Papers of Basil Cottle, linguist and historian, 1917-1994

Scope and Content

Papers of Basil Cottle covering his academic and personal life. Included are a large correspondence with friends; files relating to his published works including The triumph of English: 1350-1400 (1969), The plight of English: ambiguities, cacophonies and other violations of our language (1975), The language of literature: English grammar in action (1985), Names (1983), and The Penguin dictionary of surnames (1967). With J.W. Sherborne he compiled an early history of the University of Bristol, The life of a university (1951). He spent a considerable time visiting the cathedrals of France, and compiled a series of albums containing notes and images relating to the iconography of the cathedrals. In 2002 this was published as 'All the cathedrals of France'. He worked on Bristol literary figures such as Robert Southey, Thomas Chatterton, and the publisher Joseph Cottle. There is also material on his work with the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society; and on place names and personal names. There are also many general papers relating to his various interests.

Administrative / Biographical History

(Arthur) Basil Cottle was born in Cardiff in 1917. He graduated from the University College of South Wales, Cardiff, and then trained as a school teacher. During the Second World War he spent three years in the army and three years as a cryptanalyst in the Enigma Team at Bletchley Park; after which he compiled an Abanian grammar and syntax for the Foreign Office. He then joined the University of Bristol and taught in the English Department for more than forty years. He gave courses in Anglo-Saxon and Early-Christian Irish Archaeology, eventually becoming Reader in Medieval Studies. He was also involved in the life of Bristol, particularly its ancient churches and literary history. He wrote several books, was greatly interested in cathedrals in France, and also drew, and was interested in iconography. He had a wide network of friends and was an active correspondent. Basil Cottle died in 1994.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all bone fide readers


Compiled by Hannah Lowery, Archivist, University of Bristol Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

A typescript catalogue is available in the University of Bristol Special Collections

Corporate Names