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Inventory of the Herbert Family Papers, 1667-1780
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Subject matter
  • Persons represented by five or more pieces
  • Some important or interesting items

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Herbert Family Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1667-1780
    Creator: Herbert Family
    Extent: 419 pieces
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Purchased from H. M. Fletcher, 1954 (Catalogue 109, item 2).


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Herbert Family Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Collection of personal and business papers of Thomas Herbert (d.1712) of Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, and of his son, Edmund Herbert, of Gray's Inn (d.1769). From 1672 to 1712 Thomas Herbert served as bailiff on the estates near Whittlebury of Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington; his daughter, Isabella, and her husband, Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, who became Ranger of Whittlebury (or Whittlewood) Forest in 1685; and Charles FitzRoy, 2d Duke of Grafton, who became Forest Ranger in 1712. A detailed history of Whittlebury Forest may be found in George Baker's History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton (London, 1836-1841), II, 70-86. It is interesting that this forest, situated between Towcester, Stony Stratford, and Lillingstone Dayrell, adjoins to the southwest the area of Stowe, Bucks., for which the Library has so many early deeds, manorial records, etc.
    Thomas Herbert had two sons, Edmund and Thomas. Edmund moved to London where he spent most of his life as a clerk or secretary, and later as a deputy, in the Pay Office of the marines. His brother, Thomas, remained in Whittlebury and succeeded his father as bailiff of the Duke of Grafton's estates. Thomas died in 1728, leaving as survivors his widow, Agnes, and one or two daughters, one of whom married Thomas Cooke about 1772.
    In 1709-1710 Edmund Herbert participated in an expedition to the Scilly Islands to recover sunken treasure. It was there that some of Sir Clowdesly Shovell's ships were wrecked on October 22, 1707. The information regarding the venture is all too scanty. After buying a map of the Islands, compasses, and a "book of roads," Herbert left London on September 4, 1709. All his expenses, "except cloths, & collection of coins &c." were defrayed by the Lagan Adventurers, apparently under the supervision of one "Mr. Hambly." Prior to his departure, Herbert had recorded in his notebook: "Aug. 26. About noon the Project for diving first tryed at Fox Hall in 3 1/2 fathom water. He staid under water 10 minutes." Then on October 25 he wrote: "... out all day wth 5 men sounding & discovering--found Buckle." "29th. Out at Minalter diving 1st time for Ivory, went at noon, out w th 5 men till night." It is hard to say what success these adventurers met with, except that some months later Herbert wrote in his notebook: "At night lost out Mrs. Bants House ¥24.10. crown, half crowns, 3 English shillings, some pcs. of 8, 2 sp. Royals, & several 1/2 Royals."
    Upon his return to London Herbert apparently went to work for Arthur Swift, a clerk in the Treasury or Pay Office of the marines. Herbert must have done a lot of leg work, for his notebooks are full of expenses for reheeling and re-soling his shoes. In 1740 Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, paymaster of the marines, appointed Edmund his deputy. Most of Herbert's life seems to have been devoted to getting the government to pay off ten regiments of disbanded marines. As a matter of interest, Herbert's salary was ¥400 by 1750, but six years later he requested ¥600, the amount a fellow worker was receiving.
    Of particular interest in the collection is Edmund Herbert's daily account of expenses and memoranda. These records were kept assiduously throughout his life, with all of his accounts and notes for each month carefully written on long narrow strips of paper. Each year these strips were tied together, making a small bundle or booklet. The notes run continuously from 1708-1734, and from 1739-1768.
    Although Herbert was a very minor figure in history, the record of his life as preserved in his notebooks is nevertheless of interest to the social historian. His accounts were kept with the utmost detail and record expenditures for such items as food, drink, clothing, rent, transportation, gratuities, charity, books, postage, entertainment, and household expenses. Specific items of interest include: liver for his dog; a new watch crystal; mathematical club dues; "wine to soak millepides"; violin lessons; birds, birdseed, and cages; mousetraps; and ketchup.
    On the back of each month's account Herbert would note down a record of his business transactions, including money borrowed or loaned; his trips out of London; the dates of births, deaths, marriages, and christenings of his friends and their children; and occasionally more personal records of his life. From these notes one can also learn quite a good deal of his daily work in the Pay Office of the marines.
    Throughout his life Herbert was something of a gambler. Each month he noted down how much he won or lost at backgammon or hazard. He frequently purchased lottery tickets, and for several years was even a paid commissioner in the lotteries.
    The record of Herbert's career as a minor government clerk makes rather dull reading. As a person, however, whose avocations included music, book-collecting, astronomy, and the study of foreign languages, he becomes a person of some interest. Herbert's fascination with the study of languages seems almost incredible for a person of his position; one learns from his notebooks that he actively studied French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Polish, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Chaldee, Ethiopic, and Samaritan. While learning German he kept his accounts in the language (1726) and did the same while studying Greek (1731-32). His instructor for Hebrew and the Biblical languages was Moses Marcus, and for Greek, a Mr. Xeres.
    Parallel with this study of languages was a remarkable bent for buying books. On a single day he very often purchased from six to a dozen volumes. His interests centered in languages and the classics, though he bought widely, including works on arts and crafts, bookkeeping, farming, forest law, etc.; and literature. A number of times he subscribed for books currently being published. Of particular interest are the lists of books he bought at the following auction sales: Thomas Pellett, 1745; Lord Oxford, 1746 (120 vols.); and the Michael Mattaire sale, 1748 (200 vols.).
    One interesting entry in his accounts is for three astronomical instruments he purchased at the dissolution of Cannons, Mx.
    Herbert's accounts are full of human interest as well. He purchased chocolate for his father; fresh fruit for his mother; and Christmas boxes for servants, with whom he came into contact. He sympathizes with a friend who was jailed for his debts, only to die a few months after being released from prison; etc.
    Though he started with nothing, Herbert saved his money carefully, in spite of a frequent lottery ticket. In 1715 he bought Shrob Walk in Whittlewood Forest and in 1732 bought a small farm at Whittleborough. On June 2, 1725, he was entered a member of Gray's Inn and lived there throughout his life. In 1748 he bought four sets of chambers there for ¥450, keeping one set for his own use and renting the others. In 1753 he purchased Stocking House, another estate near Whittlebury, for eleven hundred guineas. Herbert never married and his estates were inherited by his niece.

