Dating early english documents

It is these pamphlets, published in the mid nineteenth century, to which we refer when talking about the British Library’s collection of early English patents.

The original enrolments of early English patents and any specifications are kept at the National Archives.

The British Library does have a few examples of the parchments given to English patentees at grant and a few contemporary copies of patent specifications.

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The most useful paper indexes for patent name and subject searching are: Note: For British patents from 1890 onwards you can search the Espacenet database by name, by number and by words in the title.Our patent information specialists know the collection very well and are always happy for you to contact them for help and advice.We also have a few examples of Scottish and Irish parchments.From October 1852 onwards British patents covered the whole of the United Kingdom and were printed and published regularly each week in pamphlet form.If you can limit the search to a specific technical area then they may be able to make a name search over a longer period of time.

Also, if you have a patent number but no year, or a year but no number and you can describe the invention in some detail then they may be able to identify a patent for you.

Before October 1852, details of granted English patents were simply recorded (enrolled) in the Patent Rolls at the end of a long, cumbersome and costly application process. The details recorded in the Rolls usually included the name, rank and address of the patentee, the title of the invention, a formal recitation of the terms of the monopoly (patent) granted and the date of grant.

From the 1730s onwards patentees were also obliged to file a specification which described their invention in technical detail.

All the information you need on visiting the library and applying for a pass to use our reading rooms is here.

Please read it carefully before planning your visit.

English patents granted before October 1852 were first printed and published in a numbered sequence in the mid-1850s.