We were extremely sorry to hear of the recent death of Colin Tite. Colin was, without question, the greatest scholar ever to work on the history of the Cotton collection of manuscripts, housed here at the British Library. Over a number of years, Colin delivered the Library's Panizzi lectures (1993), compiled an invaluable record of the early modern history of the Cotton manuscripts, and wrote a number of insightful studies of individual volumes in the collection. But Colin was perhaps best known, for those fortunate enough to encounter him at work in our Manuscripts Reading Room, as the most generous of all men, generous with his time, generous with his support, and generous with sharing his knowledge.
Colin Tite's research had as its primary focus the formation of the Cotton library in the late 16th and early 17th century. His Panizzi lectures dealt with that subject in three stages: (1) The Development of the Manuscript Collection, 1588â1753; (2) Librarians and Aspiring Librarians; and (3) Cotton House and the Reputation of Sir Robert. His investigations were always meticulous, based on first-hand scrutiny of the early, handwritten catalogues of the Cotton library, on the papers of Sir Robert Cotton and his contemporaries, and on the later plans for housing the manuscripts. He argued persuasively that Robert Cotton, an antiquary and Member of Parliament, was the first 'librarian' of his own collection; and he uncovered little-known nuggets about those who used (and abused) the manuscripts. The story of Humfrey Wanley's interest in the library is recounted in these lectures, including the infamous reaction by Thomas Smith, the then Cotton librarian, to Wanley's request to borrow the Augustus charters (among them, perhaps, one of the original copies of Magna Carta, 1215): 'the mountaine cannot come to Mahomet, Mahomet must condescend to go to the mountaine'. Colin Tite then moved on to completing his seminal survey of the early modern formation, cataloguing and use of the Cotton collection (The Early Records of Sir Robert Cotton's Library, 2003), before devoting his attention to locating Cotton's surviving printed books.
In tribute to Colin Tite, we publish here a selection of images from some of the Cotton manuscripts which meant so much to him. Everyone who works on the Cotton collection is deeply indebted to Colin's work, and we remember him with the deepest gratitude.
Portrait of Sir Robert Cotton, commissioned in 1626 and attributed to Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen (d. 1661)
An original Cottonian binding, 17th century: Cotton MS Domitian A VII
A Cottonian binding instruction: Cotton MS Caligula A VII, f. 1r
A preparatory sketch for a Cottonian title-page: Cotton MS Vespasian F XIII/1, f. 2r
A fire-damaged Cottonian title-page, from the Beowulf manuscript, 17th century: Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, f. 2r
The opening page of Matthew Paris's Liber Additamentorum, with Sir Robert Cotton's signature in the lower margin: Cotton MS Nero D I, f. 2r
A letter of Sir Edward Dering, 30 May 1630, sending an original manuscript of Magna Carta to Sir Robert Cotton: Cotton MS Julius C III, f. 143
Colin G. C. Tite: A Select Bibliography
âThe early catalogues of the Cottonian libraryâ, The British Library Journal, 6, (1980), 144â157
Thomas Smith, Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum BibliothecĂŚ CottonianĂŚ (Oxford, 1696): facsimile edited by C. G. C. Tite, Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Cottonian Library, 1696 (Cambridge: Brewer, 1984)
âA catalogue of Sir Robert Cottonâs printed books?â, The British Library Journal, 17 (1991), 1â11
âSir Robert Cotton and the gold mancus of Pendraedâ, The Numismatic Chronicle, 152 (1992), 177â81
[with James P. Carley] âSir Robert Cotton as collector of manuscripts and the question of dismemberment: British Library MSS Royal 13 D. I and Cotton Otho D. VIIIâ, The Library, 14 (1992), 94â99
The Manuscript Library of Sir Robert Cotton, The Panizzi Lectures, 1993 (London: The British Library, 1994)
ââLost or stolen or strayedâ: a survey of manuscripts formerly in the Cotton libraryâ, in C. J. Wright (ed.), Sir Robert Cotton as Collector: Essays on an Early Stuart Courtier and his Legacy (London: The British Library, 1997), pp. 262â306
[with James P. Carley] Books and Collectors 1200-1700: Essays presented to Andrew Watson (London: The British Library, 1997)
The Early Records of Sir Robert Cottonâs Library: Formation, Cataloguing, Use (London: The British Library, 2003)
'The Durham Liber Vitae and Sir Robert Cotton', in David Rollason et al. (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae and its Context (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004), pp. 3â15
âThe printed books of the Cotton family and their dispersalâ, in Giles Mandelbrote and Barry Taylor (eds.), Libraries within the Library: The Origins of the British Libraryâs Printed Collections (London: The British Library, 2009), pp. 43â75
'The printed books of the Cotton family and their dispersal: additions', Electronic British Library Journal (2011), article 15
Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval