Subject: English literature
The library of the Francis Bacon Society, which was founded to explore the work, life and influence of Sir Francis Bacon, including the debate about whether he wrote the works of Shakespeare. It contains about 1,300 books and pamphlets, of which 34 (comprising especially Shakespearean sources) were printed in the sixteenth century, 280 in the seventeenth century, and 164 in the eighteenth century. The library’s primary focus is on books and pamphlets by and about Sir Francis Bacon, or perceived to be related to him in some way. Material pertaining to Bacon’s supposed authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is prominent, as are editions of Bacon’s works and Shakespearean sources. Other holdings include a seventeenth-century set of the works of Jacob Cats and nineteenth-century school textbook editions of Shakespearean plays. A rare and attractive item is a Book of Hours printed by the widow of Jacques Kerver in Paris in 1586.
A relatively high proportion of books have been annotated – sometimes copiously – by former owners, shedding a fascinating personal light into elements of the Baconian theory. Prominent among these are early printed books from the collection of Mrs Henry Pott (Constance Mary Fearon Pott, 1833-1915), founder of the Francis Bacon Society.
The books were collected by various members of the Society, including alongside Mrs Pott the Baconian writers Bertram G. Theobald (1871-1940) and Alfred Dodd, all three of whose own works are represented in the collection, and Mrs Vernon Bayley (d. 1949), a Vice-President of the Society. The Society deposited the bulk of the collection in 1956, and made a further, smaller deposit of books in 2000.