899G Sir Robert Holborne (-1647-) Fracis Bacon (1561-1626)


The learned readings of Sir Robert Holbourne, Knight, Attorney General to King Charles I. upon the statute of 25 Edw. 3. cap. 2. being the statute of treasons.

To which is added, cases of



Misprision of treason.

Felony, &c.

Written by the Right Honourable Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban. And now reprinted for publick benefit.


London : printed for Sam. Heyrick, at Grayes-Inn-Gate in Holborn, and Matthew Gilliflower, in Westminster-Hall, 1681.                               $2,200

Octavo A (±A1+chi1) B-I K . Second Edition Bound in full contemporary calf.

This is a reissue, with cancel title page and errata, of “The learned readings of Robert Holbourne, Esq; upon the statute of 25 Ed. 3. cap. 2. being the statute of treasons. … London, printed for Matt. Gillyflower, bookseller in Westminster-Hall. 1680.” (Wing H2372A).  Copies – N.America Columbia University , Folger ,Harvard Huntington ,Newberry , Princeton ,Library of Congress, University of Chicago,Toronto,  Yale
Sir Robert Holborne (died 1647) was an English lawyer and politician, of Furnival’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn (where he was bencher and reader in English law). He acted, along with Oliver St. John, as co-counsel for John Hampden in the ship money case. He sat in the House of Commons between 1640 and 1642 and supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War. He was attorney-general to the Prince of Wales, being knighted in 1643. He also published legal tracts.

“Learned lawyers, such as Bacon, would give lectures on law at their Inn of Court. One “reading” was usually a series of lectures on a given statute.”

 (Laurel Davis, Boston College Law School, 2013)

DSC_0174This text is Holbo(u)rne’s ‘reading’ of Bacon’s CASES OF TREASON. London, 1641.(Wing  B272;Gibson, R. Bacon, 198)

“In this posthumously published work, Bacon discusses crimes that constitute treason, includ- ing if “any Jesuite, or any other Priest ordained since the first yeere of the reigne of Queene Elizabeth, shall come into, or remaine in any part of this Realme.” He touches on jurisdictional issues and lists the various punishments for the commission of treasons, while also disinguishing felonies that do not rise to the level of treason.”

(Laurel Davis, Boston College Law School, 2013)

DSC_0175Bacon earned the standing of one of the learned counsels, though he had no commission or warrant, and received no salary. His relationship with the Queen further improved when he severed ties with Essex—a shrewd move, as Essex would be executed for treason in 1601. With others, Bacon was appointed to investigate the charges against Essex. A number of Essex’s followers confessed that Essex had planned a rebellion against the Queen.

Bacon was subsequently a part of the legal team headed by the Attorney General Sir Edward Coke at Essex’s treason trial. After the execution, the Queen ordered Bacon to write the official government account of the trial, which was later published as A DECLARATION of the Practices and Treasons attempted and committed by Robert late Earle of Essex and his Complices, against her Majestie and her Kingdoms … after Bacon’s first draft was heavily edited by the Queen and her ministers.


In 1613 Bacon was finally appointed attorney general, after advising the king to shuffle judicial appointments. As attorney general, Bacon, by his zealous efforts—which included torture—to obtain the conviction of Edmund Peacham for treason, raised legal DSC_0177controversies of high constitutional importance;  and successfully prosecuted Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset, and his wife, Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset, for murder in 1616. The so-called Prince’s Parliament of April 1614 objected to Bacon’s presence in the seat for Cambridge and to the various royal plans that Bacon had supported. Although he was allowed to stay, parliament passed a law that forbade the attorney general to sit in parliament. His influence over the king had evidently inspired resentment or apprehension in many of his peers. Bacon, however, continued to receive the King’s favour, which led to his appointment in March 1617 as temporary Regent of England (for a period of a month), and in 1618 as Lord Chancellor. On 12 July 1618 the king created Bacon Baron Verulam, of Verulam, in the Peerage of England; he then became known as Francis, Lord Verulam.

More recent scholarship on Bacon’s jurisprudence has focused on his advocating torture as a legal recourse for the crown. Bacon himself was not a stranger to the torture chamber: in his various legal capacities in both Elizabeth I’s and James I’s reigns, Bacon was listed as a commissioner on five torture warrants. In 1613(?), in a letter addressed to King James I on the question of torture’s place within English law, Bacon identifies the scope of torture: a means to further the investigation of threats to the state: “In the cases of treasons, torture is used for discovery, and not for evidence.” For Bacon, torture was not a punitive measure, an intended form of state repression, but instead offered a modus operandi for the government agent tasked with uncovering acts of treason. (Wiki)


Hanson, Elizabeth (Spring 1991). “Torture and Truth in Renaissance England”. Representations. 34: 53–84. doi:10.1525/rep.1991.34.1.99p0046u.
Langbein, John H. (1976). Torture and the Law of Proof. The University of Chicago Press. p. 90.


Wing H2373: Gibson, R. Bacon, 199