Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nelson, Thomas (fl.1580)
NELSON, THOMAS (fl. 1580), printer and ballad writer, was probably the Thomas Nelson of Clare Hall, Cambridge, who proceeded B.A. in 1568. On 8 Oct. 1580 he was made free of the Stationers' Company. On 24 June 1583 he took an apprentice (Stationers' Reg. ed. Arber, ii. 41 b, cf. ib. i. 237). Ames says Nelson ‘dwelt against the great south door of St. Paul's,’ but in the colophon of the British Museum copy of ‘A Short Discourse’ (infra) Nelson describes his shop as under London Bridge. The last entry of a work on his account in the ‘Stationers' Register’ appears to be of date 14 Aug. 1592. The wills of two Thomas Nelsons, one a mercer and the other a clerk of the warrants and estreats, were proved respectively on 30 Sept. 1603 and 23 Sept. 1608 (Somerset House, Windebanke, 81); but neither can be certainly identified with the printer.
According to the ‘Stationers' Register,’ ii. 262, Nelson was the printer of the first and surreptitious edition of Sir Philip Sidney's ‘Sonnets’ of 1591, but Thomas Newman's name alone appears on the title-page. He chiefly devoted himself to short tracts or ballads, most of which were doubtless of his own composition. Of those named below, the first three are ascribed to him on his own authority: 1. ‘A Short Discourse explaining the Substance of all the late pretended Treasons against the Queene's Majesty and Estates of this Realme by sundry Traytors who were Executed for the same on the 20 and 21 Daies of September last past 1586 whereunto is adjoyned a Godly Prayer for the Safetie of Her Highnesse Person Her Honorable Counsaile and all other her obedient Servants,’ 4to, black letter (Brit. Mus.; cf. Corser, Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, v. 165, Chetham Soc.; Farr, Select Poetry of Reign of Queen Elizabeth, ii. 551, Parker Soc., and Roxburghe Ballads, pp. 189–96). 2. ‘The Device of the Pageant set forth by the Worshipful Companie of the Fishmongers for the Right Honorable John Allot, established Lord Mayor of London, and Mayor of the Staple for this Present Yeare of Our Lord, 1590,’ London, 1590 (Brit. Mus.) 3. ‘A Memorable Epitaph made upon the lamentable complaint of the People of England for the Death of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Walsingham,’ folio sheet, London, 1590.
The authorship of the following is more doubtful. None of them appear to be extant, though they are separately entered in the ‘Stationers' Registers.’ 4. A ballad entitled ‘Clinton's Lamentacyon,’ licensed to T. Parfoot and T. Nelson, 19 Aug. 1583. 5. ‘A Jest of Bottell Ale,’ entered ‘Stationers' Register,’ 19 Aug. 1583. 6. ‘The Traditor Francis Throkmorton’ (cf. Hazlitt, Bibl. Coll. ii. 598). 7. ‘The Sayler's newe Tantara,’ entered 19 July 1584. 8. ‘A Brief Discourse of foure cruell Murders,’ &c., entered 2 Nov. 1584. 9. ‘Certen goode Advertisements to be observed with diligence in this Life before we depart hence,’ entered 11 Jan. 1586. 10. ‘A tragicall Dyttie of a yonge married wyfe who fayned herself sick,’ &c., entered 7 Nov. 1586. 11. ‘Goe to Rest,’ same date. 12. ‘A lamentable Dyttie showinge the Cruelty of a Farmer,’ same date. 13. ‘Of a Christian Conference betwene Christ and a Synner,’ same date. 14. ‘A Prayer or Thankesgivinge made by the Prisoners of Ludgate in ye 29 Yere of the Quenes Reign,’ entered 21 Dec. 1587. 15. ‘Certen Poesies upon the Playinge Cardes,’ entered 5 Oct. 1588. 16. ‘An Excellent Dyttie of the Queenes comminge to Paules Crosse the 24th Daie of November 1588,’ entered 26 Nov. 1588. 17. ‘A Dolorouse Dyttie and most sweet sonett made upon the lamentable end of a godlie and vertuous ladie lately famished in Parris,’ entered 29 April 1590. 18. ‘A Pleasant newe Ballad wherein is descryde how 3 Persons for Lechery through London did ryde,’ entered 15 May 1590. 19. ‘A newe Scottyshe Sonnett made betwene a Kynge and his Love.’ 20. ‘A most Excellent Dittye made upon Sundrye Strange Thinges which have lately happened and on sundrye horrible crymes lately committed,’ entered 27 July 1590. 21. ‘A Dittye of the Fight uppon the Seas the 4 of June last in the Straytes of Gibraltare betwene the George and the Thomas Bonaventure and viii Gallies with 3 ffrigates,’ entered 31 July 1590. 22. ‘All the Merrie Prankes of him that whipps men in the highe waies,’ entered 16 Feb. 1591. 23. ‘A newe Northerne Dialogue betwene Will Sone and the Warriner, and howe Reynold Peares gott faire Nanny to his love,’ entered 13 Aug. 1591. 24. ‘A Subtell Practice Wrought in Paris by Friar Franncis who deceived Fryer Donnat of a sweet skind Nun which he secretly kept at London,’ printed for Thomas Nelson, 1590, 4to (Hazlitt, Handbook, p. 210). 25. ‘The Seconde Parte of the Gigge betwene Rowland and the Sexton’ (licensed to T. Nelson, 11 Dec. 1591).[Corser's Collect. Anglo-Poet. v. 65 (Chetham Soc. Publ. vol. cvi.); Farr's Select Poetry of Reign of Queen Eliz. ii. 551 (Parker Soc.); Hazlitt's Bibl. Collections; Arber's Registers of Stationers' Company, ii. 197, 212 seq.; Collier's Roxburghe Ballads; Cooper's Athenæ Cant. ii. 12; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. (Herbert), iii. 1349–51; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Harl. Soc. Publ. xxv. 280.]