William T Dobson.

History of the Bassandyne Bible, the first printed in Scotland; with notices of the early printers of Edinburgh online

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Online LibraryWilliam T DobsonHistory of the Bassandyne Bible, the first printed in Scotland; with notices of the early printers of Edinburgh → online text (page 1 of 11)
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Vignette from Title-page of Bassandyne Bible.


Bassandyne Bible

The First Printed in Scotland


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IViTH Facsimiles and other Illustrations




\ All rights reseried \





HE history and pedigree of books and
their writers is no new attraction to
the curious, as is evidenced by the
numerous scholarly treatises on this
branch of knowledge. There appears to be a kind
of romantic interest attached to all that concerns
rare old editions, and the story of their production
is often the story, on the part of either printer
or publisher, of perseverance and energy in over-
coming no ordinary difficulties. These men seem
frequently to have been carried forward by a
genuine faith and enthusiasm in the prosecution
of the work to which they had given themselves,
devoting, as they did, much labour, thought, and
anxiety to the accomplishment of their purpose.
No doubt the early printers were hampered much
by the ignorance and superstition of the common
people of the time, to whom their work would
appear very mysterious, and it would be long ere
the feeling of awe resulting from the strange
secrecy which brooded over the houses of the early
printers could be shaken off.


viii (jJreface.

We cannot but feel amused if we endeavour to
picture to our minds the consternation excited by
the first printed Bibles exposed for sale. Con-
ceive a meeting of two fat friars, both bibliophiles
and connoisseurs in manuscripts, quite in raptures
over the neat clean copies of the Vulgate which
they have managed to secure at an obvious bargain
from the German stranger. Each praises his own
through all the forms of the superlative. At last
the volumes are brought forth and diligently com-
pared, when, to the amazement and horror of the
two reverend fathers, they are found to be exact
counterparts — neither can distinguish his own.
They fear to touch the Doppclgdnger — they fear
to burn their fingers — there must evidently have
been some fell sinister influence at work here ; but
then arises the question whether his Satanic majesty
could endure the sight of the Word of Truth long
enough to produce such exact copies.

Difficulties and trials and troubles certainly lay
in the way of the early printers, yet it is aston-
ishing, in examining old books, to see how soon
after the introduction of the art all that was neces-
sary to it was found out and developed in the
way of "imposing," "registering," "signaturing,"
and the binding of the sheets of a book. So
far as concerns these, we have not, in these days
of much mechanical achievement, improved upon
the methods of the early craftsmen, while the
rapid production now generally aimed at must be,
in a great measure, to the neglect of those finer

preface. ix

features of the art so much cultivated and developed
by them.

"A real study of our early printed books," says
Mr. Blades in his " Life of Caxton," " brings with
it a knowledge, more or less, of all the arts and
sciences taught in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-
turies. In this lies one of its chief attractions
to the bibliographer. The invention of printing
gave new life to all branches of knowledge, and
if we thoughtfully consider the wonderful effects
which have proceeded from it — effects far more
important to mankind than even the discovery of
steam power, electric power, or any other inven-
tion — we shall surely feel deeply interested in all
that concerns its introduction and spread in our

With a feeling akin to this the present writer
has sought to give a brief account of some of the
early printers of Edinburgh, and particularly of
Thomas Bassandyne and the first Bible printed
in Scotland, with the difficulties and impediments
which lay in the way of its production. In con-
nection with this, the little volume will be found
to contain many curious and interesting things —
things honest and of good report — things of histo-
rical and antiquarian interest and value — not readily
accessible to ordinary readers, relating to the books
and printers of Old Edinburgh. It was not thought,
when the work was begun, that information regard-
ing Thomas Bassandyne and his Bible would be
so very difficult to procure ; but only a few books

X (preface.

of the many consulted proved to be of much service,
and the information had to be gathered piecemeal,
here a little and there a little, out of many outlying
nooks and corners of our old literature. Histories
of the period, and other books which were thought
to be most likely to give contemporary side-views
of local incidents, were almost absolutely barren
in this direction, while even volumes treating of
Typographical Antiquities, full enough in other
respects, tell comparatively little about Bassan-
dyne and his Bible. Even James Watson, an
Edinburgh printer of the end of the seventeenth
and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, gives
no information, though he wrote one of the earliest
works on the History of Printing — a book one would
naturally have supposed to contain some notice of
the old printer and his work.

