The Rotton Collection is a gentleman's library' of some 7,000 books bequeathed to UCL on his death by Sir John Francis Rotton (1838-1926), who for over thirty years was a member of the Council of the College.
The works, most of which were published in the 18th and 19th Centuries and mainly in English but with significant sections in other languages (particularly French, Italian and Latin), reflect a very wide range of subjects indeed and show an interest in both domestic and wider concerns, from descriptions of voyages around the world to accounts of the feuds and divisions affecting Trinity College, Cambridge, in the early 18th century. Philosophy and metaphysics, law and jurisprudence, travels and voyages, agriculture, Roman antiquities, and debates about chivalry and duelling are well represented, as are British social, political and economic affairs including the corn laws, currency question, universal suffrage, education and administration of India.
It is not an easy task to pick highlights from such a wide-ranging collection that spans the arts and sciences. However, religion, literature, language, and British and European history and politics are strong contenders. The religious sections include works on church history, debates about the church and the state, the Church of Scotland, dissenters, theology, Christian ethics, the lives of the saints - particularly St. Francis of Assisi - and Jewish emancipation. English literature and literary criticism includes works by and about Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Shakespeare and Pope (including a few first editions of Pope), as well as works on English language and grammar. French, Spanish and Italian authors are included, as are books on language and dialect. There are rich pickings for classicists, with works on philosophy, language and literature of the classical world, including the first publication in 1592 in the original Greek of Homer's works. Works on travels and voyages include a description of visits to Italian towns (together with their histories) and to India, a voyage to Patagonia, three years' wanderings in the northern provinces of China, and a narrative by Sir Joseph Banks of Captain Cook's first voyage.
Although these are the highlights, there are many other subjects included in this extremely eclectic collection.
Illustration from "Les antiquitez d'Arles." by Joseph Seguin, printed in Arles in 1687 by Claude Mesnier.
Last modified 6 April 2009