List of manuscripts in the Cotton library

This is an incomplete list of some of the manuscripts from the Cotton library that today form the Cotton collection[1] of the British Library. Some manuscripts were destroyed or damaged in a fire at Ashburnham House in 1731, and a few are kept in other libraries and collections.

This literature-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Robert Bruce Cotton organized his library in a room 26 feet (7.9 m) long by six feet wide filled with bookpresses, each with the bust of a figure from classical antiquity on top. Counterclockwise, these were Julius Caesar, Augustus, Cleopatra, Faustina, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. (Domitian had only one shelf, perhaps because it was over the door). In each press, each shelf was assigned a letter; manuscripts were identified by the bust over the press, the shelf letter, and the position of the manuscript (in Roman numerals) counting from the left side of the shelf. Thus, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Nero B.iv, was the fourth manuscript from the left on the second shelf (shelf B) of the press under the bust of Nero. For Domitian and Augustus, which had only one shelf each, the shelf letter was left out of the press-mark. The British Museum retained Cotton's press-marks when the Cotton collection became one of the foundational collections of its library, so manuscripts are still designated by library, bookpress, shelf, and number (even though they are no longer stored in that fashion). For example, the manuscript of Beowulf is designated Cotton MS Vitellius A.xv, and the manuscript of Pearl is Cotton MS Nero A.x.


i Two large portfolios containing a collection of 16th century maps, charts and plans of towns, buildings, fortifications and related items. Some of the items are plans for projects that were never completed.
ii A portfolio containing a large collection of mostly Anglo-Saxon charters, also contains a few later medieval charters, Papal Bulls, and some other items. Includes: Item 3 The Ismere Diploma; Item 106 Magna Carta: Exemplification of 1215
iii A portfolio containing a miscellaneous collection of drawings and prints, many of them military in nature.
iv Troy Book by John Lydgate, edition of 1555 with some variations. According to heraldic evidence the manuscript was created between 1411 and 1458, probably during Lydgate's lifetime.
v Le Tresor des Histoires. Universal history, from the Creation to Pope Clement VI (died 1342). 15th century copy, lavishly illuminated.
vi Le livre des proprietés des choses, translated from Latin to French by Jehan Corbechon under the patronage of Charles V of France. 14th century, illuminated.
vii Cartulary of Lewes Priory, now cataloged as Cotton MS Vespasian F XV.


A.ii Fos. 35, A Pistil of Susan (fragment), probably by Huchoun; fos. 513, Sir Eglamour of Artois; fos. 2235, Octavian; fos. 3542, Sir Launfal; fos. 4257, Lybeaus Desconus; fos. 716, Emaré; fos. 1304, Sir Isumbras.[2] Heliand
A.viii Miscellany
A.ix. The Owl and the Nightingale; Layamon, Brut
A.xiv Caligula Troper
A.xv (1) fos. 3-117, 8th and 9th-century material from France, which had arrived in England by the 9th or 10th century

(2) fos. 120-53, once part of BL Egerton 3314, belonging to the 11th century. It consists of two parts:
fos. 120-41, part A, computistical texts; annals of Christ Church, Canterbury; Old English and Latin prognostications and charms
fos. 142-53, excerpts from Bede, De temporibus anni, with additional notes.[3]

C.i Correspondence on relations between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots Correspondence of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, with the court of Henry VIII


A.iii Volume of liturgical fragments
A.v Chronicon Angliae Petriburgense – The Spalding Annals
B.iv Illustrated Old English Hexateuch
B.v Acts of the Council of Constantinople
B.vii Manuscript assembled (from earlier materials) for Archbishop Matthew Parker (d. 1575). Its contents include (1) legal proceedings; (2) Roger of Howden, Chronicle, (3) Pseudo-Turpin, De gestis Karoli magni; 'Prester John', Epistola ad Manuelem imperatorem, etc.; (4) extracts made in the time of Matthew Parker; (5) Pseudo-Dares Phrygius, De excidio Troie historia; Geoffrey of Monmouth, Prophetiae Merlini; (6) legal proceedings.[4]
B.viii Samaritan Pentateuch
C.vii Utrecht Psalter[5]
C.ix Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis
D.ii Composition of Yards and Perches
D.iv fos 48-54 De Iniusta Vexacione Willelmi Episcopi Primi (missing introduction and parts of the conclusion)
E.viii Adamus Murimuthensis, Chronicon Sui Temporis