Limited time and opportunities may well render
this contribution to the socio-history of Edinburgh
less complete than otherwise it might be, but the
writer has conscientiously availed himself of every
advantage within his reach, and where defects or
omissions may be found, for these every apology
is tendered. It is given to few to feel assured that
every particular of a cherished object has been duly
accomplished, and the present writer cannot say
he is of that happy minorit}', and can only hope
that this effort may lead some abler individual to
follow suit in the composition of a fuller and more
comprehensive work regarding the early printers of




Introduction of the Bible into Scotland . . • i?

The Reformation — Importation of Bibles — Patrick Hamil-
ton — Henry Forrest — Alexander Ales— The Bible Pro-
hibited — Secular Literature — Sir David Lyndsay — Cardinal
Beaton— Scots Parliament of March 1543— Reading of
the Bible Permitted — The Earl of Arran — Renewal of Per-
secution — George Wishart.


Translations of the Biile ..... 39

The Invention of Printing — Erasmus — William Tyndale —
His New Testament — Bishop Tonstal — Burning the Bible
— Martyrdom of Tyndale — Coverdale — Matthews' Bible —
Taverner's Bible — The Great Bible— Prohibition of the
Bible — Queen Mary of England — Bishop Bonner — ^John
Bodley — The Geneva Version.

Introduction of Printing into Edinburgh . . 69

James IV. — Androw Myllar — Walter Chepman— The " Por-
teous of Noblenes " — The " Breviarium Aberdonense"
— The Poet Dunbar — John Story— Thomas Davidson —



License to Print Acts of Parliament — John Scott — The
" Complaynte of Scotland" — Hamilton's " Catechisme" —
The "Twopenny Faith" — Restrictions on the Press — The
"Tragedy of the Cardinal" — Niniane Winzet — Henrie
Charteris — The General Assembly and the Printers —
Robert Lekprevik — First License to Print the Bible — The
' ' Donat " — Regent Morton — Satires against the Regent.

Bassandyne and Arhuthnot . . . . loi

"Fall of the Roman Kirk" — Alexander Arbuthnot — Pro-
posal to Print the IMble — Assent of the General Assembly
— The " Corrector" and " Composer" — Impediments and
Difficulties — Government License for Bible — Partnership
Disputes— Pubhcation of the Bible — The Dedicatory Epistle
— Enforced Sale of the Bible — Arbuthnot appointed King's
Printer — Thomas Vautrollier, a Huguenot Printer.


The Bassandyne Bible . . . . . .126

Collation — Size and Type — Title and Vignette — The Illus-
trations — The Genevan "Copy" used — The "Arguments"
and Notes— King James the Sixth and the Genevan Notes
— The Apocrypha — Tables and Indexes.

The Successors of Bassandyne . . . -15^

Popular Books — "The Seven Sages" — George Young —
Books Printed on the Continent — Andro Hart— Thomas
Norton — Customs Daties on Books — Hart's Folio Bible —
Napier's Logarithms—" Booke of Godlie and Spirituall
Sangs" — Thomas Finlayson — Sir John Skene — " Regiam
Majestatem " — Robert Young — The Archbishop of Canter-

Contentg. xiii

bury's Bibles — The Scottish Service Book — Covenanting
Troubles — Proclamations of Charles the First — ' ' The
Remonstrance of the Nobility," &c.

Evan Tyler — The Andersons . . . -177

Evan Tyler — New Presbyterian Psalm Book — Archibald
Hyslop — Andro Anderson — Monopoly of Printing — Robert
Sanders — Sir Thomas Murray and the Statutes — Mrs.
Anderson — Incorrect Bibles — Curious Blunders — "Satan's
Invisible World Discovered" — The Lord Chancellor and
the Bookseller — "The Root of Romish Ceremonies."

TVatson, Symson, and Ruddbnan . . . -194

James Watson — The Darien Riots — The Edinburgh Gazette
— Captain Donaldson — The Courant — Adam Boig — Scot-
tish Newspapers — Robert Freebairn — First History of
Printing — Rebellion of 1715— Watson's Bibles — Andrew
Symson — Thomas Ruddiman, Author and Printer — First
Sale of Books by Auction— The Caledonian Mercury.

List of Authorities . . . . . .221

Index ......... 223


Vignette from Title of Bassandyne Bible . . Frontispiece

Sir David Lyndsay ....... Page 33

First Page of Tyndale's Testament ..... 43

Burning Bibles at PauPs Cross . . . . . . 51

The Chained Bible . . . . . . . . 61

Andro^v Myllar's Device 77

Sixteenth Century Printing-Office . . . . . 91

Bookbinding in Sixteenth Century . . . . .109
Paper-tnaking in Sixteenth Century . . . . .113

Title of Bassandyne' s New Testament 117

Initial from Tyndale's Testament . . . . . .126

Facsimile page {reduced) of Bassatidyne Bible . . . 127
Gardc7t of Eden, from Bassandyne Bible . . . . 135

The Ark, from Bassatuiyne Bible . . . . . .143

Ped Sea, from Bassandyne Bible . . . . ■ .151

Initial from Bassandyne Bible . . . . . .176

Title-page of Evan Tyler's Scotch Psalms for English Printed

Bibles 179

Thomas Ruddiman 215

Zhe Bassanb^ne Bible.


Introduction of the Bible into Scotland.

HE doctrines of the Reformation, more
especially those which asserted the

supreme authority of the written Word

and the independence of the individual conscience
from all ecclesiastical domination, had made con-
siderable progress in Scotland about 1525, aided
latterly by the importation of some of Luther's
writings. This greatly alarmed the clergy, to
whom the name of the great Reformer was a word
of terror, and they procured an Act of Parliament
in 1525, requiring that "no manner of persons
strangers that happened to arrive with their ships,
within any part of the realm, should bring with
them any books of the said Luther, his disciples,
or servants, on pain of imprisonment, besides the



€^e (§aBBan^isne QBifife.

forfeiture of their ships and goods." This edict
seemingly failed to effect their purpose, and fresh
alarm seized the clergy because of a rumour that
the forbidden works were being brought into the
country by the "king's lieges." In August 1527,
accordingly, an additional clause was added to the
former edict. " That all other, the king's lieges,
assistaries to such opinions, be punished in seem-
able wise, and the effect of the said Act to strike
upon them."

As the importation of " books of religion " was
a clandestine and dangerous traffic, there is no
distinct record of it, though little doubt exists that
some of Luther's writings had entered Scotland by
this time, but the only books which can be certainly
traced were copies of T3'ndale's New Testament.
Not only was this the case in Scotland, but also in
England — both countries being supplied from the
Continent; and neither, though so closely connected,
being in this matter dependent on the other. John
Hackett was English ambassador in Antwerp at
the time of this clandestine importation, and one of
his duties was to purchase and burn, or " see justice
done," to all such English books as were called
the New Testament, " for the preservation of Chris-
tian faith." In a letter dated 20th February 1526,
Hackett informed Cardinal Wolsey that " there


tH Q^ifife in ^coffanb. 19

were divers merchants of Scotland that bought many
like books, and sent them from Zealand into Scot-
land; a part to Edinburgh, and more part to the
town of St, Andrews." As February was the
closing month of the year, which then began in
March, it is evident, from the first edict referred
to above, that these were not the first copies of
Tyndale's New Testament brought into Scotland
in that manner ; as, besides St. Andrews, the ports
of Leith, Montrose, and Aberdeen traded with
Zealand. No official steps to exclude the Bible by
name being taken for five years after this, it may
reasonably be inferred that many copies entered
again and again by those ports, and that the best
part of them, as Hackett says, found their way
to St. Andrews, " the very metropolis of super-

By the reception of the Bible into the country,
the years 1525 and 1526 thus became, as has
been well said, " by far the most remarkable in
the annals of Scotland." The welcome the Book
received, however, was not an unmixed one. The
common people received it gladly, but its introduc-
tion met with fierce opposition from men in authority
— alike from clergy, lawgivers and lawyers, and
scholars, who deprecated its admission as an evil
of the greatest magnitude ; for they very soon


20 t'^e ^asean^i^ne Q$i6fe.

