The Inn had a library by the time of Henry VII, and the original building (in existence by 1506) joined the east end of the old hall, close to where it still is. It soon acquired some notable treasures. In 1514 Thomas Jakes directed that Frowyk C.J.’s illuminated statutes and ‘great book of entries’ should go to the Library, and in the 1550s Sir John Baker presented a remarkable year book with civilian glosses by Richard de Winchedon. None of these important early gifts survived; security was a constant problem, which even chaining the books apparently did not solve. A munificent gift which does survive intact, however, is the collection of historical manuscripts bequeathed by William Petyt (d. 1707). The manuscripts of the Hon. Daines Barrington (d. 1800) include an early copy of Littleton and a brief for the prosecution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Among the treasures now kept in the Library (besides the printed and manuscript books) are four superb painted miniatures showing the courts in Westminster Hall in around 1460; the gold collar of SS. worn from 1824 to 1844 by Chief Baron Alexander and Lord Abinger; a collection of serjeants’ rings started by Sir Harry Poland; and a triptych containing the old statutes of Clifford’s Inn on vellum. The Inn also has an extensive collection of domestic archives, including acts of the Inn’s parliament (from 1505), admissions (from 1547), account books (from 1606), chambers records (from 1615), and bench table orders (from 1668).
Next chapter: The Gardens
Back to: Pegasus