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Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571–1631)

Photo credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, politician and antiquary, devoted much of his life to the preservation of the records of English literature and history, many of which had been dispersed by the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, and to which added many contemporary official papers. Cotton, a Member of Parliament, was influential as an expert on precedents and made his library widely available to others. Involvement in the murky politics of the time led to difficulties. He was briefly arrested during the reign of James I and in 1629 the library was sealed on the orders of Charles I. It was eventually restored to the family and was subsequently given to the nation in 1700 by his grandson Sir John Cotton (1621–1712), 3rd Bt. After years of neglect the Cotton collection, which included a coin cabinet, was in 1753 entrusted to the British Museum by an Act of Parliament.

British Museum





oil on canvas


H 84.5 x W 68 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift as part of the Cotton Collection, 1753

Work type



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British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, Greater London WC1B 3DG England

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