Isaac Basire 1608-1676

From Book Owners Online

Isaac BASIRE 1608-1676

Biographical Note

Born at or near Rouen, France, the son of Jean Basire, an advocate and minor nobleman. MA Leiden University; BD St John’s College, Cambridge 1636, DD 1640. Studied at the Hague before moving to England, by 1629, where he became chaplain to Thomas Morton, Bishop of Durham. Prebendary of Durham 1643, Archdeacon of Northumberland 1644, but then sequestered. After moving around in England he moved to Rouen in 1647, with the sons of three royalist families, who he took on a tour to Italy in 1648-49. During 1650-54 he travelled through the near east, actively promoting knowledge of the Church of England to the Greek Orthodox congregations there. In 1654 he became professor of theology at the University of Alba Julia in Transylvania, but was forced to flee by a Turkish invasion in 1655, after which he travelled with Prince George Racoczi II as his secretary. After the Prince’s death in 1660 Basire returned to England and his positions in Durham; he worked with Bishop John Cosin there to restore the fabric and discipline of the Church in the north of England. His publications included The history of the English and Scottish presbyteries (1650), The ancient liberty of the Britannick church (1661) and Sacrilege arrainged (1668).


Basire’s library was auctioned in London by Thomas Ballard, 2 February 1710. The sale catalogue (which also included, separately, the library of the lawyer John Lane) noted the inclusion of “many valuable uncommon books … in divinity, history … most of the classicks of the old Elzivers and other choice editions, well bound”. It listed 1659 lots, plus 52 volumes of tracts and 4 manuscripts, divided between Greek and Latin books (892), French, Italian, Spanish etc (229) and English (538). Examples: Cambridge UL Y.9.12, BL ms Harl. 1594.

Characteristic Markings

Cambridge UL Y.9.12 (Constantini, 1648) has an inscription at the head of the titlepage noting the book’s presentation to Basire, by the author, in 1649; it has a Durham binding of ca.1665-75.