Cotton, Bartholomew de (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12
Cotton, Bartholomew de

by Henry Bradley
Bartholomew Cotton in the ODNB.

COTTON, BARTHOLOMEW de (d. 1298?), historian, was a monk of Norwich, and probably a native of Cotton in Suffolk, but nothing is known of his life. His principal work bears the title of ‘Historia Anglicana,’ and is in three books. The first book is a literal transcript from Geoffrey of Monmouth. The second book, which contains the history of England from 449 to 1298, consists of three portions: the first, extending to the Norman conquest, is an unskilful compilation from Henry of Huntingdon; the second, a chronicle of 1066 to 1291, is a copy of a work by an unknown writer, which exists in manuscript at Norwich; and the third, from 1291 to 1298, appears to be original, and has considerable value for the period to which it refers. The Norwich chronicle which Cotton has inserted in his history is largely made up of extracts from writers whose works have been printed in their original form, but for 1264 to 1279 and 1285 to 1291 it is an independent authority of some importance, and it contains throughout many interesting notices of local history. The so-called third book is a separate work, entitled ‘De Archiepiscopis et Episcopis Angliæ,’ which is an abstract and continuation of William of Malmesbury's ‘De Gestis Pontificum,’ but furnishes much information which is not to be found elsewhere. An edition of the ‘Historia Anglicana’ (omitting the useless first book) was published in 1859 in the ‘Rolls Series,’ edited by the Rev. H. R. Luard, who has carefully indicated the sources from which the work is compiled, distinguishing the original portions by larger type. The only complete manuscript of the work known to exist is in the British Museum (book i. Reg. 14 C. 1, books ii. iii. Cotton, Nero C. v. 160–280). As the handwriting of the manuscript refers it to the beginning of the fourteenth century, and its colophon contains a prayer for the soul of the author, ‘Bartholomew de Cotton, monk of Norwich,’ it may be assumed that he died in or soon after 1298, the date at which his history ends. It is stated by Wharton that the Lambeth library in his time contained a manuscript of Cotton's ‘History,’ with a continuation to 1445, but this appears to have been lost. The only other known work of Bartholomew de Cotton is a sort of glossary with the title ‘Optimæ Compilationes de libro Britonis secundum ordinem alphabeti, per Bartholomeum de Cottune compilatæ,’ a manuscript of which is preserved in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

[Cotton's Historia Anglicana, ed. Luard (Rolls Ser.), preface; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 202; Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 397–402.]

H. B.