The trial of Henry Justice, Esq; for stealing divers books, the goods of the Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Trinity-College, in Cambridge



According to Venn [‘Alumni Cantabrigienses’], Henry Justice was admitted as a pensioner (fee-paying student) age 19 on April 27, 1716; he was called to the Bar on February 10, 1727; and he was Lord of the manor of Rufforth. He became a Fellow-Commoner on September 17, 1734.

Justice was tried at the Old Bailey, May 8, 1736, accused of stealing books and tracts from Trinity College Library and taking them to his chambers in London. Justice initially pleaded not guilty. He freely admitted that he had taken them but on the basis that it was acceptable to do so, based on the privileges (he argued) due to him as a Fellow-Commoner. He blamed the 18 year-old under library-keeper for not entering his name with regards to removing the books from the library. He also argued that it would have been impossible to remove the books from the library and take them to his rooms [in Great Court] without the permission of the library staff. [Clearly, he then transported them to London]. He claimed that he left all the books openly in sight in his London chambers. It was argued that Justice did not in fact have the rights that he believed. Warrants were served on his chambers in London. Justice maintained that he was intending to return the books in the Christmas period. He burst into tears at several points during the trial. When found guilty by the jury, he changed his plea to guilty, hoping for clemency to be shown.

Justice was sentenced to transportation, but this was subsequently changed to exile for life. He retired to Italy, and died at The Hague in 1763.

The long list of missing items was read out at the trial. The first two are ‘one tract or treatise, entituled Opus Novum Gildas Britannus Monachus …’ [now at VI.I.7] and ‘One other tract or treatise, entituled, Literarum quibus invictissimus Princeps Henricus Octavus Rex Angliae & Franciae Dns. Hiberniae ac Fidei Defensor respondit ad quondam Epistolam Martini Lutheri …’ [now at VI.1.10].

Image of the spine of VI.1.7
Spine VI.1.7
Image of title page to VI.1.10
Title page VI.1.10

Charles I’s copy of the Book of Common Prayer

London, 1634 (C.12.82)

Inside front cover with inscription
Inscription ascribing ownership to Charles I

This copy of the Book of Common Prayer belonged to Charles I.  The covers bear the Royal coat of arms.  It is inscribed on the inside cover in a hand contemporary with the times ‘Charles Stuart Rex a book he used to take out of his closett 1648’.

Charles insisted upon religious conformity across the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.  This went disastrously wrong when the Anglican liturgy and prayer book were forced upon the Scottish Kirk in 1637, resulting in war between the two nations.  In order to finance war against the Scots, Charles was obliged to recall Parliament in 1640, bringing his eleven-year personal rule to an end.  So, this book is significant on two levels.  On a personal level it was his book and he would have used it; on a public level it represents one of the major areas of conflict between Charles and the people, a conflict which ultimately lead to his execution in January 1649.

Title page
Title page

The instructive picture book; or, Lessons from the vegetable world

Charlotte M. Yonge, Edinburgh, 1857 (Q.13.32)

RS35135_Q.13.32_plate 2-scr
Spring flowers

The text of this educational book on botany is by Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), better known as a novelist.  She had a strongly religious upbringing and spent most of her life in her native village of Otterbourne, near Winchester.  The greater part of the book consists of 31 hand-coloured plates by Robert Mackenzie Stark (1815-1873) who also illustrated a companion volume to this, on plants and animals, with text by Adam White.  The book covers flowers by season, kitchen vegetables and roots, plants useful in domestic economy and the arts, forage or field plants, grains, poisonous plants (the largest section of the work) and fruits.

More illustrations from Q.13.32:

Coloured engravings of British fungi
British fungi
Coloured engravings of poisonous plants
Poisonous plants
Coloured engravings of vegetables and roots
Kitchen vegetables and roots
Cover of "The instructive picture book; or, Lessons from the vegetable world"
Book cover