Skip to main content

E. Williams watermark collection, including the papers of the Hale family of King's Walden and other papers

Identifier: W55553
  • No requestable containers

Scope and content

This collection contains the call numbers L.f.1-1058.

The collection consists of paper from sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts and printed books, broadsides, and pamphlets, gathered and arranged, according to watermark type, by E. Williams of Hove, Sussex, in the early twentieth century. Watermark types represented include pots, columns, foolscaps, fleurs de lys, cardinal's hats, unicorns, grapes, hands, shields, croziers and horns, etc. The watermark descriptions in this finding aid are typically taken directly from E.Williams' idiosyncratic labels, with occasional attempts to supplement descriptions for the sake of consistency and accuracy in terminology (e.g. "gate posts" and "crowned candlesticks" both used for columns). Researchers primarily interested in the watermark content of the collection may find consulting E. Williams' handlists helpful in accessing the collection (photocopies available upon request).

Many of the manuscripts relate the Hale family of King's Walden, Hertfordshire and concern the family's legal, financial, and manorial affairs in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Berkshire, Norfolk, and Surrey. Additional manuscripts without a clear relationship to the Hale family fall into similar categories of legal, financial, and manorial documents from a similar period. The collection also includes personal papers, mostly blank leaves removed from commonplace books (some with fragmentary indexes), and printed items, chiefly English civil war era broadsides and pamphlets.

The majority of materials in certain series (manorial documents, legal documents, title documents, and wills) are copies. In other series (financial records and bonds), the majority are probably originals. In most cases, we have not attempted to distinguish between copy and original except when this information is clearly noted on the manuscript.

This finding aid imposes an intellectual arrangement that deviates from the physical arrangement, allowing for the reuniting of related materials, regardless of shelfmark. However, it should also be noted that common topical threads exist between the various document types as laid out in the twelve series described below. For instance, deeds, land surveys, and financial records appear to have been copied or compiled for use in legal cases, but the physical arrangement makes it difficult to discern these connections with certainty.

Series 1: Rentals and Surveys

Rentals and surveys of lands, as well as records listing privy tithes and division of lands. While estate names are sometimes absent from these documents, contextual information suggests that most materials in this series concern the manor of Edworth, Bedfordshire. This series also includes documents concerning King's Walden and Weston, Hertfordshire; Stuston, Suffolk; Guttridge Hall in Weeley, Essex; Long Buckby, Northamptonshire; Knapton Furr Close, Norfolk; Haddenham (either Buckinghamshire or Cambridgeshire); and Alvingham, Lincolnshire.

Series 2: Manorial documents

Records largely derived from proceedings of the court baron, court leet and view of frankpledge, such as court rolls, estreat rolls, and presentments. The majority of the documents relate to succession of land tenure, such as a large number of memoranda of surrenders and admissions, as well as attornment agreements. While many of the records clearly relate to manorial affairs of the Hale family, chiefly for the manor of King's Walden, the series also includes seemingly unrelated manorial court records for locales in Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire), Gillinghamshire (now Dorset), and Hampshire.

Series 3: Legal documents

Legal documents, most concerning disputes over land rights and financial matters, such as debts associated with mortgages, rent arrearages, payments of tithes, and non-payment of mortuary fees. Many of the legal documents in this collection were generated from the same set of court cases, and related materials are grouped together under the names of the plaintiffs and defendants. Legal documents without any discernable relationship to other legal documents are grouped chronologically under the subseries Miscellaneous cases. A particularly large number of documents concern the manor of Croydon in Cambridgeshire, which Anthony Cage mortgaged to Rose Hale in 1643 (she took possession in 1645 and her representatives and heirs retained the property until after 1675): these documents include not only materials related to the case of Cage v. Hale, but also a second, later case of Slingsby v. Hale. Also of note are materials related to a dispute between the cousins Sir John Hale and Robert Hale concerning the manor of Caldecote.

