harpsfield and some to proceeds of the sale of books. Others possibly represent contributions received for the relief of distressed Roman Catholics.

Paper, 194 fols., 208 x 155mm.

44. Royal MS 12 A XXXIV

Commonplace book of geography and rhetoric in Latin, Greek, and English; containing brief quotations in Latin verse concerning cities, countries, etc., and definitions of rhetorical tropes. A general title for the volume can be found on a scrap of paper pasted in on the fourth flyleaf at the front: “Vrbium et regionum quarundam Elogia. Item Geographie et Rhetorice Compendia. Manuscr.” On fol.1r is the signature and motto of “Will. Soan” (perhaps the William Soone who was Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge in 1561-3, and translator of Pomponius Mela).

Paper, iv+18+iii fols., 195 x 145mm.


45. Royal MS 12 B V

Commonplace book of John Morris of Isleworth (circa 1580-1658). The volume is arranged under alphabetical headings and contains anecdotes and apophthegms from classical sources and recent authors, including Montaigne and Bacon. It is dated 1604, but there are books cited that were not printed until after that date, and the range of inks and hands suggest that it was compiled over time.

Morris also produced two similarly arranged commonplace books, one devoted to medicine (Royal MS 12. B. X) and one to classical literature (Royal MS 12. E. IX). On Morris and his surprisingly large library see T. A. Birrell, The Library of John Morris: The Reconstruction of a Seventeenth-Century Collection (London: The British Library, 1976).

Paper, iii+163+iii fols., 185 x 145mm.  There are some blank, unnumbered leaves, and individual gatherings are now sewn on to separate tabs.

46. Royal MS 12 B X

Medical commonplace book of John Morris, in Latin, under alphabetical heads. Undated, but at least some of it is contemporary with Royal 12 B V.  

Paper, iii+45+iii fols., 195 x 145mm. There are many blank, unnumbered leaves.

47. Royal MS 12 C XV

Treatises on medicine and natural science, including what seems to be a commonplace book of a natural philosopher. Latin, mostly 13th century. Includes works by Galen, Alkindi, Alfarabi, and Aristotle. Fols.150 to the end form a collection of tracts and passages on psychology, medicine, physics, zoology, and botany: the British Library Manuscripts Catalogue suggests that “The whole is perhaps better described as a natural philosopher’s common-place book, without obvious indications to show whether the contents are original or borrowed.”

Vellum, i+264 fols., 230 x 165mm. The gatherings are now stitched on to separate tabs.


48. Stowe MS 1010

Literary and rhetorical commonplace book from the middle of the seventeenth century, including extracts from Sir R. Fanshawe’s translation of Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido (1646) and G. J. Vossius, Rhetorices Contracta (1653). At the end (on fol.18r) is a medical recipe for “great wormes in Horses.” Richard Temple’s name is on the flyleaf.

Paper, 18 fols., 150 x 95mm. The original vellum cover has been retained and now forms the flyleaves within a newer binding.

49. Stowe MS 1047

Historical and antiquarian commonplace book of Francis Thynne, Lancaster Herald (1602-1608), consisting of extracts from chronicles, monastic registers, and other historical sources. It has been signed (“Liber Francisci Thynne”) and dated (“14 Februar 1562”) on fol.1r, and most items date from between 1585 and 1604. There is a partial alphabetical index at the beginning and again at end. Fols.271-350 are drafts for a book on heraldry by John Anstis, Garter king of arms (1669-1744). The volume also has the signature of Elizabeth Pygott (359v).

Paper, 359 fols., 290 x 200mm. There are some blank, unnumbered leaves.

50. Stowe MS 1048

Commonplace book of historical, topographical, and antiquarian notes, in various hands, including “Observations of Warwickshire, Berkshire, and Derbyshire” and extracts from William Martin’s History and Lives of the Kings of England (1616), George Sandys’s travels (1621), and John Leland’s Collectanea. There are more notes running from the back of the volume on the topography of England, Ireland, and the Channel Islands, and more extracts from Leland. Gowin Knight (first Principal Librarian of British Museum (d.1772)) signed the volume on fol.1r, and upside down on the front pastedown is the dedicatory inscription from Charles Stanhope to his son Arthur in 1667.

Paper, 81 fols. 145 x 90mm.

William H. Sherman

University of Maryland



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