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British Historical Manuscripts

A navigational guide to the core British history collections.

Ellesmere Collection: ca. 13,000 pieces, ca. 1150-1803

Francis Thynne, "Animadversions upon the Annotations and Corrections of Some Imperfections of Impressions of Chaucer's Works" (1598), Dedication to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere dated 20 December 1599 and a drawing of his arms, EL 34 B 11 verso of title page

This collection contains the official, semi-official and personal papers of six generations of the Egerton family of Great Britain. The papers span 1150-1803 and include approximately 13,000 pieces with particular strengths related to domestic management, religion, politics, literature, law and diplomacy from the late 16th through 18th centuries. The geographic scope of the collection includes all of the British Isles, the British Atlantic and early colonial America, and foreign relations with Western Europe.  

This acquisition accompanied the purchase of the centuries-old Bridgewater family library and the Larpent Plays. To learn more about the Bridgewater family library, and the purchase of the Ellesmere collection, see: Sherburn, G. (1931). Huntington Library Collections. "The Huntington Library Bulletin," (1), 33-106, available online via JSTOR.


Image credit: Francis Thynne, Animadversions upon the Annotations and Corrections of Some Imperfections of Impressions of Chaucer's Works, 1598. EL 34 B 11. Purchased with the Bridgewater library from John Francis Granville Scroop Egerton, 4th Earl of Ellesmere, through the agency of George D. Smith and Sotheby's of London, 1917.

Organization & Access

Research Tools:

  • This PDF file outlines the series and sequential organization of the collection, serving as a guide to the Bridgewater Calendar. 
  • "Guide to British Historical Manuscripts in The Huntington Library" (pages 21-77) provides more information about each series within the collection, as it gives a detailed summary description of the contents of each of the series. The Guide is available online through the HathiTrust Digital Library.
  • The finding aid for this collection, which is available online through the library catalog, provides links to the 10-volume Calendar of the Bridgewater and Ellesmere Manuscripts, which includes item-level descriptions of the 13,000 manuscripts in this collection. 

How-to Request:

  • All Ellesmere manuscript materials can be paged electronically through Aeon. Learn how to request materials through Aeon.
  • The collection's call number prefix is EL. Some volumes in the collection have retained their shelfmarks from Bridgewater House, rather than an assigned call number (e.g., mssEL 34 B 11). Learn how to find manuscripts in the library catalog.

Other Resources:

  • Over the decades, The Huntington has acquired other single items related to the Egerton family. These items are not described as part of the Ellesmere collection and are discoverable as individual items in the library catalog and manuscript card catalog.
  • Learn about related digital resources on our Additional Resources page.

N.B. When the collection was purchased in 1917, the Egerton family chose to retain some 1,600 manuscripts of personal or literary interest or value. Still, facsimiles of these items were subsequently provided to The Huntington and integrated into the original collection.

Related Medieval Manuscripts

The collection includes 27 medieval and renaissance codices that can be found in the library catalog, which includes links to digital images, where available.

Additional information about medieval manuscripts, including information related to the Ellesmere manuscripts, can be found in volume one of “Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in The Huntington Library.” The Guide is available online through the HathiTrust Digital Library.

N.B. These items are restricted and require prior curatorial approval for use on-site. Contact the library for additional information.