Series 4: Financial documents

Financial records relating predominantly to various Hale family land holdings. In addition to rent accounts and legal accounts, this series also includes some grocery accounts (several including references to the East India Company) and bills for repairs. The acquittances and receipts typically refer to rent payments and consideration money associated with transfers of property, although others refer to receipt of legacies and payment of debts. The warrants for payment refer to payments for royal and government service, including an allowance for "writing the Farmes and Debts of Recusants into the Greate Rolle and Summons of the Pipe in Pipe hand twice every year," August 4, 1679 (L.f.603) and a payment for interest on moneys advanced for services of late King Charles II, September 1, 1685 (L.f.679), while others are simply requests that tenants pay rent.

Series 5: Correspondence

Mostly letters touching on legal and financial matters, many relating to land rights and property management. Also includes several letters of governmental affairs and foreign relations: a letter from Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester, referring to the enobling of Paul Vander Nieustat "a well deserving subiect of the States" by Letters patent, February 21, 1629 (L.f.314); a letter from Captain Fortescue on affairs of Carlisle Garrison, March 20, 1640 (L.f.111); a letter and order from Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, and Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, relating to the transfer of Dunkirk to the French, October 31, 1662 (L.f.448); a letter from Richard Bulstrode complaining about shipowners of Ostende who ignored terms of a marine peace treaty, October 1684 (L.f.505).

Series 6: Title documents

Documents instrumental in transfers of title, such as various deeds, articles of agreement, final concords, and quitclaims, as well as abstracts of title and memoranda recording title agreements. Two documents reflect the Hale family's record-keeping endeavors: a July 1576 memorandum signed by Richard Hale concerning the copying of 191 writings, deeds, and indentures concerning the manor of King's Walden as well as 12 court rolls (L.f.291) and a 1618 list of documents concerning Ayot (L.f.370). Properties associated with the Hale family** are well-represented in this series, with documents concerning King's Walden, Welwyn, Ayot, Weston, Newnham, and Stagenhoe, all in Hertfordshire; Edworth and Holwell Bury, both in Bedfordshire; Croydon, Cambridgeshire; Knapton Bromholme, Norfolk; and Berry in White Waltham, Berkshire. Also, several documents related to land transactions between the Delahay and Twysden families (regarding Cressinghams, the Gosse, and Long Deane). In addition to documents specifically relating to land transfers, this series includes other kinds of agreements, such as those involving the planting of crops (e.g. L.f.876) and leases of tithes of crops (e.g. L.f.512, L.f.809).

Series 7: Bonds

Bonds for debts, bonds for the performance of covenants, and examples of bonds of arbitration, several relating to a dispute between Rowland Hale and his sister Dionise.

Series 8: Wills and probate inventories

Mostly copies of wills and inventories, several copied from records in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. None of the wills in this collection appear to have a clear relationship with the Hale family. The wills of William Meyrick, 1611 (L.f.398) and Isaac Reynolds, 1630 (L.f.811) mention books. Also includes the wills of four women: Mary Bunce, 1666 (L.f.433), Elizabeth Gilbert, 1667 (L.f.744), Mawd Jones, 1679 (L.f.722), and Elinor Stollard, 1682 (L.f.518).

Series 9: Letters of attorney

Documents authorizing a third party to manage properties, with tasks ranging from collecting rents to conveying lands to new tenants or owners. Several documents involve administration on behalf of the Hale family. Also includes an authorization for Thomas Daliell, Gent., to receive William Bruce's annuity from the king (L.f.42) and for John Hill of Lincoln's Inn to collect Sir Wadham Wyndham's salary from the Exchequer (L.f.851).

Series 10: Miscellaneous manuscripts

Miscellaneous document types relating to various topics, some connected to the Hale family (such as a list of names of men in Hertfordshire (L.f.282)). Items include lists, household inventories, orders, a menu for Lent Assizes (L.f.45), a petition from Beaumont Pight to John Manners, Earl of Rutland (L.f.556), and 2 memoranda about Charles I's cavalry (L.f.406, L.f.788), in addition to other Civil War-related documents.

Series 11: Printed works

Single sheets from books, along with some broadsides and disbound pamphlets in their entirety. A significant number of these broadsides and pamphlets date from the English Civil War. Most of the works in this series will eventually be cataloged at the item-level.

Series 12: Blank leaves/leaves from commonplace books

Blank leaves, a number of which E. Williams claims to have removed from a collection of commonplace books, ca. 1625-1650. Several of the leaves bear evidence of early stages of the commonplacing process. Endorsements, when present on otherwise blank leaves, have been noted in item descriptions.


  • Majority of material found within ca. 1570-1699

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and Latin.


Collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Hale family, whose papers comprise much of this collection, were part of the merchant class and were amassing significant land holdings starting in the latter part of the 16th century. In 1576, William Lord Burgh conveyed the manor of King's Walden, Hertfordshire to Richard Hale, citizen and grocer of London. Subsequent land acquisitions by Richard Hale include the manors of Stagenhoe in St. Paul's Walden (1595), Newnham (1601), and Caldecote (1604), all in Hertfordshire, as well as Berry in White Waltham (1584) and Pinkneys in Cookham (between 1610 and 1620), both in Berkshire, Holwell Bury (1601) and Edworth (1614) in Bedfordshire, and Chobham (1614) in Surrey. Richard Hale's sons, William (his heir) and Richard, subsequently acquired additional property in Hertfordshire (Lannock (1621), Tewin (ca. 1622), and Ayot (1623). Following William Hale's death in 1634, his widow Rose Hale and their children continued to acquire additional lands, including Dallow in Bedfordshire (1640), North Ockendon in Essex (1642), Croydon in Cambridgeshire (1643 mortgage to Rose Hale), Kingswood Bury in Hertfordshire (1656), Knapton in Norfolk, and Glaston in Rutland (1660). Additional details about when and how the Hales acquired these manors can be found in relevant volumes of the Victoria County Histories.

In addition to acquiring land, the Hales' merchant wealth allowed for charitable activities. In 1617, Richard Hale (purchaser of King's Walden) founded the free Hertford School (now Richard Hale School) "for the instruction of children in the Latin tongue and other literature in the town of Hertford." His grandson, Bernard Hale, was one of the first boarders at Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1625, eventually being elected fellow of the college and later serving as master of the college. Bernard Hale bequeathed to Peterhouse lands valued at more than £7000, endowed the post of chapel organist (organ scholars at Peterhouse are still funded from this benefaction), and established scholarships for seven students attending Peterhouse.

The Hales were related by marriage to a number of families represented in this collection: Austen, Elwes, Garwey/Garway, Hoskins, Mynne, Walcot, Watkin/Watkins, and Williamson. More information about these familial relationships, including family trees, is available in the curatorial file, upon request.


1058 items


A collection of paper from sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts and printed books, broadsides, and pamphlets, gathered and arranged according to watermark type by E. Williams of Hove, Sussex, in the early twentieth century. Many of the manuscripts relate to the legal, financial, and manorial affairs of the Hale family of King's Walden, Hertfordshire.


Intellectual arrangement: This finding aid divides the collection into 12 series by document type: Manorial documents, Rentals and surveys, Title documents, Wills, Letters of attorney, Bonds, Legal documents, Financial documents, Correspondence, Miscellaneous manuscripts, Printed works, and Blank leaves. The series entitled Legal documents is further divided into subseries by plaintiff, with related cases grouped together. The series entitled Financial documents is divided into 3 subseries: accounts, receipts and acquittances, and warrants for payment. The contents within each series or subseries are arranged chronologically.

Physical arrangement: Shelfmarks reflect the arrangement established by E. Williams, who arranged materials by watermark type. The materials are grouped according to the time of their accession; within each of these groupings, materials are arranged according to watermark descriptors as laid out in E. Williams' original handlists. In a handful of instances, leaves of documents separated by E. Williams have been reunited and reclassified under a single shelfmark (e.g. L.f.191); notes referencing previously assigned shelfmarks help place these leaves in the context of E. Williams' order.

Acquisition Information

Henry Clay Folger acquired three parts of this collection from E. Williams in 1924 (in February, May, and September), and a fourth part in June 1927. Each part was accompanied by a descriptive list. The Folger Shakespeare Library acquired a single item (L.f.948) and a fifth part from Winifred Myers in 1976 and 1980, respectively.


