The numbers of the MSS are derived from the fact that in Cotton's library the books were placed in fourteen presses, surmounted by busts of the Twelve Caesars and two Imperial Ladies, Cleopatra and Faustina.
Julius A.I - F.XI
Augustus I - VI
Tiberius A.I - E.XI
Caligula A.I - E.XIII
Claudius A.I - E.VIII
Nero A.I - E.VIII
Galba A.I - E.XIV
Otho A.I - E.XIV
Vitellius A.I - F.XIX
Vespasian A.I - F.XVII
Titus A.I - F.XIV
Domitian A.I - A.XVIII
Cleopatra A.I - F.VII
Faustina A.I - F.X
Appendix I - LXV
Fragments I - XXIX
Printed catalogue: A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Cottonian Library deposited in the British Museum. 1802.
Collected by Robert Harley (d. 1724) and Edward Harley (d. 1741), 1st and 2nd Earls of Oxford. Sold to Parliament by the Countess of Oxford and her daughter, the Duchess of Portland, in 1753.
Range: 1 - 7660
Printed catalogue: A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts [1-7639] in the British Museum. 3 vols. plus index. 1808-1812.
Collected by Sir Hans Sloane (d. 1753) and purchased in 1753 from his executors by the Act of Parliament which also established the British Museum.
Range: 1 - 4100
Printed catalogue: E. J. L. Scott, Index to the Sloane Manuscripts in the British Museum. 1904.
Collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards [this is the collection into which Henry VIII put any manuscripts which he confiscated from monastic houses: his criteria for selection included such concerns as saving works by English authors and saving MSS with particularly beautiful illuminations, and the Royal collection as a whole has something of these characteristics]. Housed after 1707 with the Cotton collection, but not seriously damaged in the fire of 1731. Transferred to the British Museum by George II in 1757.
Range: 1.A.I - 20.E.X
Printed catalogue: Sir George F. Warner and Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King's Collections. 4 vols. 1921.
Collected by William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (d. 1805). Purchased in 1807.
Range: 1 - 1245
Printed catalogue: A Catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum. 1819.
Legal manuscripts collected by Francis Hargrave KC (d. 1821). Purchased in 1813.
Range: 1 - 514
Printed catalogue: A Catalogue of the Manuscripts formerly in the Possession of Francis Hargrave [1-499]. 1818.
Collected by Charles Burney, classical scholar. Almost entirely in Greek or Latin. Purchased in 1818.
Range: 1 - 524
Printed catalogue: Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series. Vol. 1, part 2: The Burney Manuscripts. 1840.
Collected by George III and transferred to the British Museum in 1823 by George IV. The MSS were at first kept with the printed books but were transferred to the Dept of MSS in 1840. The MS maps, however, remained in the Printed Books Dept and are now in the Map Library (King's Topographical Collection).
Range: 1 - 446
Printed catalogue: Sir George F. Warner and Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King's Collections. Vol. 3. 1921.
Collected by Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (d. 1646). In 1666 his grandson, Henry Howard, decided to divide the collection between the Royal Society and the College of Arms. In 1831 the MSS held by the Royal Society were purchased by the Museum.
Range: 1 - 550
Printed catalogue: Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series. Vol. 1, part 1: The Arundel Manuscripts. 1834.
Collected by Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (d. 1839) at Stowe House, near Buckingham. In 1849 the collection was bought by the 4th Earl of Ashburnham. In 1883 the MSS were purchased by Parliament from the 5th Earl of Ashburnham and deposited in the Museum, with the exception of those of Irish interest which were deposited in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.
Range: 1 - 1085
Printed catalogue: Catalogue of the Stowe Manuscripts in the British Museum. 2 vols. 1895-1896.
Collected by T. J. Wise (d. 1937) and purchased from his executors after his death. Mainly 19th century literary MSS, divided into Ashley MSS (complete MSS) and Ashley "A" and "B" series (individual items extracted from books into which they had been inserted by Wise).
Printed catalogue: T. J. Wise, The Ashley Library: A Catalogue of Printed Books, Manuscripts, and Autograph Letters, collected by Thomas James Wise. 11 vols. 1922-1936.
A new catalogue, by T. A. J. Burnett, is in preparation.
Illuminated MSS, collected by Henry Yates Thompson (d. 1928) and comprising 46 MSS bequeathed in 1941 by his widow, together with 6 others previously acquired. These 52 MSS represent about one-third of Henry Yates Thompson's original collection, a large part of which was disposed of in sales held 1919-1921. The YT Appendix contains letters and papers relating to the collection.
Range: 1 - 52 plus Appendix
Printed catalogue: Seymour de Ricci, "Les manuscrits de la Collection Henry Yates Thompson," Bulletin de la Société française de reproduction de manuscrits à peintures 10 (1926).
A new catalogue, by D. H. Turner, is in preparation.
All the MSS acquired by gift, purchase or bequest since 1756 with the exception of the Egerton MSS and of those which form part of the closed collections already listed. The numbering of the Additional MSS begins at 4101 because the collection is conceieved as "additional" to the Sloane MSS (which are numbered 1-4100).
Range: 4101 - (by 1990 the number had reached 70637)
Printed catalogue: Catalogues of Additions to the Manuscripts 1843- [in progress, new volumes cover roughly 5 years of acquisitions each].
In 1829 Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater, bequeathed to the British Museum 67 MSS and £12,000 (the Bridgewater Fund). This sum was augmented in 1838 by £3,000 (the Farnborough Fund) bequeathed by Egerton's cousin, Charles Long, Baron Farnborough. The income from these bequests is devoted to the purchase of MSS which, together with the original Egerton collection, make up the Egerton series of MSS.
Range: 1 - (by 1990 the number had reached 3867)
Printed catalogue: The Egerton acquisitions are described together with the Additional MSS in the Catalogues of Additions to the Manuscripts 1843- [in progress, new volumes cover roughly 5 years of acquisitions each].
[ Course Notes: Introduction ] | [ I. Towards a definition of "manuscript studies" ] | [ I.ii. The four branches of bibliographical study ] | [ I.iii. Topics in the social history of texts ] | [ II. Diplomatics ] | [ III. Codicology ] | [ III.ii. Decoration and Illumination ] | [ IV. Paleography ] | [ IV.ii. Historical Notes ] | [ IV.iii. Writing Implements ] | [ IV.iv. Letter Formation ] | [ IV.v. Special Characters in English Manuscripts ] | [ IV.vi. Scribal Abbreviations ] | [ IV.vii. Punctuation ] | [ IV.viii. Paleographical sample: William Herebert, OFM (early fourteenth-century England) ] | [ Herebert sample, with transcription ] | [ Herebert sample: enlargement of full page reproduced at high resolution ] | [ V. Textual analysis (James E. Thorpe) ] | [ V.ii. Scribal error ] | [ V.iii. Kinds of edition ] | [ V.iv. Examples of over emendation on insufficient grounds ] | [ VI. Linguistic competence (an example): An Outline History of the English Language ] | [ VII. Libraries and archives: ] | [ VII.ii. British Library Manuscript Collections ] | [ VII.iii. Bodleian Library Manuscript Collections ]