Maybe no other book I have in my current stock is more like the Internet than this one?

I can spend hours upon hours reading (looking) through this book, An example is this entry:


This is entry ” NERO D IV.

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In modern form

Cotton MS Nero D IV (still the same 300 years later.. that is a good system)

ate c 700-3rd quarter 10th century

Title Gospel-book (‘Lindisfarne Gospels’)

Content (1) prefaces (ff. 3r–9r); (2) canon tables (ff. 10r–17v); (3) Gospel of Matthew (ff. 18v–89v); (4) Gospel of Mark (ff. 89v–130r); (5) Gospel of Luke (ff. 130r–203r); (6) Gospel of John (ff. 203v–259r); (7) a colophon (f. 259r).According to the colophon on f. 259r, this manuscript was written by Eadfrith, bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 until his death in or around 721. There has been considerable debate whether Eadfrith made the Lindisfarne Gospels before or after he became bishop: for recent interpretations, see Gameson, From Holy Island to Durham, and Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 13–83. The Old English gloss was added by Aldred, provost of Chester-le-Street (fl. c. 970), who was responsible for adding the colophon on f. 259r. This states (Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 102–04): “Eadrith, bishop of the Lindisfarne church, originally wrote this book, for God and for St Cuthbert and – jointly – for all the saints whose relics are in the island. And Ethiluald [Æthelwald, Oethilwald], bishop of the Lindisfarne islanders [acceded by 731, died in 737 or 740], impressed it in the outside and covered it – as he well knew how to do. And Billfrith the anchorite [fl. 750 x 800] forged the ornaments which are on it on the outside and adorned it with gold and with gems and also with gilded-over silver — pure metal. And I Aldred, unworthy and most miserable priest, glossed it in English between the lines with the help of God and St Cuthbert.” The decoration comprises: (i) prefatory carpet page (f. 2v) and Jerome incipit page (f. 3r); (ii) canon tables (ff. 10r–17v); (iii) the Gospel carpet pages (Matthew, f. 26v; Mark, f. 94v; Luke, f. 138v; John, f. 210v); (iv) the Gospel incipit pages (Matthew, f. 27r; Mark, f. 95r; Luke, f. 139r; John, f. 211r) and the Chi-rho page (f. 29r); (v) the evangelist miniatures (Matthew, f. 25v; Mark, f. 93v; Luke, f. 137v; John, f. 209v); (vi) decorated initials (e.g. ff. 5v, 8r, 18v, 19r, 90r, 91r). For the decoration of the manuscript, see for example Gameson, From Holy Island to Durham, and Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 272–394.

WOW, hidden up on the top shelf ten books over,under the Bust of Nero!

”Written and illustrated probably by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 to 721, the Lindisfarne Gospels is amongst our greatest artistic, linguistic and religious treasures.

The book is a copy of the four Gospels included in the New Testament, together with other text traditionally included in medieval copies, such as letters of St Jerome appended as prefatory material. For full details of the text, see the catalogue description accompanying the digital images of the manuscripts.

The date and place of origin of the Gospels have been much debated, as both are based on the interpretation of a colophon, or inscription, added at the same time as the English gloss near the end of the tenth century, and on the style of decoration of the text. The identifying inscription was made by Aldred (fl. c. 970), Provost of the community at Chester-le-Street, about six miles north of Durham.

– See more at:

“The Lindisfarne Gospels formed part of the famous collection of manuscripts formed by the antiquary Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (b. 1571, d. 1631). The Cotton library was inherited and augmented by Sir Robert’s son, Sir Thomas Cotton (d. 1662), and grandson, Sir John Cotton (d. 1702). Sir John negotiated the transfer of the collection to the nation at his death, as confirmed in 1701 by Act of Parliament (12 & 13 William III, c. 7). This Act states that the library was to ‘be kept and preserved … for Publick Use and Advantage’, and that it should ‘not be sold, or otherwise disposed of’. This was the first time that the British nation became responsible for a collection of books or manuscripts, an important stage towards the creation of a national, public library.

In 1753, the Cotton library formed one of the foundation collections of the newly-established British Museum. Sir John Cotton is therefore regarded as the first benefactor of the British Museum (and hence of the British Library).

