Historical Note


The Francis Bacon Foundation was formed by Walter Arensberg in 1938 to promote study in science, literature, religion, history and philosophy with special reference to the works of Francis Bacon. The Foundation held offices in the Arensbergs' Hollywood home, and was primarily concerned with proving Arensberg's theory that Francis Bacon was the true author of the works of William Shakespeare. In addition to researching this theory, the Foundation also sponsored lecture series sometimes in conjunction with the University of Southern California and the Claremont Colleges on topics related to Bacon and Renaissance literature. The Foundation also served as the legal owner of the Walter and Louise Arensberg collection comprised primarily of 20th century and pre-Columbian art, and the staff often handled the Arensberg's personal affairs. Many of the Arensbergs' close friends and associates were involved in the Foundation; from 1950-1952, Marcel Duchamp served as a member of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation maintained a significant library collection of reference and rare books. Walter Arensberg had begun collecting early editions of works by Dante Alighieri while still an undergraduate at Harvard, and expanded his collection to include other Renaissance authors, particularly Francis Bacon. These books formed the basis of the Foundation's library, which also included a number of manuscript materials and many volumes on the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy, as well as the Arensbergs' art books and a number of the their personal papers.

After the death of Louise and Walter Arensberg in late 1953 and early 1954, the Foundation's Board of Trustees arranged for the sale of the Hollywood house, most of the furnishings, Oriental rugs, and jewelry that the Arensbergs had collected. The Francis Bacon Library, which continued to be run by the Foundation, moved to offices in downtown Pasadena in 1954, where it functioned primarily as a research library. In 1961 it moved to a building in Claremont, California, on land donated by the Claremont University Center with which it was then affiliated. In 1995, due to escalating financial problems as well as the illness of Elizabeth Wrigley, who had served for a number of years as library director, the Foundation sold its collection of rare books and manuscripts to the Huntington Library. The same year, the Arensbergs' personal papers and the institutional records of the Foundation were divided between the Huntington and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.