William Caxton


William Caxton was an Englishmen who lived for many years in Bruges, in Flanders. He was at first a merchant but later became a translator, and in this context became familiar with the new printing inventions of Gutenberg. In Bruges he produced the first printed book ever written in English, a translation of the story of the Trojan War. Shortly thereafter learned the printing business, acquired all that was necessary to set up his own shop, and returned to England where he worked for some time out of a monastery. For the following sixteen years he worked at a furious rate, translating many books and pamphlets to English, printing, and distributing them.

Caxton worked on a great variety of texts, but most of his famous works were written for purposes of entertainment rather than philosophical or religious works. His two most famous productions included the story of King Arthur, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, both of which, thereafter, became exceedingly widely read. He also published books of proverbs, a chess manual, and stories of the lives of saints. Most of his work, however, were popular stories of chivalry. The task of producing works in written English was a challenge because of various dialects and spelling. His works served greatly to standardize English as a written language.

Key events during the life of William Caxton:

William Caxton born in Kent
Worked in Bruges as a merchant.
Death of Gutenberg
Produced first printed book in English on a printing press in Bruges.
Bought the first printing press to England.
  Printed Le Morte d'Arthur
  Printed Canterbury Tales

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
William Caxton, Printer  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Henry VII. and the Beginning of Modern Times  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Invention of Printing  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
William Caxton  in  Great Englishmen  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Caxton Before Edward IV
 in Stories From English History, Part Second

King Edward IV. visiting Caxton's Press
 in  The Story of the English

Great nobles visited Caxton's workshop.
 in English Literature for Boys and Girls

 in The Discovery of New Worlds

William Caxton
 in Great Englishmen

Short Biography
Edward IV Son of the Duke of York. Became king of England when other aspirants were dead or deposed.
Henry VII Descendent of John of Gaunt (a Lancaster) who fought Richard the Usurper for the throne.
Wynkyn de Worde Publisher who assisted William Caxton in his first print shop.
Margaret Beaufort Mother of Henry Tudor. Benefactor of Cambridge University.