A.ii Life of St Modwenna
A.iii The Old English 'Cleopatra Glossaries'
A.xiv Bernard Silvestris, Cosmographia; Cyfraith Hywel, Cyfnerth Redaction
A.xvi Adamus Murimuthensis, Chronicon Sui Temporis
B.iii Ailred of Rievaulx, Historia Angliae
B.ix Miscellany
B.xiii Miscellany (Homilies etc.)
C.viii Prudentius, Conflict Of The Soul
D.i Miscellany, including (1) Vitruvius, De architectura; (2) Vegetius, De Re Militari Miscellany, including Sir Thomas More's letter to Henry VIII before execution (ff. 176v–177)


i Miscellany, includes Annales Cambriae C, works by Isidore of Seville, Bede, and Gerald of Wales
vii Durham Liber Vitae
viii Collection of chronicles. Includes:
Item III (ff. 30–70) Bilingual Canterbury Epitome (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle F)
ix fragment of the Bilingual Canterbury Epitome (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle H), futhorc row


A.iii Cartulary of the Abbey of St Peter, Westminster
A.v Miscellany, separated by Henry Savile the Elder from Dublin, Trinity College 114. It includes the following items:

fos. 25r-97r. Symeon of Durham, Liber de exordio atque procursu Dunelmensis ecclesiae, including Bede's Death Song
fos. 99r-99v, Pseudo-Bede, De Quindecim Signis
fos. 99v-102r, Pseudo-Augustine, De Antichristo quomodo et ubi nasci debeat[6]

A.viii Abbreviatio de Gestis Normannorum ad Gulielmum I Regem Angliae
A.x Additional Glosses to the Glossary in Ælfric's Grammar
B.iii Life of Saint Edith in Middle English Verse
B.viii Register of Chapel of St Stephen, Westminster
B.ix Chronicle of Melrose
D.i Statutes of the Order of the Garter, revised under Edward VI


A.ii Anglo-Saxon futhorc, destroyed by fire
A.v Irish Psalter
A.xviii Athelstan Psalter, 10th century

Julius Julius Work Calendar, c. 1020
A.vii Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles, c. 1262
A.x Old English Martyrology
A.xi William Fitz Stephen's Life of St Thomas Becket
A.xvi Ailred of Rievaulx, De Gestis Davidis Regis Scottorum
B.xiii Miscellany, including Item 1: Hugh of Saint-Victor's Chronicle from Deeping Priory
C.xii Ailred of Rievaulx, De Regibus Saxorum
E.iv "Beauchamp Pageants", c. 1484–90
E.vii Ælfric's Lives of Saints
E.viii Lydgate, 'Kings of England sithen William Conqueror', The Three Kings of Cologne, Brut Chronicle. Charges brought against Cardinal Wolsey, 1529


A.ii Anglo-Saxon Prayerbook
A.v Computus of Philippe de Thaon
A.x Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, and Cleanness
A.xi (1) Carta caritatis posterior (13th century), (2) Pseudo-Turpin, De gestis Karoli magni; De miraculis apostoli Iacobi, (3) Orderic Vitalis and Gesta Normannorum Ducum, (4) excerpts from Pseudo-Jerome, De essentia diuinitatis, (5) Jerome, Aduersus Iouinianum.[7]
B.i Royal diplomatic correspondence concerning Portugal
B.viii Royal diplomatic correspondence concerning Russia
B.xi Royal diplomatic correspondence concerning Russia
C.iv Winchester Psalter
C.v Marianus Scotus, Chronicle; Bartholomew Cotton, Historia Anglicana
C.vii Miscellany
C.ix Miscellany
C.x • Item 1 Autograph diary of Edward VI
• Item 2 Letters of Edward VI to Henry VIII and Katherine Parr
C.xi Robert Fabyan, Chronicle of England and France
D.i Matthew of Paris, Liber additamentorum
D.ii Order of Ceremony for the Knights of the Bath
D.iv Lindisfarne Gospels
D.x Adamus Murimuthensis, Chronicon Sui Temporis
E.i Miscellany in two parts.

(1) The first and earliest part is the Cotton-Corpus Legendary, a Worcester manuscript (1050 x 1075) which includes Byrhtferth's Life of Oswald, his Life of Ecgwine and Lantfred of Winchester's Translatio et Miracula S. Swithuni.
(2) In the second part, various texts with dates ranging between the 10th and 13th century are bound together. These include the Oswald Cartulary and IV Edgar (a law-code belonging to King Edgar, r. 959-975).[8] Folios 182 and 183 of Cotton Nero E.i, pt.2 (Worcester cartulary), are now bound separately as London, BL, MS. Add. 46204.[9]


A.x Æthelweard, Chronicon de Rebus Anglicis
A.xii The Battle of Maldon (destroyed in 1731) The Cotton Genesis
B.x Mary of Egypt (fragmentary)
B.x.165 Old English Rune poem (destroyed in 1731)
B.xi.2 Anglo-Saxon Chronicles G (mostly destroyed in 1731)
C.i Volume containing fragments of the four Gospels, Dialogues of Gregory the Great, Ælfric's De creatore et creatura and other pieces in Old English.
C.ii Adamus Murimuthensis, Chronicon Sui Temporis
C.v Otho-Corpus Gospels (fragmentary)
C.ix Letters of the Grand Masters of Rhodes to Henry VIII
C.xi Layamon, Brut
E.i Latin-Old English Glossary
E.iv Letters of Intelligence from Paris to the Court of Elizabeth I
E.xiii Legal Miscellany


A.ii Ottonian Gospels, donated to King Athelstan and by Athelstan to Christ Church, Canterbury.
A.iii Miscellany. Includes:
f. 3-27. Regularis Concordia (Item 1)
Rule of St. Benedict (Item 43)
f. 55–6v, 94v–7. Late Old English Handbook for a Confessor.[10]

Old English Lapidary Abingdon Chronicle I (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle B)
A.ix Abbreviatio de Gestis Normannorum ad Gulielmum I Regem Angliae
A.xiii Worcester cartularies, including Hemming's Cartulary by Hemming
A.xiv Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica
A.xv Canterbury Letterbook, collection of letters
B.i Abingdon Chronicle II (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle C). Singed by the 1731 fire.
B.ii Miscellany, including Miracles of St Edmund, in verse
B.iv Collection of Chronicles, Histories and related material. Includes:

Item 1 – Worcester Chronicle (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle D)

B.v/1 Anglo-Saxon Miscellany (images)

includes Anglian collection of royal genealogies and Anglo-Saxon Cotton world map

B.viii The Coronation Book of Charles V of France
C.i Miscellany.
C.ii Bede, Ecclesiastical History Tiberius Psalter
C.ix Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi from Evesham Abbey
D.iii includes Vita Sancti Niniani
D.iv (part ii) Formerly part of Winchester, Cathedral Library I; includes Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica; De abbatibus (ff. 158v–66r) Cartulary of Christ Church Twinham (Christchurch Priory Cartulary)
E.x "History of Richard III". Damaged in 1731 fire.


A.i Liber Eliensis (G)
A.xix Ailred of Rievaulx, De Gestis Davidis Regis Scottorum
A.xv & A.xvi John Joscelyn, an Old English-Latin dictionary
A.xxv The Annals of Boyle
B.i Order for the tournament on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, France, 1520
B.ii Horoscope of Elizabeth I
B.viii Document I – Sir Walter Ralegh's autograph journal of his second voyage to Guiana, 1617–18
Document II – Francis Drake graved and bremd his ship at 48 degrees on the backside of Labrador
C.xvi The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
D.iv Latin Epigrams of Sir Thomas More, on the coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, 1509
D.xviii Sawles Warde, Seinte Katherine and Hali Meiðhad (Katherine group)
D.xxvi Ælfwine's Prayerbook


