Julius Caesar 1558-1636

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Sir Julius CAESAR 1558-1636

Biographical Note

Born in Tottenham, son of Cesare Adelmare (“Dr Caesar”), a Venetian immigrant who became a successful court physician. BA Magdalen Hall, Oxford 1575, MA 1578, DCL 1584. He studied at Clement’s Inn and the Inner Temple (admitted 1580) and also around this time undertook legal studies in Paris. Through the patronage of David Lewes (judge of the High Court of Admiralty) and others, his career was advanced through various preferments before becoming a joint commissioner (and later sole judge) of that Court (1585). He worked in the court of requests during the 1590s, and was called to the bench of the Inner Temple in 1591. He was an MP in numerous Parliaments from 1589, knighted in 1603, and in 1606 was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer; his endeavours there to establish a scheme for increasing the Crown’s regular income were largely unsuccessful. He left that post to become Master of the Rolls in 1614. He was involved in numerous business ventures in England and overseas, and accumulated significant wealth.


Caesar’s will reveals an extensive library divided between his house at Hackney and his office at the Rolls, in his study there or in “two great presses”. These were bequeathed to his sons John, Charles and Robert, the former receiving all his books in the cupboards or chapel at Hackney (to remain in that house as long as the family was there), and the two latter dividing between them his “written books” (including manuscripts in Caesar’s own hand). As they were both lawyers, they would benefit from these collections of legal transcripts, notes, letters and case records. Robert’s share was bequeathed to Charles shortly afterwards, on his death in 1638. The size of this part of the library is evident from the sale catalogue when the bulk of the collection came to be sold by auction by Samuel Paterson in London in 1757; although there are only 187 lots, archival in nature and excluding printed books, the detailed description of the contents runs to 94 pages. The sale made £356. Many of these papers were acquired by William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805) or by Horace Walpole (1717-1697) and were subsequently purchased by the British Museum Library during the 19th century.

Caesar’s library is noteworthy as having included one of the small number of early 17th-century travelling libraries now surviving. Housed in a purpose-made wooden container shaped like a book, it holds within, on three shelves, a collection of small format books uniformly bound in gilt-tooled vellum. This is now held by the British Library. Examples of printed books: Sotheby’s 21.6.1965 (Abbey sale)/8.


  • A catalogue of several thousands of the most singular and interesting heads in the collection of manuscripts of … Sir Julius Caesar, 1757, ESTC T3221.
  • Hill, L. Bench and bureaucracy: the public career of Sir Julius Caesar, 1988.
  • Jayne, S. Library catalogues of the English renaissance. Godalming, 1983, 167.
  • Sherman, W. Used books, 2008, ch. 7.
  • Wijffels, Alain. "Caesar [formerly Adelmare], Sir Julius (bap. 1558, d. 1636), civil lawyer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography