« PreviousContinue »
not hereditary. For such as follow families, I think they cannot prove very ancient, since Paulus Jovius plainly delivereth, that the first that annexed that note of dignity to a family, was Frederick Barbarossa to his best deserving soldiers, which falleth to be in anno 1152, and the 17 of our king Stephen; from which ground it may seem our kings assumed it near that time, for I find no badge of any family until king John; no, not of any of our kings upon their seals, before Richard I; and for any mott or word used to any such arms, I note none before that of Edward III, Honi soit qui mal y pense, proper only to his order, until Henry the Eighth's time; whence from, I take, we borrow those sentences or words which I pass to remember, in regard of their multitude, since they fall fitter to those better students of arms to observe.
Though the praise of extraordinary indus try and of considerable learning cannot justly be withheld from sir Robert Cotton; still, it is unquestionable, that posterity is infinitely more indebted to him as a collector of ancient literary monuments, than as an author; and he is accordingly more celebrated for his invaluable library, than for all his writings.
The subject of the Cotton-library is familiar to every informed reader; but as its history. is so closely connected with that of our natonal literature, particularly the historical department of it, a page or two may not be deemed improperly employed, in a work of this nature, in giving a brief account of that famous collection.
Sir Robert began his collections as early as his eighteenth year; and Camden, whom he accompanied to Carlisle in 1600, acknowledges his services in the compilation of his Britannia. The Cotton-library consists wholly of manuscripts. At the time of their purchase, many of them were in loose skins, small tracts, or very thin volumes; of such he caused several to be bound in a single cover. They relate especially to the history and antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland; enriched, however, with whatever could be procured, that was cirious or valuable, in every other branch of li terature. At this period, the contents of ou monastic libraries, as likewise many other valuable remains of ancient learning, (saved from the wreck of the university and college libra ries at the puritanical visitations of those 'seminaries,) lay dispersed in numerous hands,
Several antiquarians before Cotton, as Josce line, Noel, Allen, Lambarde, Bowyer, Elsinge, Camden, and others, had diligently collected portions of the scattered fragments. Sir Robert, availing himself of their researches, obtained possession, either by legacy or purchase, of all that was valuable in their seve ral collections. The whole, together with the fruits of his own industry, he reposited in his own house, near the House of Commons, at Westminster. This collection was much aug mented by his son and grandson, sir Thomas, and sir John Cotton.
Ir the reign of king William, an act of parlament was made for the better securing and preserving this library in the name and famly of the Cottons, for the benefit of the public, in order to prevent its being sold, or otherwise disposed of, Cotton-house was subsequently purchased, by queen Ann, of sir John, great grandson of sir Robert Cotton,
a common repositary for the royal and Cottonian libraries, when an act was passed for the better securing of her majesty's purchase, and both house and library were settled and vested in trustees. The books were removed into a more commodious room, the
former being damp; and Cotton-house was appropriated to the use of the king's librarykeeper, who had now the care of both libraries. The Cottonian library was removed, some years after, into a house near Westminster Abbey, purchased by the crown of lord Ashburnham, where one hundred and eleven books were destroyed by an accidental fire, on the 23d of October, 1731, and ninety-nine others rendered imperfect. Upon this, it was conveyed to the new dormitory, and afterwards to the old dormitory, belonging to Westminster School. It is now reposited, as is well known, in the British Museum.
SAMUEL Purchas, a learned divine, but chiefly known as the compiler of a very valuable collection of voyages, was born at Thaxstead in Essex, in 1577. He was edu cated at Cambridge, probably at St. John's College, since a record exists in that college, certifying that one Purchas took his degree of master of arts in 1600. He was presented by the king to the vicarage of East-Wood, Essex, in 1604; but afterwards resigned it in favour of his brother, for the more convenient literary residence of London. In 1615, he was incorporated at Oxford bachelor of divinity; having been somewhat previously collated, by King, bishop of London, to the rectory of St. Martin's Ludgate, in London,