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CATALOGUE OF THE PAMPHLETS,
CATALOGUE OF THE COLLECTION, 1640-1652
PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES
Sold at the BRITISH MUSEUM; and by LONGMANS & Co., 39, Paternoster Row; BERNARD
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
DUKE STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E., AND GREAT WINDMILL STREET, W.
HIGH in the list of benefactors of the British Museum stands the modest name of George Thomason, Bookseller, of the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church Yard. Many English booksellers have acquired distinction or even fame in literature or bibliography, but few, if any, have accomplished so remarkable an achievement as Thomason.
A contemporary who could grasp the full significance of the Meeting of the Long Parliament, and could form the determination to preserve for the use of future generations the mass of fleeting literature which poured every day from the press, was assuredly possessed in a rare degree of historical prescience and imagination; nor could any but a man of resolute determination and strength of character have persevered in so arduous a task through twenty eventful, crowded years.
It is clear from the whole tenour of his notes and manuscripts that Thomason was a cultivated, scholarly man and a shrewd observer. It is clear also that he enjoyed the friendship of many distinguished men ; John Milton, William Prynne, Henry Parker, and many others, presented him with copies of their works. He was represented at the time of the Love Conspiracy, 1650-51, as having a considerable influence with the Presbyterian Ministers of London, including such well-known personages as Edmund Calamy and William Jenkin, and in his will he was able to speak of John Rushworth and Thomas Barlow as his honoured friends. Yet little is now known of his life or personality; and in the matter of his biography, beyond a few extracts from the Stationers' Registers and the Calendars of State Papers, I fear I have little to offer but uncertainties and conjectures.
George Thomason was the son of George Thomason, of Sudlow, a hamlet in the Hundred of Bucklow, Cheshire. His father is described in the Registers of Stationers' Hall as a 'Husbandman,' probably a farmer. By an Act of the Common Council in 1556 no person was permitted to take up his freedom as a member of a Company or Guild until he had attained the age of twenty-four. As George Thomason the younger became a member of the Stationers' Company in 1626, it follows that he must have been born in or before 1602. In September 1617 he was bound apprentice for nine years to Henry Fetherstone, Bookseller at the Sign of the Rose in St. Paul's Churchyard, the publisher of Purchase his Pilgrimes and some other notable books.
On the 5th June, 1626, Thomason took up his freedom as a member of the Stationers' Company, his name appearing in the Register as
'George Thompson.' It is hardly necessary to say that variations in the spelling of proper names during the seventeenth century are rather the rule than the exception. That George Thompson or Tompson is the same person as George Thomason is clearly proved by later entries in the Stationers' Registers. Thus on the 1st November, 1627, his late master, Henry Fetherstone, assigns to him under the name of George Tompson a share in the property of a work entiled The History of the Normans and Kinges of England, by William Martin, which share Master Thomason' transfers to Richard Whitaker on the 21st May, 1638.
Thomason's principal business was bookselling rather than publishing. For some years, from 1636 to 1642 or 1643, he was in partnership with Octavian Pullen, who was admitted to membership of the Stationers' Company December 14th, 1629. Their shop, which bore the sign of the 'Rose,' was situated in St. Paul's Churchyard, on the north side of the cathedral, between the north door and the Church of St. Faith's. When the partnership was dissolved, Thomason moved to the 'Rose and Crown,' in another part of the Churchyard, while Pullen remained at the original 'Rose' until it was destroyed in the great fire of 1666.
Between the years 1636 and 1639 the partners published six books, four of which were of slight importance, while the remaining two were sumptuous folios, relating to the visits of Mary de' Medici to the Netherlands and England. The books are entitled Histoire de l'Entrée de la Reyne Mère dans les Provinces Unies and Histoire de l'Entrée de la Reyne Mère dans la Grande Brétaigne, both by Jean Puget de la Serre, Historiographer of France, both illustrated with fine engravings by Hollar and others, and both bearing the imprint, "A Londre, par Jean Raworth pour George Thomason et Octavian Pullen, à la Rose, au Cemetière de Saint Paul, 1639." Thomason's next essay in publishing was unfortunate. In 1645, David Buchanan, an ardent Presbyterian, wrote a book eulogising the action of the Scotch throughout the Civil War and violently attacking the English Parliament and their army. This book was published anonymously under the title of Truth its Manifest, with the imprint London, 1645. Its contents were sufficiently alarming to create considerable stir, and the Parliamentary Committee of both Kingdoms were ordered to discover the printer and publisher. On the 31st Jan., 1646, evidence was given before the Committee by Joseph Hunscott, a bookseller, that "Mr. Buchanan entered the copy of Truths Manifest in Robert Bostock's name, and after printing it at his own charge, and there being some difference between him and Mr. Bostock about the price, he sold the whole impression to George Thomerson."
Ultimately the book was voted false and scandalous by both Houses of Parliament and ordered to be burnt by the Hangman. In 1646,
A Treatise touching the Peace of the Church, by Philip Freher, was "printed for George Thomason and are to be sold at his shop at the 'Rose and Crown.'
Thomason published no more books until the year 1659, when he issued the only work of real importance which came from his shop, the first part of John Rushworth's Historical Collections, bearing the imprint, "Printed by Tho. Newcomb for George Thomason, at the sign of the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1659." It is perhaps worthy of note that the later volumes published between 1680 and 1701 were also issued from the Rose and Crown,' then occupied by Thomason's successors, Richard Criswell and Thomas Cockerill.
Meanwhile Thomason and Pullen seem to have established a thriving trade as booksellers. Dr. Macray, in his Annals of the Bodleian, notes that "the booksellers from whom in most years about this time (1640 and the following years) purchases were made were George Thomason and Octavian Pullen, and that in 1650 (by which time Pullen's partnership had come to an end) "A great fraught of books to the value of £69 10s., for which £1 was paid for carriage, was bought of George Thomason."
On the 3rd November, 1640, the Long Parliament met; and Thomason, who had already accumulated a few books issued during the course of the year, systematically began his collection, acquiring, either by purchase or occasionally by presentation, every book, pamphlet and newspaper issued in London and as many as he could obtain from the provinces or abroad. He continued without interruption to prosecute his enterprise until the coronation of Charles II., 23 April, 1661, adding a few pamphlets up to the end of December of that year, when his collection closes.
Misled no doubt by the terms of the Advertisement issued after his death, all those who have written of Thomason have described him as "the Royalist bookseller."
This, I think, is a complete mistake. For instance, in this catalogue, under the date 5th Dec. 1642, will be found a MS. copy of an order of the Committee for the advance of money for the Parliament's army, naming Thomason and two others as the authorised collectors of subscriptions within their parish. Again, under date 5th June, 1646, will be found a petition to the Lord Mayor and Common Council in support of a strongly-worded Presbyterian Petition presented by the Municipality of London on the 26th of the preceding month, with a note by Thomason reading, "Composed and finished from the 5th I having a hand in it both in composing it and promoting it." I think that these two documents, when taken in conjunction with Thomason's share in the Love Conspiracy and with the influence which he was then said to possess over the Presbyterian Ministers of London, are proofs sufficient that he belonged to the