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THE re-issue of Charles Knight's " The Old Printer " 
has been considered appropriate to the celebration of 
the Quarcentenary of the Introduction of Printing into 
England. The author himself was a worthy follower 
of Caxton, and his name marks an era in the spread of 
literature by means of the printing press. 

No alteration has been made in the text of the work ; 
but since its original publication considerable advances, 
as the reader will notice, have been made towards the 
fulfilment of the author's aspirations. 

All profits arising from the sale of this 
volume will be devoted to the "Caxton 
Fund" now being formed in connection 
with the Celebration of the Quarcentenary of 
the Introduction of Printing into England. 

June, 1877. 





The Weald of Kent Caxton's School-days -^Vench_disusfd 
English taught Variations, in English Books U-t'ure 
Printing Libraries Transcribers Books for the Great 
Book Trade No Books for the People Changes produced -^ 
by Printing .. .. .. .. .. .. 11 


The Mercer's Apprentice His Book-knowledge Com.merra 
inBfioks Schools in London City Apprentices City 
Pageants gprcad of English Language English Writers 
Chaucer Gower Lydgate The Minstrels National 
Literature .. .. .. .. .. .. ..26 


Caxton Abroau Caxton's Mercantile Pursuits Restrictions 
on Trade Caxton's Commission Merchants* TVlafks 
Beginnings of Printing Playing Cards Wood-engraving 
Block-books Movable Types Guttenberg Gutten- 
berg's Statue Festival at Mentz .. .. .. ..47 


The Court of Burgundy Caxton a Translator Literature of 
Chivalry Feudal Times Caxton at the Ducal Court 
Did Caxton print at Bruges Edward the Fugitive The 
New Art 62 




of Priming Who tl.c first E; glish Printer Caxtou 
thft_first_EgW8h-^ter FjrstKnglish Printed Book 
Difficulties of the first Printers Ancient Bookbinding 
The Printer a Publisher Conditions of Cheapness in 
Books .. ^T~" .. " 80 


The Press at Westminster Theological Books Character of 
Cux ton's Press The Troy Book The Game of the Chess. . 100 


Female Manners Lord Rivers Popular History Popular 
Science Popular Fables Popular Translations The Can- 
terbury Tales Statutes Books of Chivalry Caxton's last 
Days ".. 113 


^ ~ 

The Chapel The Comrauions Increase of Readers Books 

make Readers Caxton's Types Wynkyn's Dream The 
first Paper-mill ..136 

INVENTION OF PRINTING .. .. .. .. .. 149 

BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTON .. .. .. .. .. 152 
















WORLD' 123 








the first book printed in the English language, 
the subject of which was the ' Histories of 
Troy,' William Caxton, the translator of the 
work from the French, in his prologue or 
preface, says, by way of apology for his sim- 
pleness and imperfectness in the French and English 
languages, " In France was I never, and was born and 
learned mine English in Kent, in the Weald, where I 
doubt not is spoken as broad and rude English as in any 
place of England." The Weald of Kent is now a fertile 
district, rich in corn-land and pasture, with farm-houses 
and villages spread over its surface, intersected by good 
roads, and a railway running through the heart of it, 


bringing the scattered inhabitants closer and closer to 
each other. But at the period when William Caxton was 
born, and learnt his English in the Weald, it was a wild 
district with a scanty population; its inhabitants had 
little intercourse with the towns, the affairs of the busy 
world went on without their knowledge and assistance, 
they were more separated from the great body of their 
countrymen than a settler in Canada or Australia is at 
the present day. It is easy to understand therefore why 
they should have spoken a " broad and rude English " at 
the time of Caxton's boyhood, during the reign of Henry V. 
and the beginning of that of Henry VI. William Lam- 
barde, who wrote a hundred and fifty years after this 
period, having published his ' Perambulation of Kent ' in 
1570, mentions as a common opinion touching this Weald 
of Kent, " that it was a great while together in manner 
nothing else but a desert and waste wilderness, not planted 
with towns or peopled with men as the outsides of the 
shire were, but stored and stuffed with herds of deer and 
droves of hogs only ;" and he goes on to say that, " although 
the property of the Weald was at the first belonging to 
certain known owners, yet it was not then allotted into 
tenancies." The Weald of Kent came to be taken, he says, 
" even as men were contented to inhabit it, and by peace- 
meal to rid it of the wood, and to break it up with the 
plough." In some lonely farm, then, of this wild district, 
are we, upon the best of evidence, his own words, to fix 
the birth-place and the earliest home of the first English 

The father of William Caxton was in all probability 
a proprietor of land. At any rate, he desired to bestow 
upon his son all the advantages of education which that 
age could furnish. The honest printer, many years after 
his school-days, looks back upon that spring-time of his 


life with feelings that make us honour the simple worth 
of his character. In his ' Life of Charles the Great,' 
printed in 1485, he says, " I have emprised [undertaken] 
and concluded in myself to reduce [translate] this said 
book into our English, as all along and plainly ye may 
read, hear, and see, in this book here following. Beseech- 
ing all them that shall find fault in the same to correct 
and amend it, and also to pardon me of the rude and 
simple reducing. And though so be there no gay terms, 
nor subtle nor new eloquence, yet I hope that it shall be 
understood, and to that intent I have specially reduced it 
after the simple cunning that God hath lent to me, where- 
of I humbly and with all my heart thank Him, and also 
am bounden to pray for my father's and mother's souls, 
that in my youth set me to school, by which, by the 
sufferance of God, I get my living I hope truly. And 
that I may so do and continue, I beseech Him to grant me 
of His grace ; and so to labour and occupy myself vir- 
tuously, that I may come out of debt and deadly sin, tha"* 
after this life I may come to His bliss in heaven." Caxtou 
seems to have had the rare happiness to have had his 
father about him to a late period of his life. According 
to a record in the accounts of the churchwardens of the 
parish church of St. Margaret's, Westminster, in which 
parish the first printer carried on his business, it appears 
that one William Caxton, who is conjectured to have been 
the father, was buried on the 18th of May, 1480. 

Some time before the period of Caxton's boyhood, a 
great change had taken place in the general system of 
education in England. In the time of Edward III., about 
half a century before the period of which we speak, the 
children in the grammar-schools were not taught English 
at all. It was the policy of the first Norman kings, long 
continued by their successors, to get rid of the old English 


or Saxon language altogether; and to make the people 
familiar with the Norman French, the language of the 
conquerors. The new statutes of the realm were written 
in French; so were the decisions of the judges, and the 
commentaries on the laws in general. Ealph Higden, in 
a sort of chronicle which Caxton printed, says, " Children 
in schools, against the usage and manner of all other 
nations, be compelled for to leave their own language, 
and for to construe their lessons and their things in 
French ; and so they have since Normans came first 
into England. Also gentlemen be taught for to speak 
French from the time that they rocked in their cradle, 
and can speak and play with a child's brooch [stick 
or other toy], and uplandishinen [countrymen] will 
liken themselves to gentlemen, and delight with great 
business for to speak French, to be told of." John de 
Ti evisa, the translator of Higden's ' Polychronicon,' 
writing some forty years later, " This manner was much 
used before the Great Plague, and is since some deal 
changed ; for Sir John Cornewaile, a master of grammar, 
changed the teaching in grammar-schools, and construc- 
tion in French ; and other schoolmasters use the same way 
now, in the year of our Lord 1385, the ninth year of 
King Richard II., and leave all French in schools, and use 
all construction in English. Wherein they have advan- 
tage one way : that is, that they learn the sooner their 
grammar; and in another, disadvantage, for now they 
learn no French, which is hurt for them that shall pass 
the sea." It was this change of system, operating upon 
his early instruction, which caused Caxton, as a translator, 
to be so diffident of his own capacity to render faithfully 
what was before him out of French into English. Indeed 
from his earliest youth to the close of his literary career, ' 
the English language was constantly varying, through the 


introduction of new words and phrases ; and there was a 
marked distinction between the courtly dialect and that of 
the commonalty. We have seen how he speaks of the 
broad and rude English of his native Weald. But towards 
the close of his life, in a book printed by him in 1 490, he 
mentions the difficulty he had in pleasing " some gentle- 
men, which late blamed me, saying, that in my transla- 
tions I had over curious terms, which could not be under- 
stood of common people, and desired me to use old and 
homely terms in my translations. And fain would 1 
satisfy every man ; and so to do, took an old book and 
read therein ; and certainly the English was so rude and 
broad that I could not well understand it. And also my 
Lord Abbot of Westminster did show to me late certain 
evidences written in old English, for to reduce it into our 
English now used, and certainly it was written in such 
wise that it was more like to Dutch than English ; I could 
not reduce nor bring it to be understood. And certainly 
our language now used varieth far from that which was 
used and spoken when I was born : for we Englishmen be 
born under the denomination of the moon, which is never 
steadfast, but ever wavering, waxing one season, and 
waneth and decreaseth another season ; and that common 
English that is spoken in one shire varieth from another. 
Insomuch that in my days happened that certain merchants 
were in a ship in Thames, for to have sailed over the sea 
into Zealand, and for lack of wind they tarried at Fore- 
land, and went to land for to refresh them ; and one of 
them named Sheffelde, a mercer, came into an house and 
;isked for meat, and especially he asked after eggs; and 
the good wife answered, that she could speak no French ; 
and the merchant was angry, for he also could speak no 
French, but would have had eggs, and she understood him 
not. And then at last another said that he would havo 


eyren ; then the good wife said that she understood him 
well. Lo, what should a man in these days now write, 
eggs or eyren ? certainly it is hard to please every man, by 
cause of diversity and change of language. For in these 
days every man that is in any reputation in his country 
will utter his communication and matters in such manners 
and terms that few men shall understand them. And 
some honest and good clerks have been with me, and 
desired me to write the most curious terms that I could 
find. And thus between plain, rude, and curious, I stand 
abashed ; but in my judgment, the common terms that be 
daily used be lighter [easier] to be understood than the old 
and ancient English." In these days, when the same 
language with very slight variations is spoken from one 
end of the land to the other, it is difficult to imagine a 
state of things such as Caxton describes, in which the 
"common English which is spoken in one shire varieth 
from another," and there was a marked distinction between 
plain terms and curious terms. Easy and rapid communi- 
cation, and above all the circulation of books, newspapers, 
and other periodical works, all free from provincial expres- 
sions, have made the " over curious terms which could not 
be understood of common people " more familiar to them 
than the " old and homely terms " which their forefathers 
used in their several counties, according to the restricted 
meanings which they retained in their local use. When 
there were no books amongst the community in general, 
there could be no universality of language. Of this want 
of books we may properly exhibit some details, chiefly to 
show one of the most remarkable differences which the 
lapse of four centuries has produced in our country. 

We shall find it, we think, a more agreeable, as well as 
more instructive course, to look at the general subject of 
the supply of books in connection with the orders of people 


who were to use them, rather than presenting a number 
of scattered facts, to exhibit the relative prices and scar, ity 
of books in what are called the middle ages. __ We will first 
take the dergy, jthe_scholars_of those days. The mode in 
which books were multiplied by transcribers in the mona- 
steries is clearly described by Eichard de Bury, bishop 
of Durham, in his ' Philobiblon,' a treatise on the love of 
books, written by him in Latin in 1344 : " As it is neces- 
sary for a state to provide military arms, and prepare plenti- 
ful stores of provisions for soldiers who are about to fight, so 
it is evidently worth the labour of the church militant to 
fortify itself against the attacks of pagans and heretics 
with a multitude of sound books. But because everything 
that is serviceable to mortals suffers the waste of mortality 
through lapse of time, it is necessary for volumes corroded 
by age to be restored by renovated successors, that per- 
petuity, repugnant to the nature of the individual, may be 
conceded to the species. Hence it is that Ecclesiastes 
significantly says, in the 12th chapter, ' There is no end 
of making many books.' For as the bodies of books suffer 
continual detriment from a combined mixture of con- 
traries in their composition, so a remedy is found out by 
the prudence of clerks, by which a holy book paying the 
debt of nature may obtain an hereditary substitute, and a 
seed may be raised up like to the most holy deceased, and 
that saying of Ecclesiasticus, chapter 30, be verified, ' The 
father is dead, and as it were not dead, for he hath left 
behind him a son like unto himself.' " The invention of 
paper, about a century and a half before Eichard de Bury 
wrote, and its general employment instead of vellum for 
manuscripts in ordinary use, was a great step towards 
the multiplication of books. Transcribers necessarily 
became more numerous ; but for a long period they wholly 
belonged to the monastic orders, and the books were 



essentially for the use of the clergy. Eichard de Bury 
says, with the most supreme contempt for all others, what- 
ever be their rank, " Laymen, to whom it matters not 
whether they look at a book turned wrong side upwards 
or spread before them in its natural order, are altogether 
unworthy of any communion with books." But even to 
the privileged classes he is not sparing of his reproach as 
to the misuse of books. He reprobates the unwashed 
hands, the dirty nails, the greasy elbows leaning upon 
the volume, the munching of fruit and cheese over the 
open leaves, which were the marks of careless and idle 
readers. With a solemn reverence for a book at which 
we may smile, but with a smile of respect, he says, " Let 
there be a mature decorum in opening and closing of 
volumes, that they may neither be unclasped with 
precipitous haste, nor thrown aside after inspection with- 
out being duly closed." The good bishop bestowed 
certain portions of his valuable library upon a company 
of scholars residing in a Hall at Oxford ; and one of his 
chapters is entitled ' A provident arrangement by which 
books may be lent to strangers,' meaning, by strangers, 
students of Oxford not belonging to that Hall. One of 
these arrangements is as follows : " Five of the scholars 
dwelling in the aforesaid Hall are to be appointed by the 
master of the same Hall, to whom the custody of the 
books is to be deputed. Of which five, three, and in no 
case fewer, shall be competent to lend any books for 
inspection and use only ; but for copying and transcribing 
we will not allow any book to pass without the walls of 
the house. Therefore, when any scholar, whether secular 
or religious, whom we have deemed qualified for the 
present favour, shall demand the loan of a book, the 
keepers must carefully consider whether they have a 
duplicate of that book ; and if so, they may lend it to him, 


taking a security which in their opinion shall exceed in 
value the book delivered." Anthony Wood, who in the 
seventeenth century wrote the lives of eminent Oxford 
men, speaks of this library which was given to Durham 
College (now Trinity College) as containing more books 
than all the bishops of England had then in their custody. 
He adds, " After they had been received they were for 
many years kept in chests, under the custody of several 
scholars deputed for that purpose." In the time of Henry 
IV. a library was built in that college, and then, says 
Wood, " the said books were put into pews, or studies, and 
chained to them." The statutes of St. Mary's College, 
Oxford, in the reign of Henry VI., are quoted by Warton, 
in his 'History of English Poetry,' as furnishing a 
remarkable instance of the inconveniences and impedi- 
ments to study which must have been produced by a 
scarcity of books : " Let no scholar occupy a book in the 
library above one hour, or two hours at most, so that 
others shall be hindered from the use of the same." This 
certainly shows the scarcity of books; but not such a 
scarcity as at an early period of the Church, when one 
book was given out by the librarian to each of a religious 
fraternity at the beginning of Lent, to be read diligently 
during the year, and to be returned the following Lent. 
The original practice of keeping the books in chests would 
seem to indicate that they could not be very frequently 
changed by the readers; and the subsequent plan of 
chaining them to the desks gives the notion that, like 
many other things tempting by their rarity, they could 
not be safely trusted in the hands of those who might 
rather covet the possession than the use. It was a very 
common thing to write in the first leaf of a book, " Cursed 
be he who shall steal or tear out the leaves, or in any way 
injure this book." 

c 2 



[CHAP. I. 

