skip to content

Cambridge University Library


The seal currently in use by the University, strictly the seal of the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge, was presented to the University in 1580 by William Farrand, Senior Proctor, 1578-9, and Matthew Stokys, Esquire Bedell 1557-85, and Registrary 1558-91, whose names are recorded on an inscription on the back of the seal. It shows the seated figure of the Chancellor in a domed niche flanked by standing gowned figures, perhaps intended to represent the proctors with their chained books; above is the name of God in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and, on either side of the dome of the Chancellor’s niche, the arms of old England; below, the arms of the University under a scroll reading ‘Mars Musas’.

The earliest known seal of the University perhaps dated from around 1261: the earliest surviving impression is on a 1291 deed in Peterhouse. It showed the Chancellor, seated and holding a book, between two figures apparently engaged on a disputation. Under them is an arched bridge of four lights over a river, certainly the Cam, accommodating three fish.This seal was replaced, probably early in the 15th century by another seal of similar design, with the seated and standing figures each in a canopied niche and under them a flat bridge of only three lights, and a river boasting only two fish. For a fuller account of these seals, and of the official seals of the Chancellor, as well as of many college seals, see W. H. St John Hope in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 25 Feb. 1885, pp. 225-52.