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William Charles Cotton
My Bee Book.
London, Rivington, 1842.
368 p. illus. 21 cm.

Call no.: SF523 .C67

The son of a wealthy merchant and philanthropist, William Charles Cotton (1813-1879) enjoyed a stellar academic career at Eton and Oxford. From early in life, however, he was fascinated with bees. One of the founders of the Oxford Apiarian Society, he published his first work on bees at the age of twenty five, A Short and Simple Letter to Cottagers, from a Conservative Bee-Keeper (1838), which was expanded four years later in the illustrated, My Bee Book.

Cotton's work is a compilation of sources regarding bees, including texts such as Thorley’s Melisselogia and the preface to Huber’s New Observations. Throughout, Cotton emphasizes the moral influence of beekeeping. The maintenance of the stocks, he asserts, will help prevent the beekeeper from falling into vice, and he suggests that people could do good work by giving bee stocks to the poor and teaching them the skills to care for them. In the year that My Bee Book first appeared, Cotton followed his philanthropic impulses on a six year stint as a missionary in New Zealand. There, he established the first beekeeping station on the North Island and wrote a Manual for the New Zealand Bee Keepers (1848), now an exceptionally rare book, which was translated (even rarer) into Maori. Upon his return to England, Cotton suffered for years from a succession of mental breakdowns, dying in Thomas Tuke's asylum at Chiswick in 1879.

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Cotton title page Cotton illustration
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