    Subject matter

    • I. Thomas Herbert
      • A. Estate accounts as bailiff
        • 1. Wood books and documents relating to Whittlebury Forest
    • II. Edmund Herbert
      • A. Pay Office of the marines
        • 1. Accounts and memoranda
        • 2. Drafts of memorials address to the treasury commissioners
        • 3. Correspondence regarding payment of marines
      • B. Personal life
        • 1. Expense and memoranda notebooks
          • a. Record of expenses as document of social history
          • b. Notes regarding his duties in pay office
        • 2. Correspondence with sister and nieces
        • 3. Papers relating to his quarters in Gray's Inn: accounts, receipts, leases, etc.
      • C. A few papers regarding poor rates and levies for church repairs at Whittlebury and Paulerspury, Northants.
    • III. School copy books

    Persons represented by five or more pieces

    Cooke, Agnes (Herbert)
    19 pieces
    Herbert, Edmund (approx.)
    150 pieces
    Herbert, Thomas
    35 pieces
    Leighton, John
    8 pieces
    Scrope, John
    11 pieces
    Williams, Sir Charles Hanbury
    6 pieces

    Some important or interesting items

    • Bennet, Charles, 1st Earl of Tankerville. Permission to Duke of Grafton to cut wood in Whittlebury Forest.
      Date: 1715, Dec. 28
    • Gt. Brit. Treasury Commissioners. Appointment of Edmund Herbert to handle marine accounts with agents.
      Date: 1757, Feb. 24.
    • Herbert, Edmund. Copy book.
      Date: 1700-1701
    • Herbert, Edmund. Copy of bond to Society of Gray's Inn,
      Date: 1725, June 2
    • Herbert, Edmund. Expenses and memoranda.
      Date: 1708-34, 1739-69.
    • Herbert, Edmund. A Register of the Survey of all the Common fields of Whittlebury.
      Date: 1733, Nov. 8.
    • Herbert, Edmund. Lists of inhabitants of Gray's Inn.
      Date: 1742-1760.
      9 pieces.
    • Herbert, Thomas. Account book, including a note of "what goods Mr. Benett sent to Jamaica."
    • Herbert, Thomas. Wood books for Whittlewood and Salcey Forests,
      Date: 1688-1691.
    • Williams, Sir Charles Hanbury. Deputation to E. Herbert as assistant paymaster.
      Date: 1740, July 14.
    • "Twenty-four new country dances." 1 vol. 4to.
      Date: c.1702