Scope and Content

These manuscripts are largely from the 17th century and are somewhat eclectic. The many interests and roles of the earls are represented through some of this collection of manuscripts. Some of the texts would have been valuable as tools for an aristocratic heir's upbringing, such as: the political and royal histories; factual texts on parliament; textbooks on the French language and the estates of France generally, and Baldassare Castiglione's tract on the behaviours of a courtier. And indeed it has been suggested that some may even have been written as excercises by the young earls (HMS/4/33, HMS/4/34).

Others are clearly related to the 2nd Earl's intellectual interests; like his tutor Thomas Hobbes, William Cavendish (later 2nd Earl of Devonshire) had a connection to Francis Bacon and engaged with his work and those of other scholars such as Micanzio. The sigificance and influence of Bacon's work, on William Cavendish and Hobbes (who for a time was amaneunsis for Bacon) is perhaps represented here by the survival of four manuscripts of essays by Bacon. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd earls were Lord Lieutenants of Derbyshire, MPs and of course held a seat in the House of Lords - some of these manuscripts may well have been of use in fufilling these roles, especially the parliamentary reports and speeches. It was the 2nd earl who introduced to audiences with the king ambassadors from the Emperor Ferdinand, Venice, and the United Provinces, which may explain the presence of reports by Venetian Ambassadors (HMS/4/23) in this collection.

The 1st Earl of Devonshire was the first Cavendish to invest in the East India Company, Virginia Company and Somers Isles Company alongside a number of other sea adventures, but this investment continued with his son who was a leading member of the Virginia and Somers Isles companies. This makes sense of the presence of Purchas' autographed copy of "Virginia's Verger" (HMS/4/11) in this collection of manuscripts and William Monson's "A treatise of all sea causes" (HMS/4/6).

The later manuscripts on the state of France (HMS/4/38, HMS/4/39) may have held importance to the 3rd Earl, not just as educational texts for his son but because like his father he toured Europe with Hobbes and later found himself living in France between 1642-45.

Another consideration about this collection is the extent to which it reflects similar manuscript collections of the time. Comparison with well-known manuscript collections of the period may provide insight into the provenance of these Cavendish manuscripts.

The manuscripts are largely texts which were often published in printed editions around the same time these manuscript were commissioned, and it has been suggested that like many aristocratic audiences the earls preferred scribal copies over printed editions of books.

The catalogue of the library at Hardwick (HMS/4/40) is a later version of the original catalogue by Hobbes (catalogued in the Hobbes Papers HS/E/1/A). Its presence in this collection suggests that this catalogue may have been held in the same place as these manuscripts. Many of the books recorded in the library catalogue were removed from Hardwick to Chatsworth and remain in the Chatsworth library today, with their original shelf marks matching this catalogue still visible. Notably this catalogue shows the vast number of publications accessible to the Cavendishes and lists a few of the titles present in this manuscript collection, suggesting that either these manuscripts may once have formed part of the library at Hardwick (although none of them have shelf marks annotated on their inside covers) or they were additional copies owned by the Cavendishes. The manuscript collection's segregation from the main library holdings provides a conundrum about how these manuscripts were used and housed in relation to the main library collection; whilst a few titles of manuscripts are listed in the catalogue, most are not and those that are cannot be proven to be these manuscript copies.


The items here are arranged loosely according to Strong's original listing but slightly rearranged to ensure like subject matter or authors and type of material are together and then within this, chronologically arranged where dates are known. The types of manuscripts include: published texts on a wide range of subjects including : court and government; Francis Bacon essays. Then there are reports, speeches and letter transcripts often relating to parliament and sermons. These are followed by unpublished works including: accounts of foreign excursions and endeavours; texts on love and marriage; reference texts and excercise books including latin, history and French government and language; the library catalogue and a notebook.

Custodial History

This series consists of a collection of manuscripts probably compiled by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Earls of Devonshire. It is not known to what extent this collection has been altered since the manuscripts first came into the possession of the Cavendishes in the 17th century. There may have been other items which were rehoused or lost over time. When Eugenie Strong listed these items, she listed them mostly together, after the account books and rentals in the collection. It is likely these were in the Hardwick Evidence Room when the Historical Manuscripts Commission listed a large proportion of them for their third report in 1872.

The fact that none of the manuscripts in HMS/4 shelf marks like the library books in the catalogue of the 1670s (HMS/4/40) written into them (as some of the books in the library at Chatsworth still do today) suggests they were not housed in the main library like the majority of the books at Hardwick, although some of the titles can be found in Hobbes' catalogue of books (HS/E/1/A).

Related Material

The following items in the Hardwick Drawers series are of a similar nature and type to the manuscript material in this series and may have been part of this collection or Hobbes' papers:

H/145/20: "Interogatories ministerd to the Earl of Bristol with his answers".

H/145/13: "Defence of John Hampden".

H/145/8: Political Treatise: "The Kings of England have supported and repaired their Estates either..."

H/145/7: "Conclave nella morte di Papa Leone XI dove fie creata Papa H Cardinale Camillo Broghese detto Parlo Quinto".

H/145/21: Discours contre la frequente saignee A monsier: Monsieur du Bosc Conseiller et secretaire du Roy" [by Samuel Sorbiere].

H/146/3: Sir Thomas Smith's Misgovernment of the Virginia Company.

H/146/6: Latin treatise "Euphormio Lectori".

H/146/11: French conversation texts, French exercises written by a child and an essay on the nature of French government and monarchy.

H/146/12: Catalogues of pamphlets and books in quarto at Hardwick.

H/146/5: "Zabarellae: physicae questiones".

H/146/13: Four books of sermons.

Some of the manuscripts in this collection are of a similar genre to the Thomas Hobbes papers (GB 2495 HS) held at Chatsworth.

Chatsworth Library holds a collection of rare books, some of which are manuscripts similar in subject and type to this collection with unclear provenance. These include:

Hagthorpe, John, A Discourse of the Sea and Navigation with Somethinges thereunto coincident concerninge Plantations, 1673 - 1674 (DEV/011609).

Mainwaring, Sir Henry, A breife Abstract, Exposition, and Demonstration, of all Parts & Things, belonging to A Ship, and the Practique of Nauigation, (DEV/011522).

Minutes of the Resolutions of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, (DEV/011528).

Garrigues, Pierre, Inscriptions Antiques Tumules et Epitaphes, qui se retrovent en divers endroitz de la ville de Narbone (DEV/011547).

Jonson, Ben, Pleasure Reconcil'd to Vertue (DEV/011652).

Smith, Sir Thomas, Misgovernment of the Virginia Company.

Family Names