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Highlight historical books and manuscripts

A selection of highlight books and manuscripts held by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in its special historical collections

Please consult Books, Manuscripts and Documents Dating Before 1901 in the Libraries of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries for a full catalogue listing of our holdings that is updated annually with additions to the collection.

Manuscripts 

Frederick Hendriks' 'Research notes relating to the discovery in 1851 of Johan De Witt's treatise on life annuities, 1671' contains autograph letters with European politicians and documents, translations from the Dutch, that led to his articles 'Contributions to the history of insurance, and the theory of life contingencies', Journal of the Institute of Actuaries I and II (1851, 1852). 

Original works of Thomas Bayes, James Dodson, Richard Price and William Morgan feature in the Archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society acquired by the UK actuarial profession in 2006. There are holdings of examples of early mathematical practitioners considering compound interest in the accumulation of funds, and commutation tables calculated by actuaries investigating company mortality data. 

Separately the library has obtained small sets of letters by Richard Price concerning actuarial questions ca. 1778 and by Benjamin Gompertz who in the 1820s first explored a common law of the force or intensity of mortality over the course of life.

Mathematics 

Coverage includes works of probability and logarithm tables, from the 17th to 19th centuries. These are some of the rarest books in the Library and are items cited in English Short Title Catalogue bibliographies: 

  • Ian Trenchant, L'Arithmetique (1558)
  • Ludolph Van Ceulen, Van den Circkel (1596) on compound interest
  • John Napier, Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio (1614); Mirifici logarithmorum canonis constructio (1620); Rabdologiae, seu numerationis per virgulas libri duo (1617) on logarithms
  • Pierre-Rémond de Montmort, Essay d'analyse sur les jeux de hasard (1708; and 1713 editions)
  • Nicolaas Struyck, Uytreekening der kanssen in het speelen, door de arithmetica en algebra, beneevens een vehandeling van looteryen en interest... [1716]
  • Abraham De Moivre, The Doctrine of Chances (1718, 1738 and 1756 editions)
  • Thomas Bayes, Notebook c.1747-1761
  • Charles Babbage, Specimen of logarithm tables printed with different coloured inks on variously coloured papers (1831) has a manuscript note 'only 1 copy having been printed' and a letter presentation to W. Streatfield'.

Mortality analysis 

  • John Graunt, Natural and political observations mentioned in a following index and made upon the Bills of Mortality (1662, and editions of 1665, and posthumously 1676). This is considered a breakthrough in statistical history for signalling how parish record data might be used to estimate population size (and men able to bear arms) and survival to age bands
  • Company of Parish Clerks of London, London's dreadful visitation. Or, A Collection of all the Bills of Mortality for the present year... (1665) at the time of the Great Plague
  • John Smart, 'An account of the number of persons dying at the several ages under mencioned [sic] as published by the Company of Parish Clerks, in the Yearly Bills of Mortality…’ [years 1728-1741] was appended in 1738 to Smart’s earlier work, Tables of interest, discount, annuities &c. 2nd ed., 1726. Smart was first to analyse the London Bills of Mortality after age of death began to be recorded from 1728; he presented his findings through the Royal Society in a letter ‘shewing the probabilities of life in order to estimate annuities &c.’ in 1738. Further analysis has been added by another for the years 1742-1771
  • Corbyn Morris, Observations on the past growth and the present state of the City of London (1751) was the work on the London Bills of Mortality that informed James Dodson as he first outlined how premiums could be set according to age commercial life assurance based on actuarial mathematics
  • Nicolaas Struyck, Inleiding tot de de algemeene geographie beneevens eenige sterrekundige en andere verhandelingen (1740) contains 'Appendix to the conjectures on the state of the human race and the calculation of annuities' (in Dutch) in which he first discerned from Holland's state tontine registers that male and female mortality (and life expectancy) could be separately observed 
  • Antoine Deparcieux, Essai sur les probabilités de la durée de la vie humaine; d'où l'on déduit la manière de déterminer les Rentes Viagères, tant simples qu'en tontines: précédé d'une courte Explication sur les Rentes à Terme, ou Annuités; et accompagné d'un grand nombre de Tables. Paris: Guérin, 1746. ‘Géometre’ Deparcieux analysed the mortality experience from tontine registers and that of nuns of convents, his tables becoming much relied upon for appraisal of financial schemes contingent on life in Europe.

