Notes in the Margins

Do you write in your books?  You’re not alone–in our copy of Francis Bacon’s The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh (1622), one reader went beyond underlining key points or scribbling notes in margins, and created an index where there was none.

Francis Bacon wrote The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh in 1622, as an attempt to regain favor with Britain’s then-king, James I.

The handwritten index



The title page




Bacon began writing Historie in 1621, at the lowest point in his life. Famously the creator of the scientific method and father of empiricism, he was also a statesman and made Lord Chancellor of England by James I. But in three short years, Bacon was impeached by Parliament over corruption charges and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. It was then that Bacon began writing Historie.  It’s believed that Historie, a flattering biography of James’s royal ancestor, was written as an attempt to regain favor with James.





The index



Our first edition folio was printed in London by W. Stansby for Matthew Lownes and William Barret, and features a portrait of Henry VII by John Payne.  The front and back cover of the book (the boards) are still covered in the calf skin they were bound with in 1622, but the spine was re-backed, or rebuilt, at a later date.






A big question when working with rare books is the provenance—who were the previous owners?  When we’re dealing with a book printed nearly 400 years ago, it’s no surprise it’s changed hands many times.  With this book, we have the names of four separate owners.


“Ex Libris Jabobi Mundy”


On the front page, it’s written ‘Ex Libris Jacobi Mundy (xx) Inter Templo 19 Dec 1727’.  I haven’t been able to find any additional information about Jacob Mundy, but by signing his name with ‘Inter Templo’, we know he was a barrister (lawyer), as the Inns of Court in London is the professional association to which barristers in England and Wales belong.


Charles Gery Milnes bookplate





Also featured is a bookplate for Charles Gery Milnes (1804-1855).  Milnes, who according to Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, was a gentleman who resided at Beckingham Hall in County Lincoln.







“J. Milnes”


Above the title page, ‘J. Milnes, Middle Temple” wrote an inscription about the manuscript dated 1791.



Burkes Peerage lists Charles’ parents as John Milnes and Mary Selina Gery, so it’s safe to assume ‘J. Milnes’ is John, Charles father (and by listing ‘Middle Temple’ we know that like Jacob Mundy, J. Milnes belonged to the Inns of Court and was therefore a barrister.)








The handwriting on the ‘J. Milnes’ note matches the handwriting on the index, but interestingly, not the handwriting in the margins throughout the text.  Were the margin notes Charles’ addition to a book left to him by his father?






Jacobus bookplate



Finally, the bookplate that represents how Historie became part of the DeGolyer’s collection– one commemorating the gifting of  Historie to SMU by Mr. and Mrs. Henry S. Jacobus, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Lorch Folz, in honor of Dorothy and Henry Jacobus’s fortieth wedding anniversary. This gift by Dorothy and Henry’s children was both in recognition of their parents’ marriage, as well as the family legacy at SMU—in 1971, Dorothy and Henry presented SMU with a 1,500 volume book collection representing 200 years of English culture.






For more information, or to view this or any of the DeGolyer’s 17th century books, contact Christina Jensen.



Bacon, Francis. The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh. London: Printed by W. Stansby for Matthew Lownes, and William Barret, 1622.

Burke, J. Bernard, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland for 1852: In 2 Vol. London: Colburn and Co., 1852.

Peltonen, Markku. The Cambridge Companion to Bacon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Peltonen, Markku. 2007 “Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Alban (1561–1626), lord chancellor, politician, and philosopher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 9 Jan. 2019.