The eighteenth and nineteenth century correspondence archive

Out Letter Books [series LB; 105 vols]

Following the reorganisation of record keeping in the late-1820s, copies of the partners' most important out-letters were henceforth to be kept in a series of letter books. The series begins in 1831 and, although it runs until 1970, it is of marginal importance from about 1910. The letters were copied, while the ink was still wet, on to tissue paper which was then pasted into letter books. Sometimes the copies smudged and therefore they are generally difficult to read. From the 1890s typescript copies became common. The letters are indexed by name of correspondent and, on a few occasions, by subject.

Generally, each book covers a calendar year. Sometimes they cover longer periods, for example in the 1830s. From 1872 until 1886 there is a separate book each year for letters sent to Thomas Ward and from 1887 to 1889 for letters sent to Kidder Peabody, both of whom were agents of Barings based in Boston, US.

The letter books are highly important as they contain the most confidential letters of the partners and do not relate to the routine business of the house. In order to develop a complete understanding of their subject matter, they must be read in conjunction with in-letters [if they survive] held in House Correspondence.

The recipients of these letters include the major corresponding banks, for example Hopes of Amsterdam and Hottinguer of Paris, the representatives of foreign governments for which bond issues and advances were made, Barings' Liverpool house and the firm's representatives when they were located abroad, especially Nicholas Bouwer and Essex Reade. The volumes from the 1880s mostly comprise letters sent to Argentina.

The letter books declined in importance in the mid-1880s and after 1910 contain letters of marginal importance which did not fit easily into other record series. By 1900 new methods of record keeping meant that for the first time out- and in-letters were being filed together in a new series called Partners' Filing.

The value of the letter books prior to 1870 has been undermined by the removal of large numbers of letters relating to Canada and the US [and also to other countries should such a letter, or part of a letter, happen to be on the same page as the Canadian or US letter]. The missing letters are now amongst the Baring Papers in the National Archives of Canada.

Back to top