Kitson's first notebook begins with news reviews on John Sell Cotman, including of the Kaines-Smith biography of Cotman. Newspaper articles that appeared in the Norfolk press reveal Arthur Bachelor's quest to trace the places Cotman painted in Normandy, JPG19/20.
In 1926, the Bulwer family sell much of their ancestor Reverend James Bulwer's collection, and this is one of the first things Kitson recorded (JPG 5, 18, 34). Rev Bulwer, a former pupil, was collecting Cotman's work as early as 1818. Bulwer was from an ancient Norfolk family who owned Heydon in Norfolk. For the sale of the Canadian part of the Bulwer Collection at Walker's Gallery in New Bond Street in 1926, C. F. Bell of the Ashmolean edited the catalogues of both the John Sell and Miles Edmund Cotmans selected for exhibition and sale. Much had gone before the Kitsons arrived at the sale but Sydney acquired several he had lost, in subsequent collectors' sales. He also bought for his nephew Robert Hawthorn Kitson on approval until Robert returned from his alternate home in Sicily. Sydney called on Robert's sister Beatrice at Stonegates in Leeds to note and list his collection of Cotmans (Cotmania Vol.1 1926-27 fig. 1 p. 7). (JPG 48-50 Robert Hawthorn Kitson's collection. The initials RHK and SDK written in the margins indicate purchases for the Kitsons.
Kitson records what he finds at auction sales, private and museum collections. As the first volume, Kitson is still building a system of how to record what he views. In the early entries there are merely extracts from sale catalogues, or written notes with price and size of paintings. Fully developed, he regularly includes his own sketches and opinions of the work. First sketches are from sale of Coats collection (JPG29/30).
It is clear, as early as May 1927, Kitson has already established a reputation as an expert on Cotman. Augustus Walker of Walker Galleries consults him on the authenticity of paintings to establish if they are genuine Cotman works (JPG 57).