The Extent of Fire Damage to Middle English Prose in the Cotton Library

  • Alpo Honkapohja, Dr U. Oslo
Keywords: Middle English, Index of Middle English Prose, Manuscript Studies, Cotton Library, bibliography


The library of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1570/1-1631) has been described as the most important
collection of manuscripts assembled by a single person in Britain. The collection was
partly destroyed in a library fire in 1731. While the Cotton collection has been celebrated
(and the damage it suffered lamented) for its Old English manuscripts, the extent of fire
damage to Middle English prose within the collection has not been systematically explored.
This article aims to address this gap by conducting a comprehensive comparison of surviving
manuscripts which are now part of the Cotton collection in the British Library with
surviving pre- and post-fire catalogues, book lists and reports of Cotton’s manuscripts. The
investigation was undertaken during the compilation of an Index of Middle English Prose
(IMEP) volume dedicated to the Cotton collection.


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How to Cite
Honkapohja, Alpo. 2023. “The Extent of Fire Damage to Middle English Prose in the Cotton Library”. Revista Canaria De Estudios Ingleses, no. 87 (November), 147-65.