realised that, if the Scriptures once got possession
of the minds of the people, their authority and
influence would ultimately be undermined. One
Scottish priest wrote against the common people
having the Word of God in their own hands as
follows : " Are all merchands, tailours, souters,
baxters, wha cannot learne their awin craftes
without skilful maisters, ar thir, I say, and uther
temporal men, of whatsomever vocation or degree,
sufficient doctor of thame selfis to reid and under-
stand the hie mysteries of the Bible ? What
folie is it that wemen, wha cannot sew, cairde, nor
spin, without they lerne the same of uther skilful
wemen, suld usurp to reid and interpret the Bible !"
About the same time. Dr. Buckenham, prior of
Blackfriars, London, spoke at Cambridge in a
similar strain of the danger of having the Scriptures
in the native tongue : " If that heresy," said he,
" should prevail, we should soon see an end of
everything useful among us. The ploughman read-
ing that if he put his hand to the plough, and should
happen to look back, he was unfit for the kingdom
of God, would soon lay aside his labour ; the
baker, likewise, reading that a little leaven will
corrupt the whole lump, would give us very insipid
bread ; the simple man likewise finding himself
commanded to pluck out his eyes, in a few years


t^e (§me in ^coffan^.

we should have the nation full of blind beggars."
When those in authority held such repressive
opinions, it is no wonder that martyrdom soon
followed in the track of Tyndale's New Testament
— that it brought not peace, but a sword. In
February 1528, at the very time Cuthbert Tonstal
and his vicar-general were sitting in judgment
upon the Word of God in London, it was also
being condemned in Scotland by the martyrdom of
Patrick Hamilton, the leader of the noble army of
martyrs in the British Isles during the sixteenth

Patrick Hamilton, born in 1504, and the great-
grandson of James the Second, received the elements
of his education at St. Andrews, and afterwards
studied on the Continent, chiefly at Paris and
Louvaine. On his return to Scotland, to find his
mother a widow, his father having been slain in
the feud between the Douglases and the Hamiltons
on the 30th April 1520, Patrick was again entered
at St. Andrews, then the centre of ecclesiastical
influence in Scotland, in whose castle the Primate
resided, and there pursued his theological studies
with special reference to the controversy regarding
the doctrines of the Reformation, of which he had
heard so much on the Continent. He was not at
this early period inclined to Luther — he rather pre-

€^c Q$a66anbgne (J$i6fe.

ferred Erasmus ; but though he had been Abbot
of Feme from his boyhood, such was his hatred to
monkish hypocrisy, that an old biographer says
"he never assumed the monkish habit or resided
with the monks." It is evident that Hamilton
when he took orders had no thought of separating
himself from the Romish Church, but it was not
long before, like Luther, he was driven from her
communion, as the conviction forced itself on him
that allegiance to the Word of God and to the
Pope were incompatible. With increased interest
he continued his studies, and especially that of the
Scriptures, though he had not as yet seen them
in English. However, a copy of Tyndale's New
Testament, one of those furtively brought into the
country in bales of merchandise, at length fell into
Hamilton's hands at St. Andrews, and rumours
that he held heretical opinions soon reached Arch-
bishop Beaton, who consequently caused " faith-
ful inquisition " to be made, and discovered that
Hamilton was infected with "heresy, disputing, hold-
ing, and manifesting divers heresies of Luther."
His liberty and life being now in danger, Patrick
Hamilton fled to Germany, and eventually reached
Wittemberg, where he found himself side by side
with Luther. The happy results which he now
saw in Germany, as the fruit of the circulation of


t^e Igifife in ^cotfanb. 23

the Scriptures, both astonished and deHghted him ;
the monasteries were deserted, and the churches,
purified from Romish observances, now echoed
with the voice of prayer and praise in a language
which the people could understand.

From Wittemberg Hamilton went to Marburg,
and became the friend of Francis Lambert, John
Fryth, and of William Tyndale, the latter being
then busy with his translation of the Old Testa-
ment. Hamilton's name stands among the earliest
members of the University of Marburg, the first
great school which, after the lapse of centuries,
was established independently of Papal sanction.
Late in the autumn of 1527, Hamilton returned to
Scotland, with the resolve at any cost to expose
the corruptions of Rome, and enforce " the reading
of the Scriptures, and the necessity of repentance
towards God and faith in Christ, in order to good
works." The ardour with which Hamilton now
preached the new doctrines, his learning, courtesy,
blameless character, and noble birth, gave great
weight to his teaching, and made him specially
obnoxious to the clergy, who were panic-struck at
his courage. These upholders of the " old learn-
ing" therefore determined to crush the heresy at
once, lest it should take root in the land. Taking
advantage of King James V.'s absence on a pilgrim-

24 ^^e (§aBBan^isne Q$i6fe.

