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The Rothschild Archive holds the evidence of a banking history dating from the early 19th century, documenting the innovations and evolution of the business of international finance. The bond was one of the most important instruments to underpin this type of business. The bond, enshrining the contract between borrower and banker, was a valuable document: its holders were entitled to present attached coupons at prescribed intervals to receive interest on their investment, and present the bond itself for return of the principal on maturity.

Among the extensive collections of The Rothschild Archive are a number of bundles of cancelled and specimen bonds. With many of the distinctive features of banknotes - their texture, smell and colour and the forgery-defying curlicues and confident iconography of their design - the bonds still have the unmistakeable aura of money. Each of these bonds is a representation of the contract by which the capital of individual investors was put into action across the world to develop infrastructure and keep governments solvent, from the end of the Napoleonic wars to the beginning of the Second World War.

Further information about loans of the London house, together with guides to sources, and a Digital Gallery of loan prospectuses, together with examples of bonds issued will be found on The Rothschild Archive microsite, 'Rothschild Bonds'.  A Rothschild Research Forum account is required to access this site. Go to Rothschild Bonds » or  Apply for a Rothschild Research Forum account here »

Loans Department: loans issued by the London house from New Court, 'specimen' bonds, Reference Set, 1822-1937

000/337/1/1-91, 3 boxes

A ‘reference set‘ of ‘Specimen Bonds’ largely issued Nathan Mayer Rothschild and N M Rothschild & Sons (or by N M Rothschild & Sons in partnership with de Rothschild Frères or other finance houses), 1822 to 1937. A few items  are not bonds issued by the London house, but are believed to have been included as the London house acted as Paying Agents for the loan. 

Most bonds are stamped ‘specimen’, or ‘cancelled’ and the coupons or face of the bond has been perforated to indicate that they have been cancelled. The set contains specimen copies of bonds (and their issue denominations) of important loan issues handled by the London bank and provides a useful chronological overview of the bond business of  the London house, including:

  • early loans issued by Nathan Mayer Rothschild in London
  • Chilean loans;
  • Brazilian loans; 
  • Egyptian loans;
  • French railway loans;
  • Ottoman loans;
  • South African loans;
  • Russian loans. 

The Bond certificates in this reference set are finely detailed miniature works of art, produced from elaborately engraved copper plates. Each bond was usually printed in a single colour, (with black printed text). The colour was to enable the rapid identification of different value denomination certificates of the same bond issue. These tended to be the same whatever the loan being issued: brown or sepia for values under £100, blue for £100, green for £500 and red for £1,000. Some examples also contain vignettes or scenes relevant to the bond issue, such as railway trains on railway bonds, or the view of Mount Fuji on the Japanese bonds. Many of these bonds and coupons were printed by C Whiting or Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co., London or Waterlow & Sons Limited, London; some bonds for which the Paris house was the lead, the printers are Ve Ethiova Pėrou et Fils, Paris and Imprimerie Chaix, Paris. 

These bonds are believed to have been collected together at some time to create a record set, for reference or display purposes, and is an artificially assembled collection. The collection is not complete and for some issues from New Court examples of bonds do not survive. Note that a very few bonds are bonds that have been issued and are not ‘specimens’; in such cases these examples have usually been acquired by the Archive to complete gaps in the collection and have subsequently been added to the 000/377 accession. For scrip relating to bond issues, see XIII/206. For loan prospectuses and other supporting papers, see XIII/230, For loan contracts and other supporting papers, see 000/401.

List available

Loans Department: loans issued by the London house from New Court, 'specimen' bonds, 1860-1979

000/337/2-24, 13 boxes

A collection of boxes primarily containing largely specimen bonds and coupons relating primarily to loans issued by the London house. Most items are duplicates of bonds to be found in the Specimen bonds Reference set in 000/337/1. The majority of bonds relate to loans issued by N M Rothschild & Sons under the Senior Partner, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), but the collection includes examples of bonds for and loans issued or managed by the London house up to the Second World War. Included are some post-war bonds not issued by Rothschild houses. For loans not issued by NMR, the London house was most likely involved as a paying agent for the loan in question. The bonds are arranged alphabetically by names of countries, then largely chronologically. These are the countries of the governments upon whose behalf the loan was issued, or in the case of bond issues by companies, the home country of the company upon whose behalf the bond was issued.  

List available

Loans Department: non-Rothschild loan issues, bonds, 1929-1984

000/2361, 1 file

A single file, entitled Specimen Certificates, etc. other than N. M. R.’. 1929-1984. A small collection of specimen certificates for bonds and loans not issued by the London house. Presumed kept for reference purposes.