Patent Rolls

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The Patent Rolls (Latin: Rotuli litterarum patentium) are a series of administrative records compiled in the English Chancery, running from 1201 to the present day.

The rolls comprise a register of the letters patent issued by the Crown, and sealed "open" with the Great Seal pendent, expressing the sovereign's will on a range of matters of public interest. The rolls were started in the reign of King John, under the Chancellorship of Hubert Walter. The texts of letters patent were copied onto sheets of parchment, which were stitched together into long rolls to form a roll for each year.[1]

The rolls run in an almost unbroken series from 1201 to the present day, with certain gaps, notably during the English Civil War and Interregnum (1641–1660). The rolls are written almost exclusively in Latin in the early period. English was used occasionally in the 16th century, but only during the Commonwealth and after 1733 are all the entries in English.

The rolls were stored until the early 19th century in the Tower of London, but are now held at the National Archives, Kew, London, where their class reference is C 66. As of 2013, there are 5,726 rolls in the series, dating from 1201 to 2007.[2]


Extract from the Patent Roll for 3 John (1201–2), as published by the Record Commission in 1835 using record type

All the medieval rolls, and most of the early modern rolls to 1625 have been published, although editorial policies and formats have varied. Those for the years 1201 to 1216 were published as abbreviated Latin texts (in a near-facsimile of the manuscripts, employing a special "record type" font) by the Record Commission in 1835, in a large folio volume entitled Rotuli Litterarum Patentium in Turri Londinensi asservati, edited by Thomas Duffus Hardy. Those for the years 1216 to 1232 were issued, with extended Latin texts, in two volumes published in 1901 and 1903, simply entitled Patent Rolls.

The post-1232 rolls have been published not as full texts but in calendar form (i.e. as comprehensive English summaries, with all significant details included), under the title Calendar of Patent Rolls. 53 volumes of calendars were published between 1891 and 1916, covering the years 1232 to 1509. Those for the reign of Henry VIII (1509–47) were not independently published, having been incorporated into the series Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII (published 1862–1932). Those for the years 1547–1582 were published in 19 volumes between 1924 and 1986. In the late 1980s the Public Record Office suspended its programme of scholarly publication, and the initiative passed to the List and Index Society: between 1990 and 1994 the Society published five volumes of "draft" calendars covering the years 1584–1589; between 2000 and 2013 it published 29 volumes of full calendars with indexes for the years 1582–1602; and it had previously, between 1974 and 1989, published 14 volumes of calendars of the rolls for the years 1603–1625.

Hardy's 1835 edition of the rolls for 1201–1216 is available online in a non-searchable form.[3] The published texts and calendars from 1216 to 1452 have been made available online in a fully searchable form by the University of Iowa.[4]


  1. ^ Saul, Nigel A Companion to Medieval England 1066–1485 Stroud: Tempus 2000 ISBN 0-7524-2969-8 p. 116
  2. ^ "The Catalogue". The National Archives. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  3. ^ The Itinerary of King John & the Rotuli Litterarum Patentium
  4. ^ Searchable Patent Rolls 1212-1452

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