COTTON, Sir ROBERT BRUCE ( 1571-163] ) . A distinguished English antiquarian. tounder of the Cottonian library, now in the British Museum. After his education at Westminster Sehool under the famous Camden, and at Cambridge, where he took a B.A. degree in his sixteenth year, he began those archaeological pursuits which made his name famous, and which proved of immense value to historians. As the dissolution of the monasteries, about half a century before, had dispersed many valuable collections of manuscripts among private persons, Cotton sought out and purchased these documents wherever practicable. On amount of his ability and knowledge, he was frequently con sulted by ministers of State on difficult constitu tional points and international questions. In 1600, at the request of Queen Elizabeth, who desired antiquarian authority on the matter, he wrote A Brief Abstract of the Question of Pre cedency Between England and Spain. King James. who knighted him in 1603 and gave him a baro netcy in 1611, employed him to vindicate the conduct of his mother, Ilary, Queen of Scots, and also to examine whether the Ronan Catho lics, on account of whom some alarm was then felt, should be imprisoned or put to death. Cot ton advocated tolerance. Ills intimacy with the Earl of Scmerset led him to be suspeeted of com plicity in the death of Sir Thomas Overbury, and in consequence he was imprisoned for about eight months. lv 1620 a tract entitled .t Project Hoe' a Prince May Make Himself an. Absolute Tyrant was obtained from his library, the ten dency of which Charles I. and the Star Chamber considered dangerous to the liberty of the State. Ills library was accordingly declared unfit for public inspection, and he himself was denied all use of it. Depression at this edict calmed his death, less than two years afterwards. His son, Sir Thomas (1504-1662), regained possession of the library, and his grandson Sir John (1621 1701), and great-grandson Sir John (1679-1731), added to it considerably. The latter bequeathed
it in public trust to the nation. In 1730 the library was lodged with the royal collection in Ashburnham House, Westminster. The following year a fire occurred in which 114 out of 958 AIS. volumes were reported as "lost.luirned,or entirely destroyed; and OS damaged so as to he defective." Fortunately. a great number of these injured vol umes were skillfully restored. so that the library now consists of nearly 900 volumes, of which, says Mr. Edwards in his .11( inoirs of Libraries, "nearly 200 are State papers of the highest value. They include a vast serie,: relating to the diplo matic intercourse between England and ahnost every State of Europe. extending from the reign of Edward III. to that of James I. A large pro portion of these documents consist of the original letters of sovereigns and of statesmen. Even those papers which are not original have a high degree of authority as coeval transcripts." The Cottonian Library was transferred to the British Museum (q.v.) in 1757. Tr) addition to the MSS., the collection includes many valuable coins and antiquities. Among Cotton's works may be mentioned, in addition to those referred to above: Porrer of the Pei-1.es and (*onions of Parliament in point of Judicature (1640) : (W ha Postunia—Choiee Pieces of that Renowned Antiquary (1672) ; Dirers Short Pieces Exposed to Publiek Light by J. Howell (1679) ; "Speech before the Privy Council touching the Alteration of Coyn," in Shaw, Select Tracts and Documents (1896). Consult, also: Calendars of State Pa pers (London, 1591-1G31): Parliamentary Jour nals (London) ; Planta, Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Cotton ion Library (London, 1802) ; Smith. Catalogue (Oxford, 1696), con taining a memoir: Kippis, "Robert Bruce Cot ton," in Biog. Brit. ( London. 1797) : D'Ewes, Autobiography (2 vole., London, 1845) : Nichols. Progresses of James 1. (4 vole.. London, 1828) ; id., Leicestershire (London, 1795-1811) ; Gardi ner, History of England (London, 1883-84).