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University Grace Books, 1454 - 1943

Reference Code: GBR/0265/UA/Grace Books

Scope and Contents

The 'grace' was originally a personal exemption from statutory requirements granted by the Senate to those aspiring to a degree. It came to serve wider and more general purposes. From the fifteenth century degrees became increasingly 'gratuosi' rather than 'rigorosi' and the Grace Books therefore provide what is virtually a register of degrees. From the end of the same century, the Grace formula came to be used for other persons and matters. By the mid-sixteenth century, the Grace was an established procedure for a great variety of executive business which the Senate wished to authorise, but which was not of sufficient importance or permanence to require a statute. Down the centuries, graces have been extended to cover, among other things, examinations and award of degrees; changes to statutes and ordinances; creation of and election to offices of all kinds; discipline; changes to the curriculum; and financial and estate matters. In modern times a 'Grace' is a motion for decision presented to the Regent House by the Council.
The earliest volumes, Grace Books Alpha and Beta, contain undifferentiated records of University business, both financial and administrative, from 1454 to 1500, and were kept by the Proctors. After 1500, the Proctors continued to keep their annual financial records in Grace Book Beta, until the book was filled up in 1544, and thereafter in a separate series of Audit Books. The other administrative business of the University, chiefly in the form of Graces of the Senate, was recorded in a new register, Grace Book Gamma. From the sixteenth century also, original letters and contemporary copies of various documents relating to University affairs were from time to time incorporated in the Grace Books.
From 14 January 1873, Cambridge University Reporter, published by authority, has been the official record of University administration. The contents of the Grace Books were made up from Cambridge University Reporter from 1884 onwards.


  • Creation: 1454 - 1943


Conditions Governing Access

From the Management Group:

The University Archives are generally freely available to the holder of a reader's ticket for the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR. Restrictions on access are imposed on certain categories of sensitive record: financial, governmental and personal, by order of the originating body or under data protection legislation. Access information, including opening hours and how to obtain a reader's ticket, appears as part of the Library's web site (


33 volume(s) : paper

Language of Materials




The online catalogue was completed in April 2004 and emended in October 2004 and November 2008.



Finding aid date

1998-03-20 11:51:31+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom