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Bassantin, James (DNB00)

BASSANTIN, JAMES (fl. 1568), Scotch astronomer and mathematician, was the son of the laird of Bassendean in the Merse, Berwickshire, and was born in the reign of James IV (1486-1513). He entered the university of Glasgow at an early age, and, after finishing his studies in belles-lettres and philosophy, applied himself specially to mathematics and kindred sciences, in which he acquired remarkable proficiency. He then travelled through the Low Countries, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Germany, and finally settled in Paris, where for several years he taught mathematics with great success. He returned to Scotland in 1562. On the way thither, according to Sir James Melville (Memoirs (Ballantyne Club), p. 203), he met Sir Robert Melville (Sir James's brother), and predicted to him as the result of his study of 'hich seyences' that there would be 'at length captivity and utter wreck ' for Mary at the Queen of England's hands, and also that the kingdom of England would at length fall of right to the crown of Scotland, but at the cost of many bloody battles, at which the Spaniards would be helpers, 'taking a part to themselves for their labours, quhilk they will be laith to leave again.' The latter part of this prediction was so belied by events as totally to discredit the astrological claims which might have obtained feasible support by the fulfilment of the earlier part, although Mary's ruin could easily have been foreseen by many other persons. Bassantin, it may be added, was a keen politician, and a supporter of the regent Murray. He is said not to have been skilled in any language except his mother tongue and French. He wrote his books in the latter language, which he spoke with difficulty, and wrote very ungrammatically; but although the Latin, Greek, and Arabic books on astronomy were shut to him, and he thus depended for his knowledge in a great degree on his own observation, he had the reputation of being one of the chief astronomers of his time. His planetary system was, however, that of Ptolemy. He died in 1568. His principal work is his 'Astronomique Discours,' Lyons, 1557, a Latin translation of which, under the title 'Astronomia Jacobi Bassantini Scoti, opus absolutissimum,' was published at Geneva in 1559 by John Tornœsius, who, in an epistle addressed to Frederick IV, count palatine of the Rhine, gives a very eulogistic account of the author. In 1555 Bassantin published at Lyons a corrected edition of the work of Jacques Focard, 'Paraphrase de l'Astrolabe,' to which he added 'Une Amplification de l'usage de l'Astrolabe.' This work, is erroneously referred to in all accounts of Bassantin as wholly his own. Another edition by Dominique Jacquinot appeared in 1598. Bassantin also wrote 'Super Mathematica Genethlinca,' or 'Calculs des Horoscops:' 'Arithmetica;' 'Musique selon Platon;' and 'De Mathesi in genere,' but probably these were never published, as their date is not given in any bibliographical work.

[Dempster's Hist. Eccl. Gent. Scot. (1627), pp. 107-8; Tanners Bibl. Brit. 79; Mackenzie's Scottish Writers, iii. 81-99; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), i. 675-7; Melville's Memoirs, ut supra; Nouvelle Biographia Génèrale, iv. 696-7; Hutton's Math. Dict. i. 216; Edinburgh Advocates' Library Catalogue; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. F. H.