Very little is known of the bookseller E. Williams, from whom Henry Folger purchased printed books and manuscripts from 1919 to 1929. However, his letters to Folger as he was forming this collection, full of exclamation points and single and double underlining in red and black ink, indicate a man passionately engaged in disproving various Baconian theories through watermark evidence. To that end, he supplied Folger not only with watermark specimens, but with his theories as to their relevance and importance to Shakespeare scholars. E. Williams first proposed the idea of a collection of "purely English watermarks of the Elizabethan period" to Henry Folger on January 4, 1924. Williams' goal was to collect dated legal documents covering "the whole Shakespearian period" (1550-1650), providing examples of the earliest and latest date of each watermark. His interest in the project was piqued by the claim of the Baconians that "numerous small variations in the English water marks have a cypher meaning & that Bacon actually had a private paper mill of his own working for this set purpose." If Mr. Folger were interested in forming such a collection, Williams offered to do it by degrees, "as the material came to hand," charging Mr. Folger five shillings for each complete specimen. This was the lowest rate he could manage, he explained, since a complete document was "very different from a printed page torn out of an old book." The nucleus of the collection had already been formed, and he offered to send this on approval to Mr. Folger. The initial shipment was accompanied by Williams' own observations and conclusions of their significance. In a letter dated February 16, 1924, he notes that, contrary to previous assumptions,

...ordinary English marks (such as the Pot, Gate posts, bunch of grapes, unicorn) varied every year, either in the lettering or in some differences of design.

If my idea is correct, it means that three quarters of the paper used in the English books of the Shakespearian era can be dated to the year!! The immense importance to the student & the bibliographer of such a discovery need not be emphasised, it is too obvious!

In his letter introducing the fourth shipment of watermarks, he notes that he has found from his research at the British Museum that "certain classes of paper were only used for printing & very rarely for MSS." Thus, he concludes that "if the collection is to be made absolutely perfect, a number of old books will have to be destroyed. For it is quite useless taking a watermarked sheet from a printed book unless one takes the title page as well in proof of date. I.E. to get one single watermark the whole book has to be sacrificed. And one's choice is thus limited to imperfect tracts or volumes of slight material value. Anyway, when this collection is completed, it should be a unique monument!"

The correspondence between Williams and Folger concerning the watermark collection ends on this note, although Folger continued to purchase books and manuscripts from him, and even commissioned him in 1925 to conduct "Shakespearian research" for the sum of two hundred pounds. Apparently, Williams continued to accumulate watermarks for this "unique monument," for in 1980, the Folger Shakespeare Library purchased a large watermark collection, painstakingly labelled in the distinctive hand of E. Williams.

Other Formats

We are in the process of updating links in this finding aid. Until all links have been updated, please go to E. Williams watermark collection, including papers of the Hale family of King's Walden and other papers, ca. 1570-1699, compiled ca. 1920-1930 to view digital images of select items.

The Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive includes images (made from Dylux prints) of 380 watermarks from this collection. To locate this set of images, conduct a shelfmark search under "Artifact fields" using the shelfmark "WM Coll." The resulting set is arranged chronologically. These Dylux images are also available on microfilm (Film Fo. 2292.1 and 2292.2) and in slide format (Slides Acc. Case III-V). Paper and microfilm indices to the microfilm and slides available.

Related materials

Related collections of Hale family papers include those at the British Library (Add MS 33,572-33,586), Harvard Law School (MSS Deeds Hale), Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (Miscellaneous records of the Hale family of Kings Walden Bury (DE/X471) and Correspondence and Miscellaneous papers of the Hale family of Stagenhoe, St Paul's Walden, Preston (DE/X987)), and Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service (F 206).

Guide to the E. Williams Watermark Collection, including the Papers of the Hale Family of King's Walden and Other Papers Folger MS.L.f.1-1058
Finding aid prepared by Nadia Seiler, 2010-2011.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Folger Shakespeare Library Repository

201 E. Capitol St. SE
Washington DC 20003 USA