William Caxton

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Caxton, William,

c.1421–91, English printer, the first to print books in English. He served apprenticeship as a mercer and from 1463 to 1469 was at Bruges as governor of the Merchants Adventurers in the Low Countries, serving as a diplomat for the English king. He learned printing in Cologne in 1471–72, and at Bruges in 1475 he and Colard Mansion printed The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, his own translation from the French, and the first book printed in English. In 1476 he returned to England, and at Westminster in 1477 he printed Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, the first dated book printed in England. Caxton is known to have printed about 100 books, many dealing with themes of chivalry. He was the translator, from French, Latin, and Dutch, of about one third of the books that he printed, and for some he wrote original prologues, epilogues, and additions. His books are of superb craftsmanship and are carefully edited. One of the typefaces used by Caxton is the original Old English type. The size of this type of Caxton's (14 point) is known as English. Wynkyn de WordeWynkyn de Worde
, d. 1535, English printer, whose original name was Jan van Wynkyn. He was born at Wörth in Alsace and probably accompanied William Caxton to England in 1476. He assisted in the work of Caxton at Westminster and after Caxton's death took over his business.
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, his successor as a printer, was his assistant at Westminster, and the printers Richard Pynson and Robert Copland refer to Caxton (possibly figuratively) as their master.


See biographies by N. S. Aurer (1926, repr. 1965), H. R. Plomer (1925, repr. 1968), N. F. Blake (1969) and G. D. Painter (1977).

Caxton, William


Born 1422; died 1491. The first English printer.

The first printed book issued by Caxton was a translation from French into English of R. Le Fèvre’s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (Bruges, 1475). In 1476 he set up a press in Westminster (a London suburb). It has been calculated that 96 various editions, mostly in English, were produced by Caxton, including the first English book to bear a date—Dictes and Sayenges of the Philosophres (1477). There are no title pages in Caxton’s books. He began decorating his books with his printer’s seal (the letters “W. C.” in an ornamental frame) in 1487.


Katsprzhak, E. I. Istoriia knigi. Moscow, 1964.
Duff, E. G. William Caxton. Chicago, 1905.
Biihler, C. F. William Caxton and His Critics. [New York] 1960.
References in periodicals archive ?
See also Madan, "Early Oxford Press"; and Hellinga, William Caxton, 80-81, figs.
The Prologues and Epilogues of William Caxton, EETS, O.
to consider the propriety of commemorating the fourth centenary of the introduction into England by William Caxton of the art of printing.
It could not have taken place without the invention of printing, brought to England by William Caxton.
William Caxton, who prospered at Westminster, near the royal court and Parliament, from 1476 to 1491, producing some 100 books.
Based on George Chapman's translation of the Iliad and on 15th-century accounts of the Trojan War by John Lydgate and William Caxton, Troilus and Cressida is an often cynical exploration of the betrayal of love, the absence of heroism, and the emptiness of honor.
William Caxton, England's first publisher, concentrated his efforts on books that appealed to him and his associates in the courts of Edward IV and Richard III.
It was one of the works chosen for publication in 1485 by William Caxton, the first English printer, who gave it the title Le Morte d'Arthur and complained in a famous preface that Arthur was far better known and appreciated in other countries than his own.
William Caxton and Tim Berners-Lee (Comparing People from the Past)
William Caxton was a mercer, as many who study him are quick to note.