A.i Vespasian Psalter
A.viii New Minster Reformation Charter
A.xiv A composite volume of three 12th-century manuscripts. These include: a collection of Welsh saints' Lives, an excerpt from Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum", and some of Alcuin of York's Epistulae.[11]
A.xv Vocabularium Cornicum
A.xviii Ailred of Rievaulx, De Gestis Davidis Regis Scottorum
A.xix Miscellany includes Anglian Collection V
B.ix History of the foundation of the hospital and priory of St Bartholomew, Smithfield
B.xi Chronicle of Hagnaby Abbey
B.xx Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, Lives of the Canterbury saints
C.i Correspondence of the Spanish royal court with the court of Henry VIII Miscellany
D.xii Latin Hymnal with Old English gloss
D.xiv Miscellany of the mid-12th century. It has most of Ælfric's Catholic Homilies (first and second series) and cites from Ælfric's letters to Sigeferth and Wulfstan. Other works include a Life of Saint Neot; homily on the Phoenix; Old English Dicts of Cato; prognostications; the Vision of St Furseus; translations of Ralph d'Escures' homily on Mary; and excerpts from Honorius Augustodunensis, Elucidarium.[12]
D.xix (1) Nigel Witeker, Miracula sancte Dei genitricis uirginis Marie and other poems; (2) Ely Chronicle (12th century); (3) Easter-table chronicle; (4) Hildebert of Le Mans, certain letters and sermons.[13]
E.iv Miscellany


A.viii Annals of Lacock Abbey
A.x Statutes of Lichfield Cathedral
A.xii Penitential of Bartholomew, Bishop of Exeter
A.xiii Genealogy of the Dukes of Normandy
A.xv Nowell Codex:
ff 1: Psalter leaf removed by British Library to form Royal MS 13 D I*, f 37.
ff 2: Cotton endleaf
ff 3: Medieval endleaf with memoranda
ff 4-93: Soliloquies of Augustine, Gospel of Nicodemus, Debate of Solomon and Saturn, Homily on St. Quintin
ff 94-209: Homily on St. Christopher, Marvels of the East, Letter of Alexander the Great to Aristotle, Beowulf, Judith
A.xx Descriptio Constantinopolis
B.ii Diplomatic letters to Henry VIII. Singed by fire.
B.iv Bull of Pope Leo X, 1521, granting Henry VIII the title "Defender of the Faith". Badly damaged by fire, 1731
B.v Letters of Pope Adrian VI to Henry VIII
B.viii Letters of Pope Clement VII to Henry VIII
C. iii Anglo-Saxon Herbal
C.viii Miscellany, including Epistles of St. Paul from Durham
C.xi Treaty of Marriage between Louis XII of France and Mary Tudor
C.xvii The Manner of Sir Philip Sidney's Death
E.ii Grandes Chroniques de France Johannes a Leydis, Chronicle of Holland (autograph of first edition)
E.vii Giraldus Cambrensis, Life and Miracles of St Æthelberht
E.xiii The Intermediate Compilation+Crowland Annals, Decretals
E.xviii Psalter with interlinear Old English Gloss
F.xi Vitellius Psalter (Irish)


  1. "Cotton manuscripts". British Library. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  2. Mills, M (Ed). 1969. Lybeaus Desconus. Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society. 302 pp. Middle English romances in British Library MS Cotton Caligula A.ii, p 1.
  3. Takako Kato. "London, British Library, Cotton Caligula A. xv". The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220. University of Leicester.
  4. "London, British Library, MS. Cotton Claudius B. VII". The British Library Manuscripts Catalogue. British Library. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  5. "The Utrecht Psalter". Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  6. Takako Kato. "London, British Library, Cotton Faustina A. v + Dublin Trinity College 114 (A. 5. 2)". The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220. University of Leicester.
  7. "London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A.XI". The British Library Manuscripts Catalogue. British Library. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  8. "London, British Library, MS. Cotton Nero E. I". The British Library Manuscripts Catalogue. British Library. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  9. "Portal to manuscript descriptions: list of manuscripts". The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220. University of Leicester.
  10. Fowler, Roger (ed.). "A Late Old English Handbook for the Use of a Confessor." Anglia 83.1 (1965): 1-34.
  11. Wade-Evans, A.W. Vitae Britanniae et Genealogiae. University of Wales Press Board, Cardiff, 1944, pg. viii.
  12. Elaine Treharne. "London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D. xiv". The Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220. University of Leicester.
  13. "London, British Library, MS. Cotton Vespasian D XIX". The British Library Manuscripts Catalogue. British Library. Retrieved 20 May 2010.


Further reading

  • Blockley, M. (1982). "Addenda and Corrigenda to N. R. Ker's "A Supplementary Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon"". Notes and Queries. 227: 1–3.
  • Ker, N. R. (1957). Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Ker, N. R. (1976). "A Supplementary Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon". Anglo-Saxon England. 5: 121–31. doi:10.1017/s0263675100000818.
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