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Francis Bacon Library Archive
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related materials

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Francis Bacon Library Archive
    Dates: 1846-1996
    Bulk dates: 1920-1990
    Accession Number: 602120
    Creator: Francis Bacon Foundation
    Extent: 151 boxes/83.3 linear feet
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Rare Books Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The Francis Bacon Library was a private rare book research library on the campus of the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California. It was founded by Walter Conrad Arensberg and his wife, Louise Stevens Arensberg. In 1938, they established The Francis Bacon Foundation to promote study of the life and works of statesman Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). The Foundation administered the Francis Bacon Library, which included a comprehensive collection on the Shakespeare authorship controversy, a subject of great personal interest to Walter Arensberg, who believed that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare's plays. This archive contains the records of the Library, which closed in 1995, including papers and correspondence of scholars interested in Bacon and the authorship question. It also contains the personal and family papers of the Arensbergs, and Walter Arensberg's cryptographic files and research on the authorship controversy.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Francis Bacon Library Archive, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Donated by the Francis Bacon Foundation, Claremont, California, November 1995.

    Historical Note

    The Francis Bacon Library was a private rare book library that stood on the campus of Claremont Colleges, California, from 1960 to 1995. It was established and operated by the Francis Bacon Foundation, created in 1938 by Walter Conrad Arensberg (1878-1954) and his wife, Louise Stevens Arensberg (1879-1953).
    The library grew out of the private collection of Walter Arensberg, a scholar, poet and art collector born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a wealthy industrial family. He became interested in Dante during his undergraduate years at Harvard University, 1896-1900, and started collecting Dante material. His interests grew to include the Renaissance, and in particular, philosopher, essayist and statesman Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Arensberg began collecting books by and about Bacon, along with material in all the fields of Bacon's interest: law, politics, affairs of state, philosophy, the natural and physical sciences, literature, cryptography, magic, witchcraft, the occult, alchemy, and Rosicrucianism. He became convinced that Bacon was the true author of the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare, and embarked on what would become a lifelong obsession – using cryptographic methods to discover supposed hidden meanings and secret messages embedded in Shakespeare's text by Bacon or by a Baconian secret society. Arensberg, an intellectual with a passion for chess, numerology and word games, became engrossed with analyzing texts, and hired researchers and cryptographers to assist him. He published The Cryptography of Shakespeare in 1922 and other works on the subject throughout the 1920s. Though Arensberg's efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and his unorthodox cipher systems considered incapable of proof, his conviction and enthusiasm for his theories seldom waned, even up until his death in 1954.
    The Arensbergs had relocated from New York to Los Angeles in 1921. They had begun collecting art in New York, where they had developed friendships with avant-garde intellectuals and artists--in particular, Marcel Duchamp. After moving west, they eventually settled, in 1927, into a home in Hollywood that became filled with books and art. While Walter steadily enlarged his library and conducted his cryptographic research, he and Louise were also building an important collection of modern and pre-Columbian art.
    In 1938, Walter and Louise Arensberg founded the Francis Bacon Foundation as an educational and research institution to promote study in science, literature, religion, history and philosophy, with special emphasis on Bacon's life, character and influences. Booksellers in Europe became aware of the Arensbergs' search for rare books and manuscripts, and together with Foundation President and Library Director Elizabeth Wrigley, the Arensbergs assembled one of the most extensive libraries of Bacon material in the world.
    The Foundation administered the library out of the Arensbergs' home at 7065 Hillside Avenue, Hollywood, until it was moved to an office building in Pasadena in 1954, after the Arensbergs' deaths. There, the Francis Bacon Library opened its doors to the public for the first time, as the Arensbergs had intended. In 1960, the library found a permanent home on the campus of the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California, in a new building financed by the Foundation. The small red-brick building was formally dedicated May 8, 1960, and drew scholars, students, faculty and members of the public to its doors for 35 years, until it was closed in 1995. A major factor in its closing was the failing health of Elizabeth Wrigley, longtime director of the library, who had begun working for Mr. Arensberg in 1944. (See Biographical Note on Elizabeth Wrigley in Library Records series.)
    Under Wrigley's guidance, the library had grown to over 14,000 titles by 1995. It had one of the world's largest collections on Francis Bacon, and one of the largest collections on the Shakespeare authorship controversy in the United States. The library also held works by numerous other Elizabethan and Jacobean authors, and supporting collections in emblem literature, Rosicrucian works, and early American political theory.
