Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plates 1.66-1.68: Portrait of Robert Cotton with Genesis Fragments (Original Explanatory Account)


Translation by Raymond Marks

Portrait of the nobleman, Robert Cotton, knight and baronet, founder of the library bearing his surname, accurately produced after its archetype, a beautifully painted work. Likewise, a pair of plates showing some fragments of the oldest exemplar of the book of Genesis, adorned with elegant pictures, which were rescued from the fire at Ashburnham house, at that time the repository of Cotton’s treasure, on October 23, 1731, and are currently held in the British Museum.


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Historical Dissertation on Cotton’s Genesis Codex

What the value of Cotton’s codex of the book of Genesis was, while it still remained intact, will be easily apparent from its inscription, prefixed to the collations of Ernest Grabe, a most learned man, which goes as follows:

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which had three functions corresponding with their three positions, namely, at the top, in the middle, or at the bottom of letters. And it appears that that manner of marking has been applied here because two of those points, at the top and in the middle, sometimes occur. Therefore, even if they should not bear the age of the codex, nevertheless, they exhibit the mark[s] of ancient practice. But if doubt still remains whether they would almost equal the writing of the codex [in age], because neither points nor underlining are now distinguishable from the letters themselves in color, one may attribute [this uncertainty] to the force of [the] fire, by which the parchment was singed.

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