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Thomas Basson (1555-1613), English printer at Leiden

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Since the appearance in 1961 of the author's Thomas Basson 1555-1613: English Printer at Leiden, a number of new facts have come to light. Moreover, thirty-three new titles can be added to the checklist of Basson's publications, plus a considerable number of theses printed by Thomas Basson. This brings the total number of Basson imprints to c. 450 instead of the original 180. It is now clear, however, that all or nearly all 1585-7 Basson imprints are books or pamphlets printed for him by others. One of the interesting discoveries since 1961 is a copy of The Coniugations in Englishe and Netherdutche (1586), translated and prefaced by Basson himself. It is the first English-Dutch grammar in history, and was dedicated to the Leiden magistrates. New information clarifies Basson's move to Leiden from Cologne in 1583/4 and his involvement in the 'Family of Love', but the evidence remains circumstantial. In 1593/4 the first Basson press was set up. At first it was capable only of very small books and pamphlets, mainly theses, carmina, and auction catalogues. In 1603-6, however, the Basson press got involved in a major publication: Scaliger's Thesaurus temporum. Passages from Scaliger's correspondence show that Thomas Basson and his son Govert were learning their trade the hard way. After 1606 full-length books became a standard feature of their printing house 'At the Sign of the Music-Book'. The 1606 Thesaurus is also interesting because a specially made music-book device on the title page represents an actual piece of music which turns out to be a two-part canon. One other aspect of the Basson press, finally, is also discussed: its apparent interest in occult books.


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