Autograph Letter Collection: Alix [Alice] von Cotta Letters

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 9/23
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 A boxes (3 volumes - 210 items)

Scope and Content

The collection contains letters and postcards written predominantly by Alice von Cotta to Penelope Lawrence (addressed as 'Dear Nelly'). Some letters to Penelope Lawrence from Frau von Cotta (Alice's mother) and Ilse von Cotta (Alice's younger sister). Penelope Lawrence and Alix von Cotta, went to Newnham College, Cambridge, where in c. 1874 they became friends.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alice von Cotta (1842-1931) was born in Freiburg, Saxony in 1842. Her father was Bernhard von Cotta, the geologist. In 1876 she started studying at Newnham College and was granted the Clothworker's scholarship for the year 1877-1878. During her final year, in 1878, Alice and her friend, Penelope Lawrence, spent their time together at Newnham. Penelope had been a childhood friend as their families already knew one another from a trip the Lawrence family had taken in Freiburg in 1864. In Jul 1878 Alice was appointed to the post of Mistress of Studies at Bedford College. She was paid a salary of £75.00. In Oct 1878, she also spent time at the North London Collegiate School. Her resignation to Bedford College was tendered in Jul 1880. From 1884-1912, Alice von Cotta was principal of the Victoria-Lyceum in Berlin. This school had been established by crown princess Victoria, wife of Frederick I. Its aim was to provide a higher education for German women, principally teachers, before a university education was available to them. Alice von Cotta died in Hanover in 1931.


The letters are arranged chronologically and divided into three parts. Part A : 1870-1888 (93 letters) Part B : 1889 - 1901 (55 letters) Part C : 1902 - 1930 (62 letters).

Access Information

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only.

Acquisition Information

The letters were deposited with the Fawcett Library by Mrs Agatha Blyth, the sister of Penelope Lawrence, in 1944.[Check Fawcett Library Accession Register for further details]

Other Finding Aids

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.