From 'Catalogue of the Pamphlets, Books, Newspapers, and Manuscripts relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and Restoration, collected by George Thomason, 1640-1661.' Vol I. Catalogue of the Collection, 1640-1652. British Museum 1908.

by G.K. Fortescue, Keeper of Printed Books.

[Exerpts from the text without convention of quote marks; paragraphs not as in original. Passages within square brackets are summaries of original text.]

       [GEORGE THOMASON]...Bookseller, of the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church Yard... son of George Thomason, of Sudlow, a hamlet in the Hundred of Bucklow, Cheshire, ... a 'Husbandman,' probably a farmer... 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'... [O]n 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 [lit.] 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... 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... 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....
      On the 21st May, 1647, Thomason issued a printed catalogue [of works he had collected]... There are in all 1970 books and manuscripts... In March 1647 it was ordered [by Parliament that the collection be purchased]... The books were accordingly sent to Cambridge [with payment possibly arriving after a number of difficulties some time later]...
       [Thomason appears to have served as a member of the Common Council of the City of London for 1647 and 1648. However he would have been amongst those included in an Ordinance of Parliament dated 20th December 1648] forbidding the election to any office in the City of all those who had subscribed to any engagement or petition for the personal treaty with the King.

       In April 1651 Thomason was arrested and imprisoned at Whitehall under the charge of being concerned in the affair known as the "Love Plot". Many Presbyterian gentlemen, citizens of London and ministers, were concerned in this conspiracy, the main objects of which were to join the scotch in the restoration of Charles II. as a Covenanting Monarch and to secure the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. The evidence against Thomason rested on the confession and examination of Thomas Coke of Drayton, a younger son of Sir John Coke, Secretary of State 1625-1638... [Thomas Coke, a Royalist agent was wanted for treason and gave in Thomason to save his life.] Coke's confessions are printed in the Thirteenth Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission (MSS. at Welbeck, Vol. I. pp. 576-604). According to his evidence, Thomason had taken a leading part in delivering letters written by Charles II. from Breda to the London Presbyterian ministers... . the 'Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding,' page 2769, and the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, pp. 218, 219, 230, give the history of Thomason's arrest and release. [Starting with the order on 11 April, 1651, to seize all of his estate, and then details of his bail costs.]... Thomason was not included in the indictment against Christopher Love, nor was he called as a witness at his trial, which took place in June and July, 1651. Considering the serious nature of the charges brought against him, he was fortunate in escaping with some weeks of imprisonment and some unpleasant enquiries and researches... I think it highly probably that it was during the course of the Love Conspiracy, perhaps immediately after hearing of Coke's arrest, that Thomason sent the whole of his collection, as far as it then existed, to the care of Dr. Barlow, at the Bodleian [and thus ensuring with proof of the sale that they could not be confiscated]...
      However this may have been, it is interesting to note that Thomason's imprisonment in no way impeded the progress of his collection.... [He also acquired in 1656 the copyrights of the important bookseller Robert Bostock.]
       Owing in part to the more efficient exercise of the laws against unlicensed printing under Cromwell's rule he was justified at the moment in considering the pamphlets issued 'few and inconsiderable,' but in the years of anarchy and expectation which followed the death of Cromwell the flow of pamphlets increased rapidly, and the years 1659 and 1660 are among the fullest and most interesting periods of the entire collection. On page 221 of Vol. II. will be found a MS. in Thomason's handwriting entitled, Some things relating to the thirtie Tyrants of Athens, with the addition of the names of some of the chiefe Traytors and Tyrants of England. The MS. consists of extracts from Raleigh's History of the World with a list of the 'Regicides' and a note reading:-"Which with these aditions [lit.] of mine, I was very desirous to have published, but noe printer then durst venture upon it. Anno 1658. Geo. Thomason." It will be observed that this note also has been added to the original text after the Restoration. Among the pamphlets issued in 1659 is a broadside entitled Six New Queries, dated by Thomason 29th Oct., and bearing also a note in his handwriting which reads "N.B.G.T." I think that it may be taken as at least probable that he himself is the author of these queries which tersely express the opinions of a Presbyterian or moderate Royalist keenly desirous of the suppression of the army, and of the free election of a new Parliament. The first query, which may be taken as summing up the contents of the other five, reads "Whether or No, any rational man in England can or may expect any good from a Parliament when an Army is in power at the same time in the Nation."

      On the 21st Nov. 1664, Thomason signed his will [his wife and a daughter predeceasing him. At this time he had six children alive. His collection he leaves in the trust of three people for the benefit of his three sons] In his will he directs that he should be buried in St. Dunstan's in the West as near as possible to the tomb of his wife Katharine Thomason. [As there was another George Thompson, a bookseller of the White Horse, Chancery Lane, mentioned in the death register, there is a confusion over whether the entry in the burial registers of St.Dunstan refer to this George Thomason,] 'George Thompson stationer was buryed in the Upper Churchyd, 13 Febuary 1666 (N.S.).' ... There could in fact be no room for doubt that George Thomason was buried on the 13th Feb. 1666, were it not that in the Obituary of Richard Smyth, being a catalogue of all such persons as he knew in their life from 1627 to 1674 (Sloane MS. 886, edited for the Camden Society, 1849), the following passage appears: "10th April, 1666, Geo. Thomason, bookseller buried out of Stationers Hall (a poore man)." Richard Smyth is well known as a collector of valuable books, and had probably had dealings with Thomason. His statement bears all the marks of authenticity, and the reference to Thomason's poverty is in accordance with the fears expressed in the codicils to his will.. [The collection escaped the Great Fire of London in September 1666 by virtue of being in the "custody of Barlow and his co-trustees" in Oxford. By various routes and after different owners] The collection was presented to the Trustees of the British Museum, with a letter from the Earl of Bute, dated 22nd July, 1762...