– See more at:  ”

But before I get deeper into the entries I’ll describe the book in hand, or rather books..



Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum Bibliothecæ Cottonianæ. Cui præmittuntur illustris viri, D. Roberti Cottoni, equitis aurati & baronetti, vita: et Bibliothecæ Cottonianæ historia & synopsis. Scriptore Thoma Smitho, ecclesiæ anglicanæ presbytero

bound with

Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collecti, cum indice alphabetico &

Catalogi manuscriptorum Oxoniensium pars altera, quæ collegiorum & aularum codices veteres complectitur


Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum. Tomi prioris pars tertia, quæ Universitatis Cantabrigiensis antiquitate et genere omni scientiarum celeberrimæ codices scriptos complectitur


Tomus secundus: qui librorum manuscriptorum ecclesiarum cathedralium et aliarum celebrium bibliothecarum in Anglia catalogos continet


Qui librorum manuscriptorum ecclesiarum cathedralium et aliarum celebrium bibliothecarum in Anglia catalogos continet


Librorum manuscriptorum catalogi. Voluminis secundi pars altera, quæ bibliothecarum aliquot hibernicarum codices scriptos complectitu.


ad.1 Oxonii : e Theatro Sheldoniano, MDCXCVI. [1696]  (Wing  S-4233)

ad.2 Oxoniæ : e Theatro Sheldoniano, an. Dom· MDCXCVII. [1697]  (Wing  C-1253)



Needless (maybe) to say these are Big books, Folio 14 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches , The page count for the first book, By Smith is [12], L, [2], 159, [25] p., [1] leaf of plates : port. ; The next book bound in has a page count which goes like this [32], 72, 71-374, [44], 88, [10], 89-274, [i.e. 174], [32], 256, 253-255, 356-403, [25], 65, [9] p.  DSC_0148

This is a nice clean and unfortunately unmarked  copy.. [about a decade ago I had a copy owned by a German library in the early eighteenth century which was used as a ‘shopping-list’ with price entries in hand].

These books have been together since the Seventeenth century yet they are bound in full twentieth century full calf  which s solid and a very suitable binding for a book which should be used heavily to this day!


This wonderful collection of over a thousand pages of catalogue entries gives us an unprecedented view of the books in the major collections of British  libraries in the late Seventeenth century, it also gives us a view of how books are amassed and collected as well as catalogued.

What library doesn’t NEED this? ( I ask politely yet emphatically !!!) Really can I afford to sell this? I am asking $2,900, alas I know I shall regret it as soon as it moves on to its new home.

I look through the entries over and over again, There are a Lot of books not in her which I would want to have on my shelves, and this is quite telling. I am drawn to Literature, Philosophy and what I think of as books for scholars on the edge of their profession.  Library catalogues really tell us more than they intend.

I was an Archaeologist (not exactly by choice)  before I found myself as a rare book …(what s the word..). Seller is the most respectable , procurer might fit but none of those  really state what it is. I generally buy books I find interesting at what I consider bargains and price them what  think they are ‘worth’. This book is  so important, so much fun and so special to me .. I’ll price it  less that What I think it is worth but at the ‘market value?’ {but if you don’t like it let me know}... Give me a good reason and it is yours…




The first catalogue is compiled by Thomas Smith, who was a scholar and lecturer at Magdalen College, Oxford, who refused to take oaths to William and Mary after the revolution of 1688 and moved to London, where he became the unofficial librarian of the Cotton Library until the death of Sir John Cotton (grandson of the founder, the antiquarian and bibliophile Sir Robert Cotton who assembled the most important private collection of medieval manuscripts and historical documents in seventeenth-century England). This is the first printed catalogue of the library, now part of the British Library. The ‘Vita D. Roberti Cottoni, Equitis Aurati & Baronetti’, ‘Bibliothecæ Cottonianæ Historia Et Synopsis’, and ‘Librorum Manuscriptorum Bibliothecæ Cottonianæ Catalogus’ each have divisional title-page and engraved head-piece.The Cottonian library was transferred to the British museum in 1757DSC_0141


In 1700, the Cottonian library was willed to the British nation and eventually moved to Ashburnham House at Westminster, which was thought to be a safer location. But, two years after the move, on October 23, 1731, there was a fire. The trustees broke into the burning building and carried away, or threw from the windows, hundreds of threatened volumes. Of the 958 manuscripts in the library, several hundred were severely damaged either by fire or water and thirteen completely destroyed, including a unique copy of The Battle of Maldon and Asser’s Life of Alfred. Tightly bound between its leather covers, the Beowulf manuscript survived but was burnt along its exposed edges. (Interestingly, it was not cataloged at the time as being damaged.)

