The English printed word has been around for a long time – since 1473 in fact, when William Caxton printed his very own translation of Recuyell of the Histories of Troy. Caxton started his career at the tender age of 14 as an apprentice to a wealthy London merchant, before travelling abroad and learning about European printing techniques. In 1476 Caxton brought his printing knowledge back to Britain, and set up a press in Westminster.
Interestingly, the public appetite for written romance seems to be as old as the printed word itself. The nobility and gentry hungered for chivalric romances in the late-fifteenth century in much the same way as we pore over the gossip column today. Unfortunately for them, their romances came at a slightly higher price. With a limited English print supply, their patronage supported Caxton’s existence until his death in 1891.
During his life, Caxton:
- – printed 108 books
- – published 87 different titles
- – translated 26 titles himself
- – focused on the English language, publishing four fifths of his books in English
- – was responsible for much of the standardisation of the English language in print, through the homogenisation of regional dialects
- – put the ‘h’ into ‘ghost’, following the Flemish style.
In 2002, Caxton was listed as one of the 100 Greatest Britons by the BBC’s poll.