    The library primarily served the academic community but made efforts to welcome the larger public pursuing scholarship, education or simply personal interest. The library staff held regular open houses and exhibits to attract new visitors, many of whom were students. Each year, they mounted a major themed exhibition and a lecture and fete in honor of Bacon's birthday. The library interior was richly decorated with Oriental rugs, gooseneck lamps and an iron chandelier that hung from a beamed oak ceiling. It was a place for serious research but had its lighthearted moments too. A 1987 exhibit on divination included 20 different methods of divination for visitors to actually try. There was an overwhelmingly favorable response and coverage in the local media, including an article in a local newspaper featuring a photo of a costumed librarian gazing into a crystal ball. The library held memberships in professional organizations and co-sponsored events and lectures related to Bacon and Renaissance literature. It was an associate presenter of the Renaissance Conference of Southern California, along with the Huntington Library, the Getty and others. The library also sponsored a lecture series at the University of Southern California featuring prominent scholars from all over the world.
    Regarding the Bacon-Shakespeare authorship question, in a 1981 letter, library director Elizabeth Wrigley explained: "Our late founder, Walter Arensberg, had his own cipher system, and we continued to work on it for six years after his death. At that time the Board of Trustees felt that we should not continue as we did not have his guidance. The Foundation does not promote the controversy. We make written materials available to scholars, but that is it. We serve as a kind of clearinghouse for Bacon scholarship, which does include some work on the controversy."
    When the library closed in 1995, its collection of books and manuscripts were donated to the Huntington Library, along with institutional records and some of the Arensbergs' personal papers. The papers related to the Arensbergs' art collection and most of the Foundation's administrative records were given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which had earlier been given the art collection.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains the archive of the Francis Bacon Library, a private rare book research library on the campus of the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California. The archive is organized into five series: Library Records; Personal Papers given to the Library; Francis Bacon Foundation Records; the Walter and Louise Arensberg Papers; and the Art and Artifacts Collection.
    The Library records include administration and collection records, gifts and acquisitions, exhibit records, and a large portion of correspondence. The correspondence, almost entirely written by library director Elizabeth Wrigley, is with students, other organizations, scholars, and, notably, interested Baconians (supporters of the theory that Francis Bacon was the true author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare). There are also records of gifts to the library, including books, ephemera and papers of Baconians and other scholars studying the Shakespeare authorship question. These papers comprise the Personal Papers series, and are organized by owner name: Isabelle Kittson Brown, Eugene Dernay, George Drury, Johan Franco, R. W. (Reginald Walter) Gibson, Olive Woodward Hoss, Karl [Richards] Wallace, and A. Allen Woodruff.
    The Francis Bacon Foundation papers contain articles of incorporation, financial and legal documents, and some correspondence of the board members. There are also clippings and photostats on Shakespeare, Bacon and Elizabethan history that were collected for research purposes. This represents only a portion of the Foundation records; the remainder are in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
    The personal and family papers of Walter and Louise Arensberg include Walter Arensberg's cryptographic research files, charts and notes; personal papers; drafts of his poems and books; correspondence with Baconians; photographs; and letters of Arensberg and [Louise] Stevens family members. The letters between Walter and his brother Charles F. C. Arensberg are particularly personal and informative.
    This portion of the Arensbergs' personal papers does not include their correspondence with artists or their art-collecting activities. Those papers (the Arensberg Archives) were given by the Francis Bacon Foundation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which also holds the Arensberg Art Collection of Modern and pre-Columbian art.
    The last series of the archive is a group of art objects and historical artifacts that belonged to the Foundation and library. Some were collected by the Arensbergs, and some were acquired by the library after their deaths. They are listed with their original descriptions kept by the Foundation.
    The collection is organized into these series and subseries:
    • Series 1. Library Records
      • 1.1 Administrative records
      • 1.2 Collection records
      • 1.3 Correspondence
        • 1.3.1. General
        • 1.3.2. Colleges, Universities and Schools
        • 1.3.3. Foundations, Societies, etc.
        • 1.3.4. Libraries and Related Institutions
        • 1.3.5. Correspondence with Baconians
      • 1.4 Exhibits
      • 1.5 Financial records
    • Series 2. Personal Papers
      • 2.1. Isabelle Kittson Brown Papers, circa 1880-1928
      • 2.2. Eugene Dernay Papers, 1861-1960
      • 2.3 George Drury Papers, 1960-1964
      • 2.4. Johan Franco publication plates, undated
      • 2.5. R. W. (Reginald Walter) Gibson Papers, circa 1940-1959
      • 2.6. Olive Woodward Hoss Papers, circa 1920-1969
      • 2.7. Karl [Richards] Wallace Papers, circa 1960-1973
      • 2.8. A. Allen Woodruff Papers, circa 1893-1949
    • Series 3. Francis Bacon Foundation Records
    • Series 4. Walter and Louise Arensberg Papers
      • 4.1. Correspondence
        • 4.1.1. General
        • 4.1.2. Correspondence with Baconians
        • 4.1.3. Arensberg Family correspondence
        • 4.1.4. Stevens Family correspondence
      • 4.2. Personal
      • 4.3. Writings
      • 4.4. Financial
      • 4.5. Legal
      • 4.6. Research
      • 4.7. Photographs
    • Series 5. Art and Artifacts Collection


