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Medieval Literary and Historical Manuscripts in the Cotton Collection: Parts 1-7

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Introduction: Medieval Literary and Historical Manuscripts in the CottonCollection, Parts 1-7

Introduction:Medieval Literary and Historical Manuscripts in the Cotton Collection, Parts1-7


Few other collections are so consistently rich as the CottonCollection of Manuscripts and almost every volume of this collection is ofprime importance many crucial to our knowledge of past history andliterature.


This first series from the Cotton Collection includes allmanuscripts that are primary sources for English literature and British historyfrom the middle of the twelfth century to the end of the fifteenth century.


The selection has been undertaken by Professor Paul Harvey,University of Durham, and a former member of the British Library ManuscriptDepartment. Volumes have been omitted only where they are outside the period,where they are not primarily concerned with British history or literature, orwhere they contain principally cartularies.


Some medical recipes, works of natural philosophy, genealogyand heraldry, law reports and theological tracts or sermons are also excluded but exclusion of volumes falling into these categories is not automatic and ajudgment has been made about how far reproduction of any volume is likely to beuseful to literary or historical research.


Notable manuscripts include: Caligula A.ii (a collection ofOld English poems including several by Lydgate, Ypotis a religious legendand Emare an old romance which Chaucer used for his Man of Lawes Tale);Caligula A.xi (a Piers Plowman text, and an historical poem by Robert ofGloucester written in Old English in the fourteenth century); Claudius A.viii(a chronicle of the reign of Henry V and a collection of State Papers);Claudius A.xi (a valuable collection of correspondence by Lanfranc); (one of the beautiful St. Albans manuscripts featuring autograph work ofMatthew Paris); Claudius D.viii (the constitution of the University of Oxfordand writings of John Wickliff); Julius A.v (Robert Langtofts Chronicle);Julius B.xiii (material by Gerald of Wales); Julius (a notable collectionof correspondence of fourteenth and fifteenth century kings dealing withforeign affairs); Julius B.ii (important sources for the history of medievalLondon); Julius E.iv (verse by Lydgate); Tiberius A.ix (prophecies of Merlin);and Julius A.v (French and Middle English verse).


As an aid to the reader a Catalogue of the Manuscripts inthe Cottonian Library deposited in the British Museum (1802) has beenreproduced on the first reel of the first part. The 1802 catalogue is stillextremely useful, although the foliation of some items has changed and laterscholarly work has altered some attributions.