Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Damon, William

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DAMON or DAMAN, WILLIAM (16th cent.), one of Queen Elizabeth's musicians, is probably the earliest composer who set the Psalms in the vernacular to part-music. His work appeared first in 1579, printed by John Day, with a preface by Edward Hake, who relates how these compositions were secretly ‘gathered together from the fertile soyle of his honest frend, Guilielmo Daman,’ by one ‘John Bull, citezen and goldsmith of London,’ and how Bull ‘ hasted forthwith of himself … to commit the same to the presse.’ The work appeared in four oblong quarto part-books, and is now of great rarity, the edition probably being bought up by the composer or his friends. In 1591 another version of Daman's Psalms appeared from Thomas East's press. This work was published by William Swayne, and by him dedicated to Lord Burghley. In the preface to this work Swayne says that the former publication ‘not answering the expectation that many had of the auctor's skill, gave him occasion to take uppon him a new labour to recover the wrong his friend did in publishing that that was so done.’ The work appeared in two forms, in one of which the melody of the psalm is in the tenor part, in the other in the treble. Both versions are in four separate part-books. The words of both the 1579 and 1591 editions are taken from Sternhold and Hopkins's version of the Psalms, but the contents of the two editions are not the same. Neither is entered in the register of the Stationers' Company. In the later publication Daman is styled ‘late one of her Majestie's Musitions.’ It is possible that he was dead when it appeared. The only other extant compositions of his are a Miserere and some sacred music in lute tablature preserved in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 5054, 31992, 29246).

[Hawkins's Hist. of Music, iii. 579; Burney's Hist. of Music, iii. 53; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. ed. 1748, 217.]

W. B. S.