Resources in the Archives of Lincoln’s Inn

The Deed of Consecration, Trinity Chapel. Image courtesy Lincoln’s Inn.

Lincoln’s Inn was founded as an Inn of Court sometime after 1300. Fortunately for us, the Inn’s Black Books — the minutes of meetings of its governing council — go as far back to 1422. The Archives of Lincoln’s Inn thus contain a treasure trove of documentary evidence about the history of the Inn and, more broadly, the history of the practice of law in England. In addition, the Inn’s Archives preserve an abundance of information about life at the Inn, including, happily for us, documentary evidence about John Donne’s association with the Inn, both as a student (he was admitted to the Inn on 6 May 1592) and as Preacher to the Inn from 1516 until 1621, when he became Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

This evidence includes the two Latin documents — The Deed of Consecration prepared George Montaigne and his staff after the service on May 22, 1623 and an account of the events of that day prepared, presumably, by a member of Lincoln’s Inn — that are transcribed and translated below.

The Archives also include Hugh Price’s Invoice for his woodwork in Trinity Chapel, found among the Building pages of this website. Go here to read Price’s Invoice.

This material, together with the editions of the Black Books printed by the Inn over the years, form the basis of our reconstructions of the events of May 22, 1623. The efforts of Guy Holborn, Librarian at Lincoln’s Inn, and his colleagues Peter Foden and Jo Hutchings in making these documents available to us.

Foden and Hutchings have been especially helpful in providing us with information about John Donne’s association with Lincoln’s Inn after he was appointed Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in the fall of 1621. They note, for example, that Donne retained the title of Preacher to the Inn until 1622 and retained his chambers at the Inn until November of 1624, at the express permission of the Inn. In that month, he gave up his chamber, which was then assigned to Eusebious Andrewes, Master of the Bench. They have not, unfortunately, been able to establish the exact location of Donne’s chamber in any of the Inn’s buildings.

The Archives of Lincoln’s Inn, like so many centers in England for the perservation of the past’s records, surely have more treasures awaiting the peristent explorer.

Trinity Chapel, Lincoln’s Inn. Rendering by Jack McManus.