    The arrangement and titles of the files have been kept as much as possible in the original order of the records maintained by the Arensbergs and the library staff. Folders are arranged alphabetically by title within series. Documents within folders are arranged in chronological order by date with undated materials residing at the end of each folder. One exception is research files, which have been kept in their original order, which was not always chronological, but often by topic.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Arensberg, Walter, 1878-1954
    Arensberg, Lou (Mary Louise Stevens)
    Bacon, Francis, 1561-1626--Authorship.
    Bacon, Francis, 1561-1626--Bibliography.
    Bacon, Francis, 1561-1626--Criticism and interpretation.
    Brown, Isabelle, 1860-1928
    Franco, Johan, 1908-1988
    Friedman, William F. (William Frederick), 1891-1969
    Gibson, R. W. (Reginald Walter)
    Manly, John Matthews, 1865-1940
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Authorship--Baconian theory.
    Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Criticism and interpretation.
    Stevens, John E. 1909-1988
    Wallace, Karl Richards, 1905-1973
    Wolfe, Clyde Lynne Earle, b. 1885
    Wrigley, Elizabeth S.


    Francis Bacon Library.
    Research libraries.
    Rare books.
    Claremont Colleges.
    Lichfield Cathedral.


    Art objects.
    Business records.
    Clippings--19th century.
    Clippings--20th century.
    Letters (correspondence).
    Notes--United States.
    Passports--United States--20th century.
    Personal Papers--United States.
    Photographs--19th century.
    Photographs--20th century.
    Poems--20th century.

    Added Entries

    Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968.
    Letters and a photograph. Boxes 77 and 104.
    Huston, John, 1906-1987.
    Author of letter to Walter Arensberg. Box 78, Folder 8.
    Keller, Helen, 1880-1968.
    Author of letters to Charles F. C. Arensberg. Box 80, Folder 12.
    Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, 1879-1956.
    Author of letters to Walter and Louise Arensberg. Box 78, Folder 11.
    Miller, Henry, 1891-1980.
    Author of letters to Walter Arensberg. Box 78, Folder 19.
    Weston, Edward, 1886-1958.
    Subject in 1990 letter from Elizabeth Wrigley to Dorothy Wang, Box 47, Folder 3.
    Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900.
    Autograph in album. Box 55, Folder 14.

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