Archdeacon Henry Cotton (1789–1879)

by Olivia Lardner, Bolton Cataloguer

the Bolton Library’s copy of Henry Cotton’s A list of editions of the Bible and parts thereof in English, from the year MDV to MDCCCXX (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1821) might be more comprehensive than you think. For a start, there are two copies. Copy 1 has been heavily annotated in preparation for ‘the second edition, corrected and enlarged’. Copy 2 has also been heavily annotated. Both items are in fact so interwoven with copious alterations, additions and notes for the planned new edition, that Henry Cotton’s publisher is instructed to read both copies before printing, as each copy contains notices not present in the other.


Both copies must be consulted before printing


Copious annotations

Judging by the small selection of images here, it is unsurprising that the new edition didn’t appear until 1852, some 31 years after this first edition!

click on any image to zoom


An exhaustive preparation indeed, and one acknowledged by the author in its preface: 1

I have made it my business to take every occasion of correcting errors and obtaining additional information; so that I can confidently offer the present volume as more full and accurate than its predecessor.

Thankfully, he did find time during this period to curate the many treasures of the library in Cashel in his post of Archdeacon of the Diocese (1824–1872). 2

Henry Cotton at Cashel

As a former sub-librarian at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, he was able to bring his skills to bear upon a collection ‘[which had] fallen into such great neglect, that many of the books have been lost, many utterly spoiled with damp’ (Cotton, cited in Stam 2001), 3 and initiate work on the repair and preservation of its many volumes.

Curious, then, is this comment, which appears in the preface to his work:

If by chance the remark may be made hereafter, that I have not fully kept pace with the general advance in literary information which has distinguished the last quarter of a century; I have only to plead the fact, that my own opportunities of learning have not increased, but have greatly diminished, during that time. Thirty year ago, I lost the advantage of daily access to the Bodleian Library, which had been previously at my command; and went to reside in country parts of the south of Ireland; where scarcely one single black-letter book is to be found within forty miles; and where I cannot, at this day, purchase a copy even of the last printed edition of the authorized version of our Bible! 4

We will encounter Henry Cotton again in this blog series, as we continue to gather evidence of his work and thoughts in 19th century Cashel in the course of the Bolton Library cataloguing project at the University of Limerick. Be sure to subscribe to the blog using the links on the bottom of this page to follow his story.



  1. Cotton, H. (1852). Editions of the Bible and parts thereof in English, from the year MDV to MDCCCL ... 2nd ed. Oxford: University Press., p. xxii, available here.[]
  2. Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press.[]
  3. Stam, D.H. editor (2001). International Dictionary of Library Histories. Routledge, available here.[]
  4. Cotton, H. (1852). Ibid.[]