The Manuscript Collection of the Inner Temple comprises over 9,000 items, divided into five main groups:
Petyt Manuscripts (386 volumes)
Barrington Manuscripts (57 volumes)
Inner Temple Records (39 volumes)
Mitford Collection of Legal Manuscripts (79 volumes)
Miscellaneous Manuscripts (211 volumes)
The collection includes four illuminated manuscripts which are the earliest known depictions of the English courts and court dress. They date from about 1460 and show the four courts at Westminster Hall. The illuminations were presented to the Inn by Lord Darling, Treasurer from 1914-1915, who had purchased them at Christie’s in 1894.
The Petyt Manuscripts are also well known to scholars. These manuscripts were bequeathed to the Inner Temple in 1707 by William Petyt, Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London and Treasurer of the Inner Temple 1701-1702.
One of the most notable manuscripts in the collection is “Edward VI’s Devise for the Succession”. In his own handwriting, it sets out the plan by which the dying king, aged 16, sought to exclude his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth from the succession in favour of his cousin, Lady Jane Grey.
The collection is described in detail in Davies, J.C. (ed.) Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. OUP 1972.
Items in the Manuscript Collection are available to scholars and other researchers who must first apply in writing to the Librarian, specifying the purpose of their research and enclosing a letter of recommendation from their academic supervisor where appropriate. Hours of availability are normally 10.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Researchers who wish to publish the text of manuscripts in the collection or to make extensive reference to them in print must first obtain permission from the Librarian and should if possible supply an offprint. Formal acknowledgement in the published work should be made to the “Masters of the Bench of the Inner Temple”. We usually make a charge for commercial publication.
Manuscripts may be photographed upon application. The Librarian will supply the name of a photographic agency and will arrange for manuscripts to be available for photography on an agreed date but all other arrangements, including payment, should be organised between the researcher and the agency. Written permission is required from the Librarian for the publication of any material photographed. We usually make a charge for commercial publication.
In addition to the Manuscript Collection held by the Library, the Inner Temple has its own archives, which date from the 16th century. They include records of the admission and call of members (admissions from 1547), acts of the Inn’s parliament (from 1505), bench table orders (from 1668), accounts (from 1606) and documentation regarding domestic administration and the building and maintenance of chambers (from the 17th century).
A database of admissions to the Inner Temple, from 1547 to 1940, has been compiled with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.