Theory and practice of life assurance and annuities 

  • Abraham De Moivre, Annuities upon lives (1725) - arguably a first textbook on actuarial questions 
  • Alexander Webster, Robert Wallace, Colin Mclarin, Calculations with the principles and data on whcih they are instituted: relative to a late Act of Parliament entitled, an Act for raising and establishing a Fund for the provision for the widows and children of the ministers of the Church and of the heads, principals and masters of the universities of Scotland (1748)
  • Richard Price, Observations on reversionary payments, 1st ed. (1771) and later editions
  • Charles Babbage, A comparative view of the various institutions for the assurance of lives (1826).

Non-life insurance 

  • Corbyn Morris, An essay towards the Science of Insurance ... (1747) applied binomial theorem to assess matters of marine insurance.

Insurance prospectuses and promotional leaflets

This collection is said to have started with the gift from the Clerical, Medical and General Assurance Society of a bound volume of various companies' prospectuses (with reports to policyholders and specimen policy conditions) trawled from the period 1832-1851. Another set is in three volumes bound by the Colonial Life Assurance Company in 1846 covering English, Irish, Scottish and foreign offices. Also, there is a volume of statutes of French and German insurance companies of the 1850s.

Pamphlets have been bound in a series of 'Tracts' covering mainly nineteenth-century papers on life assurance, statistics, friendly societies, mortality rates with some Dutch, French and German insurance literature. They include a collection bought in 1880 from Cornelius Walford (1827-1885), author of The Insurance Cyclopaedia ... (volumes I-V: Aba - Han) (1871-1880). Some 'Tracts' pamphlets listed in 1907 have been later disbound but all are traceable using the Library database catalogue.

Newmarch collection 

The Royal Statistical Society has deposited six volumes of pamphlets - mainly on life assurance bequeathed by William Newmarch F.R.S.S. (1820-1882), Manager of Glyn Mills and Company Bank - with the Institute Library upon permanent loan.

Journals and periodicals 

The London library holds several current journals of American and European actuarial associations. Its historical holdings include Post Magazine (weekly news on the insurance industry) from 1849 onwards and Transactions of the International Congress of Actuaries from 1895.

Faculty of Actuaries Collection (Edinburgh University Library)

Some 1500 catalogued items of the former Faculty's historical collections are deposited at Edinburgh University Library. Significant among these are sets of 19th century prospectuses of life asssurance societies originating in Scotland, and original early 17th centrury publications of John Napier on logarithms.

Equitable Life Archive 

The Institute and Faculty acquired the Archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society dating from 1762 to 1950 and associated historical research in 2006. The Society was the first to practise actuarial science in insurance and the Archive takes a special place in the profession's heritage.

Archive of the IFoA

Since it began, originally by the foundation of the Institute of Actuaries in 1848 (Royal Charter, 1884) and then of the Faculty of Actuaries in 1856 (Royal Charter, 1868), the UK actuarial profession has fostered production of education textbooks for student actuaries and technical papers dedicated to its subject field through the Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (1951-1994) and Transactions of the Faculty of Actuaries (1901-1994) - now the British Actuarial Journal since 1995. The achievements of leading figures and professional committees in contributing to legislation with appropriate public interest roles for actuaries can be traced through the respective Yearbooks and Members Handbooks of the two organisations. 

London and Edinburgh offices retain series of former Faculty and Institute council and committee and general meeting minute books.

The Libraries also have albums of photographs of actuaries since 1848 with their insurance company associations. 

In 2010, the memberships of the two bodies voted for merger becoming the IFoA.

Contact Details

For any library enquiries please contact:

libraries@actuaries.org.uk

We try to respond to email queries within one working day. Researcher access to historical resources may require notice in advance of visit in order to retrieve items from storage.