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John Bruce collection

Call Number: OSB MSS 73

Scope and Contents

This finding aid encompasses accessions of single manuscripts and small groups of manuscripts and other papers, by or pertaining to John Bruce, acquired by the library from a variety of sources. Materials incorporated into the collection prior to May 2002 have been organized into two series.

Series I, Letters to John Bruce , has been arranged alphabetically by correspondent and contains business and professional letters addressed to Bruce, frequently in his role as an officer of the Camden Society. Topics include meetings, membership nominations, dues collection, and publication plans of the societies. Many of the letters date from the first years of the Camden Society's existence and offer support for the new venture. Lord Mahon, on the other hand, pointed out that "the Roxburgh, Bannatyne, Abbotsford and other societies already existing seem to be quite adequate to the purpose required," and declined to join the Camden (Box 1, folder 74).

Several correspondents address Bruce's personal scholarly pursuits. Letters by John Hymers and Cornelius Nickerson discuss the editing of Roger Hutchinson's works. The letters of Macvey Napier reveal his editorial policy for historical articles in the Edinburgh Review and explain his lack of interest in a Bruce submission: "nor have I ever heard of Sarah Martin, either by herself, or in connection with 'prison discipline.'...Look about you for an article similar to the last." Julia Pardoe's letters thank Bruce for his encouragement and request further advice. A. F. Holt of Eton College explains his failure to locate a volume in the college library: "the imperfect as it is, and the present position of the books does not, in any degree, correspond with it."

Finally, other letters offer more general insights into mid-nineteenth century scholarship. Letters from the widow and son of James Bird, including two to the popular royal biographer Agnes Strickland, concern the relief provided by the Literary Fund Society and George Bird's hope for Strickland's assistance in continuing to edit "Pawsey's Ladies' Pocket Book." The Rev. Robert Dixon's letters detail his attempts to rebuild the only college (and the only library) on the Isle of Man. Robert Eden, John Mee Mathews, and J. A. Cramer discuss their own research projects.

Series II, Letters of Caroline Amelia Halsted , contains chronologically arranged letters to Bruce, primarily on the writing of her Richard III as Duke of Gloucester and King of England (1844). Halsted requests extracts from the then-unpublished Croyland Chronicles; discusses her use of manuscript sources and society publications; sends Bruce completed chapters for "the pruning knife;" and asks advice on the selection of frontispieces, negotiatiing with her publisher, Longmans, and the appropriate use of gift copies.

Halsted's letters also reveal her strong sense of her position as a woman historian. As early as December 8, 1842, she expressed misgivings about writing "a book almost too strong for a woman's pen." In a letter of February 28, 1844, she states: "I sometimes think I have too many notes--and too much Appendix--and yet I thought I ought to give my authorities, considering the suspicious way in which a woman's opinion wd. be viewed, unless well backed, on a subject so important." Halsted also reminds Bruce that research for an essay on "'the progress of opinions' concerning Richard... could not be accomplished, except at the British Museum."

Her later letters contain requests for copies of reviews, comments on sales of Richard III, and discussions of her search for a new subject. While Halsted accepted Bruce's discouragement about Alfred the Great, and considered writing a biography of a woman, she rejected the idea that she should write fiction. "I have no imagination for fairy tales and I am too matter of fact for novels--but I love historical research; heart and soul goes to work on it." (Box 1, folder 81)

The Halsted letters also contain news of her travels and her home life, as well as repeated inquiries about the health of Mrs. Bruce and plans for visits to London.


  • 1835-1845


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The John Bruce Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ongoing collection of documents acquired by gift and purchase from various sources. Source information is recorded on the folders. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Series I, Letters to John Bruce, consists almost entirely of business and professional letters addressed to him in his roles as Secretary of the Camden Society and editor of many of its early publications. Correspondents include Octavian Blewitt; Sir Robert Harry Inglis; William Jerdan; Macvey Napier; Julia Pardoe; and Thomas Joseph Pettigrew.
Series II, Letters of Caroline Amelia Halsted, contains 35 letters from the popular historian to Bruce on the subjects of her royal biographies; her negotiations with publishers and research libraries; and her thoughts on her position as a woman historian.

JOHN BRUCE, 1802-1869

John Bruce was born in London and educated in England and Aberdeen. While he was trained in English law, he did not practice after 1840, and instead pursued his historical and antiquarian interests.

In particular, Bruce devoted much of his energy and attention to the newly important scholarly societies and publication projects of his day. Bruce held two offices in the Society of Antiquaries and wrote many articles for its journal, Archaelogia, including his "Inedited Documents Relating to the Condemnation and Imprisonment of Sir Thomas More" (xxvii, 10) and the "Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Paston Letters" (v. xli, 15). For the Parker Society he edited The Works of Roger Hutchinson (1842), and was co-editor of The Correspondence of Matthew Parker (1853) with T. T. Perowne.

Bruce was a principal founder and officer of the Camden Society, and contributed many of its early publications, including its first, The Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV.... (1839). For the Society, Bruce edited selections of correspondence and documents relating to Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leceister, Robert Cecil, Lord Burleigh, James I, and Charles I. In addition, Bruce edited the first publications of Letters and Papers of the Verney Family... (1853); the Liber Famelicus of Sir James Whitlocke (1858); and the Journal of a Voyage into the Mediterranean of Sir Kenelm Digby (1868). Bruce also offered advice and assistance to many historians and biographers of the period, including Caroline Amelia Halsted, the first biographer of Richard III to draw upon unpublished sources such as MS Harleian 433.

The project that occupied the final decades of his scholarly career was the 12 volumes of the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I.... (1858-71). In 1861 he was appointed a Trustee of the Sir John Sloan's Museum. John Bruce died suddenly in London on October 28, 1869, his wife having predeceased him.

Processing Information

This finding aid is updated periodically to account for new materials that have been added to the collection. The date of the most recent update is noted on the title page. For information on material that may have been acquired for the collection since the last update, please consult the Public Service Desk.

Guide to the John Bruce Collection
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
May 2002
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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