Two hundred and fifty years ago a record-keeper sat amid the boxes, the cupboards and the shelves which housed his charges, compiling ‘an account of all or most of the records in the Duchy office and how to find them’. The result was invaluable for searchers in the Duchy of Lancaster records, but lacking order and arrangement, as its author was the first to admit, it is not a systematic description of these records and it says very little about their history. There is therefore some justification for attempting a comprehensive view of these records. The rich diversity of interest which the Duchy bears is fully reflected in the range of its records. It has indeed been said that ‘what the records of the United Kingdom are at large, these records of the Duchy are in miniature’. That is a bold assertion, difficult to sustain. For one thing, the Duchy never knew the complicated processes of the royal exchequer, and it must be obvious that the Duchy could not repeat in parvo the whole pattern of the nation's life. Yet the analogy gives a hint of the records' scope, and it becomes closer if we take the Duchy records to include those of the Palatinate of Lancaster. It is true that in the Public Record Office, which contains most of the records under discussion, the two series are treated separately, and the Guide, repeating a distinction drawn in 1868 in the Deputy Keeper's Report, says that the Duchy records ‘are entirely distinct from the records of the County palatine, which, although public, are purely local, whilst the Duchy Records, though private, concern the government and jurisdiction of the entire dominion of the Duchy and embrace the County Palatine as a subordinate regality’. This statement, which the grammarian finds imperfect as an example of the chiastic construction, is equally unsatisfactory to the archivist or historian if we understand it to refer to the palatinate, and not to the administration of the modern county council. We ought no more to segregate the palatinate simply because it was an organ of public administration than we should, say, a private hundred, and the description itself recognises the county palatine as a component part of the Duchy. How the judicial records of the court of Duchy chamber were any less public than those of the chancery court in Lancashire, is not explained. The distinction, in fine, is fallacious.