The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






William Caxton

William Caxton (c. 1422 - c. 1491) was the first English printer. He was born in Kent, and came to London as apprentice to a mercer, a dealer in cloth.

In 1446, he departed for Bruges, where he was successful in business and became governor of the Merchant Adventurers . His trade brought him into contact with Burgundy, and it was thus that he became a member of the household of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of the English King. This led to more continental travel, in the course of which he observed the new printing industry. He wasted no time in setting up a printing press in Bruges, in collaboration with a Fleming, Colard Mansion , on which the first book to be printed in English was produced in 1475 - Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, a translation by Caxton himself. Bringing the knowledge back to his native land, he set up a press at Westminster in 1476, and the first book known to have been printed there was Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres (Sayings of the Philosophers, first printed on November 18, 1477), written by none other than Earl Rivers, the king's brother-in-law. The most important works printed by Caxton were Le Morte d'Arthur and Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.


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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04