The Cotton or Cottonian library was collected privately by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton MP (1571–1631), In 1588 English politician Sir Robert Bruce Cotton began collecting original manuscripts, an activity which he continued until his death in 1631. an antiquarian and bibliophile, and was the basis of the British Library.  After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, many priceless and ancient manuscripts that had belonged to the monastic libraries began to be disseminated among various owners, many of whom were unaware of the cultural value of the manuscripts. Cotton’s skill lay in finding, purchasing and preserving these ancient documents. The leading scholars of the era, including Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, and James Ussher, came to use Sir Robert’s library.   Richard James acted as his librarian. The library is of especial importance for sometimes having preserved the only copy of a work, such as happened with Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Along with the Supression act of 1536 official state records and important papers were poorly kept, and often retained privately, neglected or destroyed by public officers. Sir Robert collected and bound over a hundred volumes of official papers. By 1622, Sir Robert’s house and library   was a valuable resource and meeting-place not only for antiquarians and scholars but also for politicians and jurists of various persuasions, including Sir Edward Coke, John Pym, John Selden, Sir John Eliot, Thomas Wentworth.

Such important evidence was highly valuable at a time when the politics of the Realm were historically disputed between the King and Parliament. Sir Robert knew his library was of vital public interest and, although he made it freely available to consult, it made him an object of hostility on the part of the government. On 3 November 1629 he was arrested for disseminating a pamphlet held to be seditious (it had actually been written fifteen years earlier by Sir Robert Dudley) and the library was closed on this pretext.  Cotton was released on 15 November and the prosecution abandoned the following May, but the library remained shut up until after Sir Robert’s death; it was restored to his son and heir, Sir Thomas Cotton, in 1633.

Sir Robert’s library included his collection of books, manuscripts, coins and medallions. After his death the collection was maintained and added to by his son, Sir Thomas Cotton (d. 1662), and grandson, Sir John Cotton (d. 1702).   Sir Robert’s grandson, Sir John Cotton, donated the Cotton library to the Great Britain upon his death in 1702. At this time, Great Britain did not have a national library, and the transfer of the Cotton library to the nation became the basis of what is now the British Library.  The early history of the collection is laid out in the introductory recitals to the British Museum Act 1700, which established statutory trusts for the Cotton library.

“Sir Robert Cotton late of Connington in the County of Huntingdon Baronett did at his own great Charge and Expense and by the Assistance of the most learned Antiquaries of his Time collect and purchase the most useful Manuscripts Written Books Papers Parchments [Records] and other Memorialls in most Languages of great Use and Service for the Knowledge and Preservation of our Constitution both in Church and State

which Manuscripts and other Writings were procured as well from Parts beyond the Seas as from several Private Collectors of such Antiquities within this Realm [and] are generally esteemed the best Collection of its Kind now any where extant

And whereas the said Library has been preserved with the utmost Care and Diligence by the late Sir Thomas Cotton Son of the said Sir Robert and by Sir John Cotton of Westminster now living Grandson of the said Sir Robert and has been very much augmented and enlarged by them and lodged in a very proper Place in the said Sir Johns ancient Mansion House at Westminster which is very convenient for that Purpose

And whereas the said Sir John Cotton in pursuance of the Desire and Intentions of his said Father and Grandfather is content and willing that the said Mansion House and Library should continue in his Family and Name and not be sold or otherwise disposed or imbezled and that the said Library should be kept and preserved by the Name of the Cottonian Library for Publick Use & Advantage….”

