Reference numberAB
Previous numbersMS 783
TitleFinancial account books of the Royal Society
DescriptionThe series falls into two chronological groups. The first series contains the early financial accounts for the Royal Society, 1660-1768. Much of this material deals with the financial state of the Society during James West's Presidency, and represents the administrative work of the two Library Keepers/Clerks, Francis Hauksbee and Emanuel Mendes da Costa. The second series consists of cash-books and ledgers of the 19th and 20th centuries, 1867-1976. These deal with the Society's general finances, as well as its administration of the Government Grant and various Trust Funds. A third section contains copies of the Royal Society's Annual Accounts - both signed and unsigned.
Extent15 cubic feet
ArrangementAB/1 Early Account Books and Financial Papers
AB/2 Cash Books and Ledgers
AB/3 Annual Accounts
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsSome more recent records closed - records closed for 30 years from date of creation
Administrative historyEmmanuel Mendes da Costa was a naturalist and antiquarian.

He became clerk of the Royal Society in 1763 after the death of Francis Hauksbee left an opening. He was appointed with recommendations from friends and correspondents. On taking up the position as clerk, librarian and keeper of the Repository and housekeeper of the Royal Society da Costa withdrew as a Fellow. This withdrawal may have been financially motivated as Fellows had simultaneously held paid positions as Society staff prior to da Costa - his predecessor Hauksbee for example was both Fellow and clerk. Da Costa sought the position as clerk becuase he was in financial difficulties after a period in the Netherlands where he worked for his brother in law, Abraham del Prado, a supplier to the English army.

In 1767 da Costa was discovered to be withholding Royal Society members' subscription fees, was convicted of fraud, and sentenced to five years in debtors' prison. The issue was detected when John Hope was listed as an annual instead of perpetual member and sought investigation. Da Costa would release the annual membership amount to the Royal Society but draw interest from the remainder of the life membership subscription. After release he struggled to make a living lecturing about fossils, and dealing in shells and minerals.
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    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

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