age to St. Duthack's, Beaton summoned Hamilton
from Feme to St. Andrews, promising him safety ;
but Patrick's friends, seeing his danger, advised
him to fly for his life. Not accepting this advice,
Hamilton was arrested one night in bed, and
carried to the Castle of St. Andrews. Next day,
in the presence of the Cardinal, thirteen articles
were laid to his charge by Alexander Campbell, a
Dominican friar, an inveterate and mortal enemy
of his ; and during the examination the head and
front of Hamilton's offending was proved to be, his
having enforced the reading of the New Testament
in English. On the same day on which his judges
returned their verdict of guilty, Saturday, Feb-
ruary 28, 1528, notwithstanding the Archbishop's
promise, he was burnt at the stake, opposite St.
Salvador's College, and his body reduced to ashes,
before the sun went down.

The second martyr at St. Andrews, Henry
Forrest, a Benedictine monk of Linlithgow, was
also a young man. His martyrdom took place in
I533> "for nou uther crime but because he had ane
New Testament in Engliss," and had been heard
to say that Patrick Hamilton was a true martyr.
" He suffered death at the north stile of the Abbe}'-
Church of St. Andrews, to the intent that all the
people of Forfar and Angus might see the fire, and


t^e (f tfife in ^coffanb. 25

so might be the more feared from faUing into the
like doctrine, which they call heresy."

Throughout Scotland the martyrdom of Patrick
Hamilton aroused much excitement, and nowhere
was the feeling deeper than in St. Andrews itself,
the Rome of Scotland, and it provoked inquiry
everywhere into the reason why he had suffered,
and in many cases inquiry led to the new doctrines
being embraced. Among those who now cast in
their lot with the " New Testamenters," as they
began to be called, was Alexander Seaton, the king's
confessor ; and the clergy in consequence became
generall}'' more and more alarmed, wondering how
it would all end. " My lord," said the shrewd
John Lindsay to Archbishop Beaton, " if ye burn
any more, except 3^e follow my counsel, ye will
utterly destroy yourselves. If ye will burn them,
let it be in how [hollow] cellars, for the reek [smoke]
of Master Patrick Hamilton has infected as many
as it blew upon." Despite this and similar warn-
ings, an earnest search after heretics began, and
for some years many of Scotland's nobility, as well
as canons and friars, suffered martyrdom for the
Protestant faith, while others recanted, fearing the
terrible death which awaited them, and many more
fled to England and to the Continent for shelter
from their ecclesiastical persecutors.


26 ^^e (J5a60anbpnc QSifife.

During the years between 1 529 and 1 534, frequent
traces are met with of the continued arrival of the
New Testament. While searching for Tyndale at
Cologne, copies of his translation were discovered,
" which would," says the inquisitor, writing to
Wolsey, " but for my interposition, have been
pressed together, and covered over with flax, and,
enclosed in packages, would, in time, without any
suspicion, have been transmitted by sea into Scot-
land and England, and have been sold as merely
waste paper." All through these years, the first
decided controversy in Britain, which respected the
right of every one, " both high and low, rich and
poor together," to read the Scriptures in their own
tongue, was being carried on. In the forefront of
this controversy in Scotland was Alexander Ales,
a priest and canon of the Cathedral of St. Andrews.
He was but twenty-eight years old when the start-
ling fact transpired that by means of prohibited
books some canons and students were infected by
the " new learning." Ales read the books to refute
them, and when Patrick Hamilton was delivered
unto death, he strove to reclaim him and save his
life. But he failed ; and, overcome by the argu-
ments, and still more by the noble constancy of the
martyr, he acknowledged himself conquered, and
embraced the new doctrines. His faith was sorely


t^c (gim in ^coffan^.

tested, and after much endurance, he fled to Dundee,
from which place he sailed for the Continent in 1 5 3 1.
Scarcely had Ales escaped, when the bishops issued
an order to prohibit the New Testament from being
read or sold in the country.

In England, as well as Scotland, the ecclesiastical
authorities were at one on this matter — the repres-
sion of the Scriptures : and yet for some years past,
in both countries, they had been welcomed, and
held fast by multitudes even unto death ; while, as
if to show that the work was altogether independent
of human control, those two men — William Tyn-
dale, the English translator of the New Testament,
and Alexander Ales, the principal advocate of its
free circulation in Scotland, stood, as it were, aloof,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam T DobsonHistory of the Bassandyne Bible, the first printed in Scotland; with notices of the early printers of Edinburgh → online text (page 1 of 11)