The trustees removed the collections from the ruinous Cotton House, whose site is now covered by the Houses of Parliament. It went first to Essex House, The Strand, which, however, was regarded as a fire risk; and then to Ashburnham House, a little west of the Palace of Westminster. From 1707 the library also housed the Old Royal Library (now “Royal” manuscripts at the British Library). Ashburnham House also became the residence of the keeper of the king’s libraries, Richard Bentley (1662-1742), a renowned theologian and classical scholar.

The Ashburnham House fire

The Cotton Genesis was badly damaged in the Ashburnam House fire.

On 23 October 1731, fire broke out in Ashburnham House, and many manuscripts were lost, while others were badly singed or water-damaged: up to a quarter of the collection was either destroyed or damaged. Bentley escaped while clutching the priceless Codex Alexandrinus under one arm, a scene witnessed and later described in a letter to Charlotte, Lady Sundon, by Robert Freind, headmaster of Westminster School. The manuscript of The Battle of Maldon was destroyed, and that of Beowulf was heavily damaged.  Also severely damaged was the Byzantine Cotton Genesis, the illustrations of which nevertheless remain an important record of Late Antique iconography. Mr. Speaker Onslow, as one of the statutory trustees of the library, directed and personally supervised a remarkable programme of restoration within the resources of his time. The published report of this work is of major importance in bibliography. Fortunately, copies had been made of some, but by no means all, of those works that were lost, and many of those damaged could be restored in the nineteenth century.

The British Museum and Library

In 1753 the Cotton library was transferred to the new British Museum, under the Act of Parliament which established it. At the same time the Sloane Collection and Harley Collection were acquired and added, so that these three became the Museum’s three “foundation collections”. The Royal manuscripts were donated by George II in 1757. In 1973 all these collections passed to the newly established British Library.

Sir Robert Cotton had organised his library according to the case, shelf and position of a book within a room twenty-six feet long and six feet wide. Each bookcase in his library was surmounted by a bust of various historical personages, including Augustus Caesar, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Nero, Otho, and Vespasian. In total, he had fourteen busts, and his scheme worked by Bust-Shelf letter-Volume number from end. Thus, the two most famous of the manuscripts from the Cotton library are “Cotton Vitellius A.xv”

Detail of a miniature of gold-digging ants in the land of Gorgoneus, from the Marvels of the East, England, 4th quarter of the 10th century, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, f. 101r - See more at:

and “Cotton Nero A.x.” In Cotton’s own day, that meant “Under the bust of Vitellius, top shelf (A), and count fifteen over,” for the Liber Monstrorum of the Beowulf manuscript, or “Go to the bust of Nero, top shelf, tenth book” for the manuscript containing all the works of the Pearl Poet. The manuscripts are still catalogued by these call numbers in the British Library.


The Marvels of the East (sometimes called The Wonders of the East) is a unique and fascinating text which first appeared in the 4th or 5th century. It is a composite work of long and complicated pedigree, although scholars have been able to track down a number of its sources. These include the works of Isidore of Seville, St Augustine, Virgil and Pliny, and other texts of ultimately classical origin. – See more at:



Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collecti, cum indice alphabetico
































The Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collect, cum indice alphabetico  is the first edition of Edward Bernard’s (1638–1697) effort to catalogue the Manuscripts in Great Britain, colloquially  known as “Bernard’s Catalogue” it is a catalogue of manuscripts in British and Irish libraries, and served as a major tool for scholars. Humfrey Wanley (1672 – 1726) assisted him with this compilation great union catalogue of manuscripts in British libraries is described by de Ricci as “one of the most notable achievements of early English bibliographers .” a collection of six distinct catalogues of manuscripts in six different libraries in Great Britain, Part I of vol.1 contains a life of Bodley, a description of the Bodleian, and lists various collections of manuscripts contained in it, such as those of Pembroke, Cromwell, Digby, Ashmole, etc. Part II lists manuscripts of Oxford colleges; Part III those in Cambridge colleges. Part I of vol. 2 contains the manuscripts in public, cathedral, and school libraries, and some fifty private collections. Part II of vol 2 contains the Irish libraries.  All parts have general indices.

These two great tomes represent a national catalogue of manuscripts held in the British isles!