The Parisian printer and publisher Pierre-François Basan acquired around 80 etching plates by Rembrandt from his fellow Parisian dealer C.-H. Watelet, who had in turn bought them from an Amsterdam dealer. Rembrandt's plates had been coveted and admired for their technical skill even during the artist's lieftime. The so-called Basan receuil, published in 1789, constituted a landmark not only in the history of Rembrandt scholarship, but also in the development of the academic study of art. For the first time a volume containing an overview of Rembrand's work printed from his own plates was available to the collecting public. It was, in many respects, the first illustrated catalogue of an artist's work.
The Receuils have now become very desirable in their own right as their place in Rembrandt's etched work is increasingly recognised. As Eric Hinterding discusses in his detailed study of the subject (Zwolle, undated) dating individual albums is problematic as variations in presentation, contents and paper type are known for each of the publishers, Basan and later. This particular copy is highly unusual in that the plates have been printed directly onto the album pages, rather than onto smaller sheets which were then tipped-in.
What we do know in relation to the present album is that the H. L. Basan title-page dates it between 1789 (when the Basan sons took over from their father) and 1810 (when the dealer Antoine Jean acquired the plates and changed the title address). The present album also includes an impression of Jan Lutma (B. 276), the plate for which was probably bought by H.L. Basan around 1807, and also an impression from the original plate of The Death of the Virgin (B. 99), which became very worn and was replaced in the later Basan albums.