Cotta, John (DNB00)

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COTTA or COTTEY, JOHN, M.D. (1575?–1650?), physician and author, was a native of Warwickshire, but nothing is known of his parentage. In 1590 he was admitted a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, and five years later, after taking the B.A. degree, he removed to Corpus Christi College, where, in the following year, he proceeded to the M.A. degree. He obtained the M.D. degree in 1603, and immediately took up his residence at Northampton, where, through the patronage and influence of Sir William Tate, he acquired a considerable professional practice. He was still at Northampton in 1623, and possibly as late as 1650, if the date assigned to a manuscript opinion of Cotta's, on the poisoning of Sir Euseby Andrews, be correct. In 1612 he published ‘A Short Discoverie of the Unobserved Dangers of Seuerall Sorts of Ignorant and Unconsiderate Practisers of Physicke in England, profitable not only for the Deceived Multitude and Easie for their Meane Capacities, but raising Reformed and more Advised Thoughts in the Best Understandings: with Directions for the Safest Election of a Physition in necessitie’ (London, 1612, 4to). This book was dedicated to the author's patients in Northamptonshire, and seems to have met with but indifferent success, for in 1617 there appeared ‘A True Discovery of the Empericke with the Fugitive Physition and Quacksalver, who Display their Banners upon Posts; whereby His Majestie's Subjects are not only deceived, but greatly endangered in the Health of their Bodies,’ which was merely a remainder of the original edition of ‘A Short Discoverie’ with a new title-page. In the previous year the work by which Cotta is best remembered had made its appearance. This was ‘The Triall of Witchcraft, showing the true Methode of the Discovery with a Confutation of Erroneous Ways’ (London, 1616, 4to). The erroneous ways of proving a witch confuted by Cotta are those by means of fire and water and the like, which are convincingly shown to be foolish and misleading; but the author would have deserved more credit had he not at the same time expressed the interested opinion that the best method of discovering witchcraft is to take a physician's advice on the subject. A second edition of the book was published in 1625 under the new title of ‘The Infallible, True and Assured Witch,’ and differing in some few unimportant particulars. The only other work which Cotta published was ‘Cotta contra Antonium, or an Ant-Antony, or an Ant-Apology, manifesting Doctor Antony his Apologie for Aurum potabile, in true and equall ballance of Right Reason, to be false and counterfeit’ (Oxford, 1623, 4to); which was Cotta's contribution to the great Anthony controversy [see Anthony, Francis]. In addition to these three works Cotta left behind him the manuscript above referred to —‘The Poysoning of Sir Euseby Andrew. My opinion at the Assizes in Northampton, also my evidence,’ which was first printed in 1881 by J. Taylor from the original in the possession of Sir Charles Isham, bart., at Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire.

Whatever interest attaches to Cotta's writings is dependent on the matter contained in them, his literary style being, as he himself seems to have been aware, singularly cumbrous and far from lucid.

[Add. MS. 5866, fol. 223; Masters's Hist. of C. C. C. C. p. 272; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

A. V.