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Correspondence of Professor Henry Jackson concerning the Acton Library

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.7720

Scope and Contents

In 1890 Lord Acton, whose financial affairs were in a state of some embarrassment, decided to sell his vast historical library at auction, and the first part of what was to have been a many-volumed catalogue was issued by Messrs Puttick & Simpson, containing 2,400 lots to be sold on eight days in July. Before this sale took place, Andrew Carnegie had (at the suggestion of Acton's friend and political mentor Gladstone) purchased the entire library, and allowed Acton to retain possession of it during his lifetime [1]. In 1895 Acton was appointed to the Regius chair of modern history at Cambridge, and the following year began the immense task of editing the Cambridge Modern History. Within a few weeks of his death in Bavaria on 19 June 1902, approaches were being made from Cambridge to John Morley, Carnegie's adviser on his British benefactions, suggesting that it would be appropriate for the Acton Library to be permanently housed in the University. Before the end of July, Carnegie had divested himself both of the responsibility of finding a home for the Library and of its ownership, by presenting it to Morley. Serious negotiations now began, conducted on behalf of the University primarily by Henry Jackson, who had known Morley since they had been contemporaries at Cheltenham College in the 1850s. The following letters and papers illustrate the progress and successful conclusion of the negotiations, resulting in the gift by Morley to the University of the bulk of the Acton Library, and its transfer to Cambridge University Library. [1] The books were divided between Aldenham, the Acton seat in Shropshire; Tegernsee, the family home in Bavaria; and Acton's rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge.


  • Creation: 1902-1903

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (


1 archive box(es) (1 box)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was presented to the University Library in 1967 by Henry Jackson's elder son, General Sir Henry Cholmondeley Jackson (1879-1972), who gave further correspondence of his father to Trinity College Library. A conspectus of Henry Jackson's papers in the University Library forms an appendix to the catalogue of MSS Add.6322-Add.6323.


John D. Wells, 'The Acton Collections', Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, no. 16, 1995.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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