We have abundant evidence, whatever be the scarcity 
of books as compared with the growth of scholarship, that 
the ecclesiastics laboured most diligently to multiply 
books for their own establishments. In every great abbey 
there was a room called the Scriptorium, where boys and 
novices were constantly employed in multiplying the ser- 
vice-books of the choir, and the less valuable books for the 
library ; whilst the monks themselves laboured in their 
cells upon bibles and missals. Equal pains were taken in 
providing books for those who received -a liberal education 

Transcriber at Work. 

in collegiate establishments. Warton says, " At the 
foundation of Winchester College, one or more tran- 
scribers were hired and employed by the founder to make 
books for the library. They transcribed and took their 
commons within the college, as appears by computations 
of expenses on their account now remaining." But there 
are several indications that even kings and nobles had not 
the advantages of scholars by profession ; and, possessing 
few books of their own, had sometimes to borrow of their 
more favoured subjects. We find it recorded that the Prior 
of Christ Church, Canterbury, had lent to King Henry V. 


the works of St. Gregory, and he complains that after the 
king's death the book had been detained by the Prior of 
Shene. The same king had borrowed from the Lady West- 
moreland two books that had not been returned, and a peti- 
tion is still extant in which she begs his successors in 
authority to let her have them back again. Lewis XI. of 
France wishing to borrow a book from the Faculty of 
Medicine at Paris, they would not allow the king to have it 
till he had deposited a quantity of valuable plate in pledge, 
and given a joint bond with one of his nobles for its due 
return. The books that were to be found in the palaces 
of the great, a little while before the invention of print- 
ing, were for the most part highly illuminated manu- 
scripts, and bound in the most expensive style. In the 
wardrobe accounts of King Edward IV. we find that Piers 
Bauduyn is paid for " binding, gilding, and dressing " of 
two books, twenty shillings each, and of four books, 
sixteen shillings each. Now twenty shillings in those 
days would have bought an ox. But the cost of this 
binding and garnishing does not stop here; for there 
were delivered to the binder six yards of velvet, six yards 
of silk, laces, tassels, copper and gilt clasps, and gilt nails. 
The price of velvet and silk in those days was enormous. 
A\ e may reasonably conclude that these royal books were as 
much for show as for use. One of the books thus garnished 
by Edward IV.'s binder is called ' Le Bible Historiaux ' 
(The Historical Bible), and there are several copies of the 
same book in manuscript in the British Museum. In one 
of them the following paragraph is written in French : 
" This book was taken from the King of France at the 
battle of Poitiers; and the good Count of Salisbury, 
William Mountague, bought it for a hundred marks, and 

gave it to his lady Elizabeth, the good Countess 

Which book the said Countess assigned to her executors 


to sell for forty livxes." We learn from another soiirce 
that the great not only procured books by purchase, but 
employed transcribers to make them for their libraries. 
We find, from the manuscript account of the expenses of 
Sir John Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, that in 
1467 Thomas Lympnor, that is, Thomas the Limner, of 
Bury, was paid the sum of fifty shillings and twopence 
for a book which he had transcribed and ornamented, 
including the vellum and binding. The Limner's bill is 
made up of a number of items, for whole vignettes, and 
half vignettes, and capital letters, and flourishing, and 
plain writing. This curious account is printed in the 
' Paston Letters.' A letter of Sir John Paston, who is 
writing to his mother in 1474, shows how scarce money 
was in those days for the purchase of luxuries like books. 
He says, " As for the books that were Sir James's (the 
Priest's), if it like you that I may have them, I am not 
able to buy them, but somewhat would I give, and the 
remainder, with a good devout heart, by my troth, I will 

pray for his soul If' any of them are claimed 

hereafter, in faith I will restore it." The custom of 
borrowing books and not returning them was as old, we 
see, as the days of the Red and White Eoses. John Paston 
left an inventory of his books, eleven in number, although 
some of the eleven contained various little tracts bound 
together. One of the items in this catalogue is, " A Book 

of Troilus, which William B hath had near ten years, 

and lent it to Dame Wingfeld, and there I saw it." 

But, even in the days before printing, there was a small 
book-trade ; and schemes were devised for making books 
of some general use. In Paris, in the middle of the 14th 
century, the booksellers were commanded to keep books 
for hire; and, in a register of the University of Paris, 
Chevillier found a list of the books so circulated, and the 


price of reading each. The hire of a Bible was ten sous. 
That the ecclesiastics and lawyers constituted the great 
bulk of readers, and that the addition of a book, even to 
the private library of a student, was a rare occurrence, is 
evident from the absolute necessity for manuscript books 
being dear. If the number of readers had increased if 
there had been more candidates for the learned professions 
if the nobility had discovered the shame of their 
ignorance if learning had made its way to the franklin's 
hall manuscript books could never have been cheap. 
But from the hour when a first large expense of trans- 
ferring the letters, syllables, words, and sentences of a 
manuscript to movable type was ascertained to be the 
means of multiplying copies to the extent of any demand, 
then the greater the demand the greater the cheapness. 

If the nobles, the higher gentry, and even the lawyers 
and ecclesiastics, were indifferently provided with books, 
we cannot expect that the yeomen had any books what- 
ever. The merchants and citizens were probably some- 
what better provided. The labourers, who were scarcely 
yet fully established in their freedom from bondage to one 
lord, were probably, as a class, wholly unable to use 
books at all. Shakspere, in all likelihood, did not much 
exaggerate the feelings of ignorant men, who at the same 
time were oppressed men, when he puts these words in 
the mouth of Jack Cade when addressing Lord Say: 
" Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the 
realm, in erecting a grammar-school : and whereas, before, 
our forefathers had no other books but the score and the 
tally, thou hast caused printing to be used ; and, contrary 
to the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a 
paper-mill." The poet has a little deranged the exact 
order of events, as poets are justified in doing, who look 
at history not with chronological accuracy, but with a 


broad view of the connection between events and prin- 
ciples. The insurrection of Cade preceded the introduction 
of printing and paper-mills into England. Although 
during four centuries we have yet to lament that the 
people have not had the full benefit which the art of 
printing is calculated to bestow upon them, we may be 
sure that during its progress the general amelioration of 
society has been certain, though gradual. There can no 
longer be any necessary exclusiveness in the possession 
of books, and in the advantages which the knowledge of 
books is calculated to bestow on all men. The late 
Mr. Southey, a just and liberal thinker, but, like many 
others of ardent feelings, sometimes mistaken and oftener 
misrepresented, has truly pointed out the difference be- 
tween the state of society when William Caxton was 
raised up to do his work amongst us and the present 
state. The following is an extract from his ' Colloquies 
on the Progress and Prospects of Society :' " One of the 
first effects of printing was to make proud men look upon 
learning as disgraced, by being thus brought within 
reach of the common people. Till that time learning, 
such as it was, had been confined to courts and convents, 
the low birth of the clergy being overlooked, because 
they were privileged by their order. But when laymen 
in humble life were enabled to procure books, the pride 
of aristocracy took an absurd course, insomuch that at 
one time it was deemed derogatory for a nobleman if he 
could read or write. Even scholars themselves complained 
that the reputation of learning, and the respect due to it, 
and its rewards, were lowered when it was thrown open 
to all men : and it was seriously proposed to prohibit the 
printing of any book that could be aiforded for sale below 
the price of three soldi. This base and invidious feeling 
was perhaps never so directly avowed in other countries 


as in Italy, the land where literature was first restored ; 
and yet in this more liberal island ignorance was for some 
generations considered to be a mark of distinction by 
which a man of gentle birth chose, not unfrequently, to 
make it apparent that he was no more obliged to live by 
the toil of his brain than by the sweat of his brow. The 
same changes in society, which rendered it no longer 
possible for this class of men to pass their lives in idleness, 
have completely put an end to this barbarous pride. It 
is as obsolete as the fashion of long finger-nails, which in 
some parts of the East are still the distinctive mark of 
those who labour not with their hands. All classes are 
now brought within the reach of your current literature, 
that literature which, like a moral atmosphere, is, as it 
were, the medium of intellectual life, and on the quality 
of which, according as it may be salubrious or noxious, 
the health of the public mind depends." 



N a book which Caxton printed in 1483, 'The 
Booke callyd Cathon,' he says in his prologue 
or preface, " Unto the noble, ancient, and re- 
nowned city, the city of London in England, 
I, William Caxton, citizen and conjury [sworn 
fellow] of the same, and of the fraternity and fellowship 
of the Mercery, owe of right my service and good will ; 
and of very duty am bounden naturally to assist, aid, 
and counsel, as farforth as I can to my power, as to my 
mother of whom I have received my nurture and living ; 
and shall pray for the good prosperity and policy of the 


same during my life. For as me seemeth it is of great 
need, by cause I have known it in my young age much 
more wealthy, prosperous, and richer than it is at this 
day ; and the cause is, that there is almost none that 
intendeth to the common weal, but only every man for 
his singular profit." It is the usual habit of the aged to 
look back upon the days of their youth as a period of 
higher prosperity and more exalted virtue, public and 
private, than they witness in their declining years. This 
is in most cases merely the mind's own colouring of the 
picture. Exit it is very possible that London, in the first 
year of Eichard III., when Caxton wrote this preface, was 
really less prosperous, and its citizens less devoted to the 
public good, than half a century earlier, when Caxton 
was a blithe apprentice within its walls. The country 
had passed through the terrible convulsion of the wars of 
the Roses ; and it is the nature of civil wars, especially, 
not only to waste the substance and destroy the means 
of existence of every man, but to render all men selfish, 
grasping at temporary good, suspicious, faithless. The 
master of Caxton was Robert Large, a member of the 
Mercers' Company, who was one of the Sheriffs in 1430, 
and Lord Mayor in 1439-40. The date of Caxton's ap- 
prenticeship has not been ascertained ; but it is considered 
by several of his biographers to have commenced about 
1428. At this period, the sixth of Henry VI., a law was 
on the statute-book, and rigorously enforced, whose object 
was to prevent the sons of labourers in husbandry, and 
indeed of the poorer classes of the yeomanry, from rising 
out of the condition in which they were born, by partici- 
pating in the higher gains of trade and handicraft. A 
law of the seventh of Henry IV., about two-and-twenty 
years before this conjectural period of Caxton's apprentice- 
ship, recites that, according to ancient statutes, those who 


labour at the plough or cart, or other service of husbandry, 
till at the age of twelve years, should continue to abide 
at such labour, and not to be put to any mystery or 
handicraft ; notwithstanding which statutes, says the 
law of Henry IV., country people whose fathers and 
mothers have no land or rent are put apprentices to divers 
crafts within the cities and boroughs, so that there is 
great scarcity of labourers and other servants of hus- 
bandry. The law then declares, " That no man nor 
woman, of what estate or condition they be, shall put 
their son or daughter, of whatsoever age he or she be, to 
serve as apprentice to no craft or other labour within any 
city or borough in the realm, except he have land or rent 
to the value of twenty shillings by the year at least, but 
they shall be put to other labours as their estates doth 
require, upon pain of one year's imprisonment." This 
iniqxiitous law was necessarily as demoralizing and as 
injurious to the national prosperity as the institution of 
castes in India. Yet, by a most extraordinary blindness 
to cause and consequence, the makers of the law provided 
in the most direct way for its overthrow ; for the statute 
goes on to say, that, although the husbandry labourer is 
always to be a labourer, " every man or woman, of what 
estate or condition they be, shall be free to set their son 
or daughter to take learning at any manner school that 
pleaseth them within the realm." The citizens of London, 
much to their honour, procured a repeal of this act in the 
eighth of Henry VI., about the period when Caxton was 
apprenticed. The probability is, that he would not have 
been affected by the exclusive character of this law ; 
for his master was a rich and distinguished mercer a 
member of that association which has always had pre- 
eminence amongst the livery companies of London. The 
dignified gravity, the prudence, and the prosperity of 


the citizens of that day have been well described by 
Chaucer : 

" A Merchant was there with a forke'd beard ; 
In motley, and high on horse he sat, 
And on his head a Flaundrish beaver hat. 
His boote's claspe'd fair and fetidly ; * 
His reasons spake he full solemne'ly, 
Sounding alway the increase of his winning: 
He would the sea were kept t for any thing, 
Betwixen Middleburgh and Orewell. 
Well could he in exchanges shieldie'sj sell, 
This worthy man full well his wit beset ; 
There wiste' no wight that he was in debt, 
So stedfastly did he his governance 
With his bargains, and with his chevisance. " || 

When we look at William Caxton as the apprentice 
to a London mercer, his position does not at first sight 
appear very favourable to that cultivation of a literary 
taste, and that love of books, which was originally the 
solace, and afterwards the business, of his life. Yet a 
closer insight into the mercantile arrangements of those 
days will show us that he could not have been more 
favourably placed for attaining some practical acquaint- 
ance with books, in the way of his ordinary occupation. 
When books were so costly and so inaccessible to the 
great body of the people, there was necessarily no special 
trade of bookselling. There were indeed stationers, who 
had books for sale, or more probably executed orders for 
transcribing books. Their occupation is thus described 
by Mr. Hallam, in his ' Literature of Europe :' " These 
dealers were denominated stationarii, perhaps from the 
open stalls at which they carried on their business, though 

* Neatly. t Guarded. 

* French crowns, which were stamped with a shield. 

Employed. || An agreement for borrowing money. 


static is a general word for a shop, in low Latin. They 
appear by the old statutes of the university of Paris, 
and by those of Bologna, to have sold books upon com- 
mission ; and are sometimes, though not uniformly, dis- 
tinguished from the librarii ; a word which, having 
originally been confined to the copyists of books, was 
afterwards applied to those who traded in them. They 
sold parchment and other materials of writing, which, 
with us, though, as far as I know, nowhere else, have 
retained the name of stationery, and naturally exer- 
cised the kindred occupations of binding and decorating. 
They probably employed transcribers." The mercer in 
those days was not a dealer in small wares generally, 
as at an earlier period ; nor was his trade confined 
to silken goods such an one as Shakspere describes, 
" Master Threepile, the mercer," who had thrown a man 
into prison for " some four suits of peach-coloured satin." 
The mercer of the fifteenth century was essentially a 
merchant. The mercers in the time of Edward III. were 
the great wool-dealers of the country. They were the 
merchants of the Staple, in the early days of our woollen 
mamifacture ; and the merchant adventurers of a later 
period were principally of their body. (In their traffic 
with other lands, and especially with the Low Countries, 
they were the agents by which valuable manuscripts 
found their way into England ; and in this respect they 
were something like the great merchant princes of Italy, 
whose ships not unfrequently contained a cargo of Indian 
spices and of Greek manuscripts. John Bagford, who 
wrote a slight Life of Caxton about 1714, which is in 
manuscript in the British Museum, says, " Kings, queens, 
and noblemen had their particular merchants, who, when 
they were ready for their voyage into foreign parts, sent 
their servants to know what they wanted, and among the 


rest of their choice many times books were demanded, and 
there to buy them in those parts where they were going." 
Caxton tells us in the ' Book of Good Manners,' which he 
translated from the French and printed in 1487, that the 
original French work was delivered to him by a " special 
friend, a mercer of London, named William Praat." This 
commerce of books could not have been very great ; but it 
might have been so far carried on by Eobert Large, the 
wealthy master of Caxton, that a lad of ability might 
thus possess opportunities for improvement which were 
denied to the great body of his fellow-apprentices. At 
this particular period there appear to have been but few 
opportunities even for the sons of parents of some sub- 
stance to obtain the rudiments of knowledge. There is a 
petition presented to Parliament in the twenty -fifth year 
of Henry VI., 1446, which exhorts the Commons " to con- 
sider the great number of grammar-schools that sometime 
were in divers parts of this realm, besides those that were 
in London, and how few there are in these days." The 
petitioners, who are four clergymen of the city, go on to 
say that London is the common concourse of this land, 
and that many persons, for lack of schoolmasters in their 
own country, resort there to be informed of grammar ; 
and then they proceed thus: "Wherefore it were expe- 
dient that in London were a sufficient number of schools 
and good informers in grammar ; and not, for the singular 
avail of two or three persons, grievously to hurt the mul- 
titude of young people of all this land. For where there 
is great number of learners and few teachers, and all the 
learners be compelled to go to the few teachers, and to 
none others, the masters wax rich of money, and the 
learners poorer in cunning, .as experience openly showeth, 
against all virtue and order of weal public." These 
benevolent clergymen accomplished the object of their 


petition, which was that in each of their parishes they 
might "ordain, create, establish, and set a person suffi- 
ciently learned in grammar to hold and exercise a school 
in the same science of grammar, and there to teach to all 
that will learn." One of the schools thus established 
exists to this day, in connection with the Mercers' Com- 
pany, and is commonly known as the Mercers' School. 
We are a little anticipating the period of our narrative, 
for this petition belongs to Caxton's mature life ; but we 
mention it as an evidence of the extreme difficulty which 
must have existed in those days for the children of the 
middle classes to obtain the rudiments of knowledge. It 
is evident that Caxton belonged to the more fortunate 
portion, upon whom the blessings of education fell like 
prizes in a lottery. The evil has not been wholly cor- 
rected even during four centuries ; but it is devoutly to 
be hoped that the time is not far distant when, to use the 
words of the benevolent clergymen who knew the value 
of knowledge at that comparatively dark period, there 
shall be in every place a school, and a competent person 
" there to teach to all that will learn." 

Oldys, the writer of the Life of Caxton in the ' Bio- 
graphia Britannica,' says, speaking of Robert Large, the 
master of Caxton, " The same magistrate held his mayor- 
alty in that which had been the mansion-house of Robert 
Fitzwalter, anciently called the Jews' Synagogue, at the 
north corner of the Old Jewry." This Old Jewry appears 
to have been in earlier times an accustomed place of resi- 
dence for the mercers ; for there are records still extant of 
legal proceedings in the time of Henry III. against four 
mercers of that place, for a violent assault upon two 
Lombard merchants, whom they regarded as rivals in trade. 
In the days of their retail dealings they occupied a portion 
of Cheapside which went by the name of the Mercery. 


In the fourteenth century their shops were little better 
than sheds, and Cheapside, or moi'e properly Cheap, was 
a sort of market, where various trades collected round the 
old Cross, which remained there till the time of the Long 
Parliament. When the mercers became large wholesale 
dealers in woollen cloths and silk, the haberdashers took 
up their standing in the same place. In the ballad of 
' London Lickpenny,' written in the time of Henry VI., 
the scene in the Cheap is thus described : 

" Then to the Cheap I began me drawn, 
Where much people I saw for to stand ; 

One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn, 
Another he taketh me by the hand, 

' Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land.' " 

The city apprentice in the days of Caxton was a staid 
saber youth, who, although of gentle blood (as the regula- 
tions for the admittance of freemen required him to be), 
was meanly clothed, and subjected to the performance of 
even household drudgery. We learn from a tract called 
the 'City's Advocate,' printed in -1628, that the ancient 
habit of the apprentices was a flat round cap, hair close 
cut, narrow falling bands, coarse side-coats (long coats), 
close hose, close stockings, and other such severe apparel. 
They walked before their masters and mistresses at night, 
bearing a lantern, and wearing a long club on their necks. 
But the mercer's apprentice had some exceptions which set 
him above his fellows : " Anciently it was the general use 
and custom of all apprentices in London (mercers only 
excepted, being commonly merchants and a better rank as 
it seems) to carry water-tankards to serve their masters' 
houses with water fetched either from the Thames or the 
common conduits." But, with all his restraints, the city 
apprentice was ever prone to frolic, and too often to 
mischief. The apprentices were a formidable body in the 



days of the Tudors, sometimes defying the laws, and raising 
tumults which have more than once ended in the prison and 
the halter. Chaucer, writing some few years before the 
term of Caxton's service, describes the love of sight-seeing 
which was characteristic of the London apprentice : 

"When there any ridings were in Cheap, 
Out of the shop thither would he leap ; 
And till that he had all the sight yseen, 
And danced well, he would not come again." 

Cheap was the great highway of processions ; and London 
was the constant theatre of triumphs and pageants, by 
which the wealthy citizens expressed their devotion to 
their ruling authorities. In the fifteenth century, when 
the very insecurity of the tenure of the crown demanded 
a more ardent display of public opinion, the London 
apprentice had " ridings " enough to look upon, where the 
pageantry was a real expression of power and magnificence, 
and not a tawdry mockery, as that which now disgraces 
the city of London once a year. Froissart describes the 
riding of Henry IV. to his coronation. The entry of his 
illustrious son into London after the battle of Agincourt 
was another of these remarkable ridings. This, which was 
an occasion of real enthusiasm, took place in Caxton's 
childhood. But in 1432, when he is held to have been an 
apprentice, the boy king, Henry VI., upon his return from 
being crowned King of France, entered London with a 
magnificence which chroniclers and poets have vied in 
recording. Robert Fabyan, an alderman of London, who 
wrote in the reign of Henry VII., describes this ceremonial 
with such an admiration of the pomp as only one could be 
supposed to feel who was born, as Chaucer says, 

"To eitten in a guildhall on the dais." 

To look forward to such occasions of pomp was a satisfac- 
tion to the people, who knew nothing of the real workings 


of public affairs, and saw only the outward indications of 
success or misfortune. The reign of Henry VI. was an 
unhappy one for the citizens of London. Violent contests 
for authority, insurrections, battles for the crown, left their 
fearful traces upon the course of the next thirty years. 
But during Caxton's boyhood the evil days seemed distant. 

In the books of the Brewers' Company, which, like all 
other records, were for the most part in Norman French, 
there is a curious entry in the reign of Henry V., which 
records a great change in the habits of the people. The 
entry is in Latin, and is thus translated : " Whereas our 
mother-tongue, to wit, the English language, hath in 
modern days begun to be honourably enlarged and adorned, 
for that our most excellent lord King Henry the Fifth, 
hath in his letters missive, and divers affairs touching his 
own person, more willingly chosen to declare the secrets 
of his will ; and for the better understanding of his people 
hath, with a diligent mind, procured the common idiom 
( setting aside others) to be commended by the exercise of 
writing ; and there are many of our craft of brewers who 
have the knowledge of writing and reading in the said 
English idiom, but in others, to wit, the Latin and French, 
before these times used, they do not in any wise under- 
stand ; for which causes, with many others, it being con- 
sidered how that the greater part of the lords and trusty 
commons nave begun to make their matters to be noted 
down in our mother-tongue, so we also in our craft, follow- 
ing in some manner their steps, have decreed in future to 
commit to memory the needful things which concern us, as 
appeareth in the following." 

The assertion of the Brewers' Company, in the reign of 
Henry V., that " the English language hath in modern 
days begun to be honourably enlarged and adorned," 
rested, we apprehend, upon broader foundations than the 

D 2 


"letters missive" of the king in the common idiom. 
Great writers had arisen in our native tongue, with 
whose productions the nobler and wealthier classes at 
any rate were familiar. The very greatest of these, 
the greatest name even now in our literature, with 
one exception, must have furnished employment to hun- 
dreds of transcribers. The poems of Geoffrey Chaucer 
were familiar to all well-educated men, however scanty 
was the supply of copies and dear their cost. That Caxton 
himself was acquainted in his youth with these great 
works we cannot have a doubt. When it became his for- 
tunate lot to multiply editions of the Canterbury Tales, 
and to render them accessible to a much larger class of the 
people than in the days when he himself first knew the 
solace and the delight of literature, he applied himself to 
the task with all the earnestness of an early love. In his 
preface to the second edition of the Canterbury Tales he 
thus delivers himself, with more than common enthusiasm : 
" Great thanks, laud, and honour ought to be given unto 
the clerks, poets, and historiographs that have written 
many noble books of wisdom of the lives, passions, and 
miracles of holy saints, of histories, of noble and famous 
acts and faits [deeds], and of the chronicles sith [since] the 
beginning of the creation of the world unto this present 
time ; by which we are daily informed and have know- 
ledge of many things, of whom we should not have known 
if they had not left to us their monuments written. Amongst 
whom, and in especial before all other, we ought to give 
a singular laud unto that noble and great philosopher 
Geoffrey Chaucer, the which, for his ornate writing in our 
tongue, may well have the name of a laureat poet. For 
before that he, by his labour, embellished, ornated, and 
made fair our English, in this royaume [kingdom] was 
had rude speech and incongrue [incongruous], as yet it 

. IT.] CHAUCER. 37 

appeareth by old books, which at this day ought not to 
have place nor be compared among nor to his beauteous 
volumes and ornate writings, of whom he made many 
books and treatises of many a noble history, as well in 
metre as in rhyme and prose ; and them so craftily made, 
that he comprehended his matters in short, quick, and 
high sentences ; eschewing prolixity, casting away the 
chaff of superfluity, and shewing the picked grain of sen- 
tence, uttered by crafty and sugared eloquence." Again, in 
his edition of Chaucer's ' Book of Fame ' he says, " Which 
work, as me seemeth, is craftily made, and worthy to be 
written and known : for he toucheth in it right great 
wisdom and subtle understanding; and so in all his 
works he excelleth in mine opinion all other writers in our 
English ; for he writeth no void words, but all his matter 
is full of high and quick sentence, to whom ought to be 
given laud and praising for his noble making and writing. 
For of him all other have borrowed sith, and taken in all 
their well saying and writing." There is another passage 
in the second edition of the Canterbury Tales which we 
quote here, not for the purpose of showing Cax ton's honour- 
able character as a printer, for that belongs to a subse- 
quent period, but to point out that manuscripts of Chaucer 
were in private hands, varying indeed in their text, as 
books must have varied that were produced by different 
transcribers, but still keeping up the fame of the poet, 
and highly valued by their possessors : " Of which book so 
incorrect was one brought to me six year passed, which 
I supposed had been very true and correct, and according 
to the same I did imprint a certain number of them, 
which anon were sold to many and divers gentlemen: of 
whom one gentleman came to me, and said that this book 
was not according in many places unto the book that 
Geoffrey Chaucer had made. To whom I answered, that 
I had made it according to my copy, and by me was 


nothing added nor diminished. Then he said he knew a 
book which his father had and much loved, that was very 
true, and according unto his own first book by him made ; 
and said more, if I would imprint it again, he would get 
me the same book for a copy. How be it, he wist well 
his father would not gladly part from it ; to whom I said, 
in case that he could get me such a book true and correct, 
that I would once endeavour me to imprint it again, for 
to satisfy the author : whereas before by ignorance I erred 
in hurting and defaming his book in divers places, in 
setting in some things that he never said nor made, and 
leaving out many things that he made which are reqTiisite 
to be set in. And thus we fell at accord ; and he full 
gently got me of his father the said book, and delivered 
it to me, by which I have corrected my book." 

There was another poet of considerable popularity who 
was contemporary with Chaucer. With the works of 
Gower, Caxton must have been familiar. His principal 
poem, ' Confessio Amantis,' was printed by Caxton in 1483, 
and is said to have been the most extensively circulated of 
all the books that came from his press. The poem is full of 
stories that were probably common to all Europe, running 
on through thousands of lines with wonderful fluency, 
but little force. He was called the " moral Gower " by 
Chaucer. The play of Pericles, ascribed to Shakspere, is 
founded upon one of these stories. Gower himself shows 
us what was the general course of reading in those days : 

"Full oft time it falleth so, 
Mine ear with a good pittance 
Is fed of reading of romance, 
Of Idoyne, and of Amadas, 
That whilom * weren f in my case, 
And eke of other many a score, 
That lovedon J long ere I was bore." 

Formerly. f Were. J Loved. Boru. 


The romances of chivalry, the stories of " fierce wars and 
faithful loves," were especially the delight of the great 
and powerful. When the noble was in camp, he solaced 
his hours of leisure with the marvellous histories of King 
Arthur or Launcelot of the Lake ; and when at home, he 
listened to or read the same stories in the intervals of the 
chase or the feast. Froissart tells in his own simple and 
graphic manner how he presented a book to King Eichard 
the Second, and how the king delighted in the subject of 
the book : " Then the king desired to see my book that 
I had brought for him ; so he saw it in his chamber, for 
I had laid it there ready on his bed. "When the king 
opened it, it pleased him well, for it was fair illumined 
and written, and covered with crimson velvet, with ten 
buttons of silver and gilt, and roses of gold in the midst, 
with two great clasps, gilt, richly wrought. Then the 
king demanded me whereof it treated, and I showed him 
how it treated matters of love, whereof the king was glad, 
and looked in it, and read it in many places, for he could 
speak and read French very well." Froissart was a 
Frenchman and wrote in French ; but even Englishmen 
wrote in French at that period, and some of Gower's early 
poems are in French. According to his own account, the 
long poem of the ' Confessio Amantis,' which was written 
in English, was executed at the command of the same 
King Eichard : 

" He hath this charge upon me laid, 
And bad me do my business, 
That to his high worthiness 
Some new thing I should book, 
That he himself it might look, 
After the form of my writing." 

Chaucer and Gower lived some time before the period 
of Caxtoii's youth in London. But there was a poet very 


popular in his day, whom he can scarcely have avoided 
having seen playing a conspicuous part in the high city 
festivals. This was John Lydgate, monk of Bury, who 
thus describes himself : 

" I am a monk by my profession, 

Of Bury, called John Lydgate by my name, 
And wear a habit of perfection, 

Although my life agree not with the same." 

Thomas Warton has" thus exhibited the nature of his 
genius : " No poet seems to have possessed a greater 
versatility of talents. He moves with equal ease in every 
mode of composition. His hymns and his ballads have 
the same degree of merit : and whether his subject be the 
life of a hermit or a hero, of Saint Austin or Guy Earl of 
Warwick, ludicrous or legendary, religious or romantic, a 
history or an allegory, he writes with facility. His tran- 
sitions were rapid from works of the most serious and 
laborious kind to sallies of levity and pieces of popular 
entertainment. His muse was of universal access, and he 
was not only the poet of his monastery, but of the world 
in general. If a disguising was intended by the company 
of goldsmiths, a mask before his majesty at Eltham, a May 
game for the sheriffs and aldermen of London, a mumming 
before the lord mayor, a procession of pageants from the 
creation for the festival of Corpus Christi, or a carol for a 
coronation, Lydgate was consulted and gave the poetry." 
A fine illuminated drawing in one of Lydgate 's manu- 
scripts, now in the British Museum, represents him pre- 
senting a book to the Earl of Salisbury. Such a presen- 
tation may be regarded as the first publication of a new 
work. The royal or noble person at whose command it 
was written bestowed some rich gift upon the author, 
which would be his sole pecnniaiy recompense, unless he 
received some advantage from the transcribers, for the 




copies which they multiplied. Doubtful as the rewards 
of authorship may be when the multiplication of copies by 
the press enables each reader to contribute a small acknow- 
ledgment of the benefit which he receives, the literary 
condition must have been far worse when the poet, humbly 
kneeling before some mighty man, as Lydgate does in the 

Lydgate presenting a book to the Earl of Salisbury. 

picture, might have been dismissed with contumely, or 
his present received with a low appreciation of the labour 
and the knowledge required to produce it. The fame, 
however, of a popular writer reached his ears in a far 
more direct and flattering manner than belongs to the 
literary honours of modern days. There can be little 


doubt that the narrative poems of Chaucer and Gower 
and Lydgate were familiar to the people through the 
recitations of the minstrels. An agreeable writer on the 
Eise and Progress of English Poetry, Mr. George Ellis, 
says, " Chaucer, in his address to his Troilus and Cressida, 
tells us it was intended to be read ' or elles sung,' which 
must relate to the chanting recitation of the minstrels, 
and a considerable part of our old poetry is simply 
addressed to an audience, without any mention of readers. 
That our English minstrels at any time united all the 
talents of the profession, and were at once poets and 
reciters and musicians, is extremely doubtful; but that 
they excited and directed the efforts of their contemporary 
poets to a particular species of composition, is as evident 
as that a body of actors must influence the exertions of 
theatrical writers. They were, at a time when reading 
and writing were rare accomplishments, the principal 
medium of communication between authors and the 
public ; and their memory in some measure supplied 
the deficiency of manuscripts, and probably preserved 
much of our early literature till the invention of print- 
ing." We may thus learn, that, although the number 
of those was very few whose minds by reading could be 
lifted out of the grovelling thoughts and petty cares of 
every-day life, yet that the compositions of learned and 
accomplished men, who still hold a high rank in our 
literature, might be familiar to the people through the 
agency of a numerous body of singers or reciters. There 
has been a good deal of controversy about the exact 
definition of the minstrel character whether the min- 
strels were themselves poets and romance-writers, or the 
depositaries of the writings of others and of the tra- 
ditional literature of past generations. Eitson, a writer 
upon this subject, say:*, " that there were individuals 


formerly who made it their business to wander up and 
down the country chanting romances, and singing songs 
and ballads to the harp, fiddle, or more humble and less 
artificial instruments, cannot be doubted." They were 
a very numerous body a century before Chaucer; and 
most indefatigable in the prosecution of their trade. 
There is a writ or declaration of Edward the Second, 
which recites the evil of idle persons, under colour of 
minstrelsy, being received in other men's houses to meat 
and drink ; and then goes on to direct that to the houses 
of great people no more than three or four minstrels of 
honour should come at the most in one day, " and to the 
houses of meaner men that none come unless he be desired, 
and such as shall come to hold themselves contented with 
meat and drink, and with such courtesy as the master of 
the house will show unto them of his own goodwill, with- 
out their asking of an3 - thing." Nothing can more clearly 
exhibit the general demand for the services of this body of 
men ; for the very regulation as to the nature of their 
reward shows clearly that they were accustomed to require 
liberal payment, approaching perhaps to extortion ; and 
then comes in the State to say that they shall not have a 
free market for their labour. They struggled on, some- 
times prooperous and sometimes depressed, according to 
the condition of the country, till the invention of printing 
came to make popular literature always present in a man's 
house. The book of ballads or romances, which was then 
to be bought, was contented to abide there without any 
" meat and drink." In the words of Eichard de Bury, 
whom we quoted in the first chapter, books "are the 
masters who instruct us without rods, without hard words 
and anger, without clothes and money. If you approach 
them, they are not asleep ; if investigating you interro- 
gate them, they conceal nothing; if you mistake them, 


they never grumble ; if you are ignorant, they cannot 
laugh at you." One of the later minstrels, to whom is 
ascribed the preservation, and by some the composition, 
of the old ballad of Chevy Chase, thus humbles himself 
in a most unpoetical and undignified manner to those who 
fed him for his services : 

" Now for the good cheer that I have had here 
I give you hearty thanks with bowing of my shanks, 
Desiring you by petition to grant me such commission 
Because my name is Sheale that both for meat and meal 
To you I may resort some time for my comfort. 
For I perceive here at all times is good cheer, 
Both ale, wine, and beer, as it doth now appear ; 
I perceive, without fable, ye keep a good table. 
I can be content, if it be out of Lent, 
A piece of beef to take, my hunger to aslake ; 
Both mutton and veal is good for Richard Sheale. 
Though I look so grave, I were a very knave 
If I would think scorn, either evening or morn, 
Being in hunger, of fresh salmon or congar. 
I can find in my heart with iny friends to take a part 
Of such as God shall send ; and thus I make an enJ. 
Now, farewell, good mine host ; I thank you for your cost, 
Until another time, and thus do I end my rhyme." 

But even such a humiliated ballad-maker, or ballad-singer, 
as poor old Eichard Sheale, was the depositary of treasures 
of popular fiction, many of which have utterly perished, 
but of which a great portion of those which are still pre- 
served are delightful even to the most refined reader. For, 
corrupted as they are by transmission from mouth to mouth 
through several centuries, they are full of high and 
generous sentiments, of deep pathos, of quiet humour; 
they carry us back into a state of society wholly different 
from our own, when knowledge was indeed scanty, and 
riches not very plentiful, but when the feelings and affec- 
tions were not so wholly under the direction of worldly 


wisdom, and men were brave and loving, and women 
tender and confiding, with something more of earnestness 
than belongs to the discreeter arrangements of modern 
social life. The minstrels had indeed something to call 
up the tear or the smile in every class of auditor. For 
the earls and barons, the knights and squires, there were 
romances and songs of chivalrous daring, such as moved 
the noble heart of Sir Philip Sidney, even in the days 
when the minstrel was a poor despised wanderer : " Is it 
the Lyric that most displeaseth, who, with his tuned lyre 
and well-accorded voice, giveth praise, the reward of virtue, 
to virtuous acts ? who giveth moral precepts and natural 
problems? who sometimes raiseth up his voice* to the 
height of the heavens, in singing the lauds of the immortal 
God ? Certainly I must confess mine own barbarousness, 
I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I 
found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet, and 
yet it is sung but by some blind crowder, with no rougher 
voice than rude style." For those of meaner sort there 
were the ballads of Eobin Hood, "of whom the foolish 
vulgar make lewd entertainment, and are delighted to 
hear the jesters and minstrels sing them above all other 
ballads." So wrote a Scottish historian in the middle of 
the fourteenth century. 

We have thus briefly recapitulated the popular modes 
of acquiring something of a literary taste in the early 
days of William Caxton. Books were rare, and difficult 
to be obtained except by the wealthy. The drama did 
not exist. The preachers, indeed, were not afraid to 
address an indiscriminate audience with the conviction 
that, although the majority were unlettered, they had 
vigorous understandings, and did not require the great 
truths of religion and of private and of social duty to be 
adapted to any intellectual weakness or infirmity. The 


national poetry, which was heard at the high festivals of 
the city traders, and even descended to as lowly a popu- 
larity as that of the village circle upon the ale-bench under 
the spreading elm on a summer's eve, had no essentials of 
vulgarity or childishness, such as in later days have been 
thought necessary for general comprehension. We were 
ever a thoughtful people, a reasoning people, and yet a 
people of strong passions and unconquerable energy. A 
popular literature was kept alive and preserved, however 
imperfectly, before the press came to make those who had 
learnt to read self-dependent in their intellectual gratifi- 
cations ; and what has come down to us of the old min- 
strelsy, with all its inaccuracy and occasional feebleness, 
shows us that the people of England, four or five centuries 
ago, had a common fund of high thought upon which 
a great literature might in time be reared. The very 
existence of a poet like Chaucer is the best proof of the 
vigour, and to a certain extent of the cultivation, of the 
national mind, even in an age when books were rarities. 





OBERT LARGE, the master of Caxton, became 
Lord Mayor of London in 1439-40. He died 
in 1441. That he was a man of considerable 
substance appears by the record of his bequests 
in Stow's Survey of London : " Robert Large, 
mercer, mayor 1440, gave to his parish church of St. Olave, 
in Surrey, two hundred pounds; to St. Margaret's, in 
Lothbury, twenty-five pounds ; to the poor, twenty pounds ; 
to London-bridge, one hundred marks ; towards the vault- 
ing over the watercourse of Walbrook, two hundred 
marks ; to poor maids' marriages, one hundred marks ; to 
poor householders, one hundred pounds." * By his last 
will he bequeathed to his servant, William Caxton, twenty 
marks, a considerable sum in those days. From this 
period it would seem that Caxton resided abroad. In the 
first book he translated, the ' Recuyell of the Historyes of 
Troye,' which bears upon the title to have been "ended 
and finished in the holy city of Cologne, the 19th day 
of September, the year of our Lord one thousand, four 
hundred, sixty, and eleven," he says, " I have continued 
by the space of thirty year for the most part in the 

* We believe that the text of Stow, " St. Olave in Surrey," is a 
mistake for " St. Olave in Jewry" for Robert Large was buried in 
St. Olave in the Jewry, where a plated stone in the ground, in the 
south aisle, recorded his death on the IMtli of April, 


countries of Brabant, Flanders, Holland, and Zealand." 
The Eev. John Lewis, who wrote the Life of Master 
William Caxton, about a century ago, says, " It has been 
guessed that he was abroad as a travelling agent or factor 
for the Company of Mercers, and employed by them in the 
business of merchandise." Oldys adds, but certainly with- 
out any authority, " It is agreed on by those writers who 
have best acquainted themselves with his story, he was 
deputed and intrusted by the Mercers' Company to be 
their agent or factor in Holland, Zealand, Flanders, &c., 
to establish and enlarge their correspondents, negociate 
the consumption of our own, and importation of foreign 
manufactures, and otherwise promote the advantage of 
the said corporation in their respective merchandise." 
This, indeed, was a goodly commission, if we can make 
out that he ever received such, an employment which 
seems to speak of free and liberal intercourse between two 
countries, each requiring the commodities of the other, 
and conducting their interchange upon the sound principles 
of encouraging mutual consumption, and thus producing 
mutual profit. Doubtless, we may believe, upon a super- 
ficial view of the matter, that the agent of the Mercers' 
Company was conducting his operations with the full 
authority of the government at home, and with the hearty 
support of the rulers of the land in which he so long lived. 
The real fact is, that for twenty of those years in which 
Caxton describes himself as residing in the countries of 
Brabant, Holland, and Zealand, there was an absolute 
prohibition on both sides of all commercial intercourse 
between England and the Duchy of Burgundy, to which 
those countries were subject; and for nearly the whole 
period, no English goods were suffered to pass to the 
continent, except through the town of Calais ; and " in 
France," says Caxton, " I was never." If Caxton had any 


mercantile employment at all from his Company, it was, in 
all probability, for the purpose of finding channels in trade 
that were closed up by the blind policy of the respective 
governments. He could not have conducted any mercantile 
operation in those countries, except in violation of the 
absurd commercial laws which would not allow the people 
to seek their own interest in their own way. It is by no 
means improbable, however, that by the connivance of the 
royal personages who wanted for themselves rich com- 
modities which they could only obtain by that exchange 
which they denied thoir subjects, William Caxton was 
in truth an accredited smuggler for law-makers who at- 
tempted to limit the wants, and the means of satisfying 
the wants, of the people they governed, in deference to 
the prejudices of those who thought that trade could only 
exist under a system of the most stringent prohibition. . 

While Edward the Fourth, and Charles the Good, Duke 
of Burgundy, were launching against each other ordinance 
and enactment to prevent their subjects becoming ex- 
changers for the better supply of their respective wants, 
some politic understanding between these princes led 
them eventually to adopt a wiser system. It is pretty 
clear that William Caxton was one of the agents, and a 
principal one, in putting an end to a policy which the 
Duke of Burgundy said was " evermore to endure." In 
1464 Edward the Fourth issued a commission to his trusty 
and well-beloved Richard Whitehill and William Caxton, 
to be his especial ambassadors, procurators, nuncios, and 
deputies to his most dear cousin the Duke of Burgundy 
for the purpose of confirming an existing treaty of com- 
merce, or, if necessary, for making a new one. In 1466, 
this commission being dated in October 1464, a treaty 
was concluded with the Duke of Burgundy, by which the 
commerce between his dominions and England, which 


had been interrupted for twenty years, was restored ; and 
a port of Flanders was subsequently appointed to be a 
port of the English staple, as well as Calais. It is pleasant 
to us to believe that this extension of a principle which 
must eventually bind all nations in a common brother- 
hood was effected by the good sense of a mercer of London ; 
who was afterwards to bestow upon his country the 
blessings of an art which has been the great instrument 
of that country's progress in real greatness and prosperity, 
and before which all impediments to the continued course 
of that prosperity all prejudices amongst her own children, 
or amongst other peoples, that make the great family of 
mankind aliens and enemies, and keep them from the 
enjoyment of the advantages which each might bestow 
upon the other will utterly perish. It is pleasant to us 
to believe that William Caxton, the first English printer, 
in his day opened the ports of one great trading com- 
munity to another great trading community. When he, 
the mercer's apprentice, stamped the merchant's mark 
upon his master's bales, he knew not, he could not have 
divined, that by this process of stamping, carried forward 
by the ingenuity of many men into a new art, there would 
arise consequences which would change the face of the 
world. He could not imagine that he, whose education 
had consisted in learning to buy wool and measure cloth, 
should, by the natural course of his commercial life, be 
thrown into a society where a great wonder was to fill 
the minds of all men with astonishment the multiplica- 
tion of manuscripts by some new and secret process, as if 
by magic ; and which some men, and he probably amongst 
the number, must have regarded with a higher feeling 
than wonder, with something like that prophetic view 
of its consequences which have been described by the 
novelist, who, perhaps more than any man, has employed 


that art to the delight of all classes in every country. 
We refer to the passage in Sir Walter Scott's ' Quentin 
Durward,' where Louis the Eleventh of France and Marti - 
valle Galeotti the astrologer speak of the invention of 
printing, and the sage predicts " the lot of a succeeding 
generation, on whom knowledge will descend like the first 
and second rain, uninterrupted, unabated, unbounded, fer- 
tilizing some grounds, and overflowing others; changing 
the whole form of social life." 

Merchants' Marks. 

In a list of foreign goods forbidden to be imported into 
this country by statute of 1464, the reader might be 
surprised to find that playing-cards were of sufficient 
importance, from their general use, to require that the 
native manufactories should be protected in the production 
of them. Playing-cards were known in France for more 
than a hundred years before this statute of Edward IV. ; 
so that the common notion that they were invented to 
furnish amusement to an insane king, Charles VI. of 
France, about 1393, is a popular error. It is clear that 
both in France and Spain at that period cards were the 
amusement not only of the royal and noble inmates of 
palaces, but of the burghers and the working people. The 
King of Castile, in 1387, prohibited cards altogether; and 
they appear, with other games of skill and chance, to have 
interfered so much with the regular labour of the artificers 
of Paris, that the provost of that city, in 1397, forbade all 
working people to play at tennis, bowls, nine-pins, dice, 

E 2 


or cards on working-days. The earliest cards were 
probably painted by means of a stencil, by which name 
we call a piece of pasteboard or plate of thin metal pierced 
with apertures, by which a figure is formed upon paper or 
other substance beneath it when fluid colour is smeared 
over its surface with a brush. But it has also been con- 
jectured, from their being in the hands of the working- 
people, that their cheapness must have been produced by 
some rude application of a wood-engraving to form the 
-outline which the stencilling process filled up with colour. 
There can be no doubt that cards w-ere printed before the 

Block and Stencil "Instruments. 

middle of the fifteenth century; for there is a petition 
extant from the Venetian painters to their magistracy, 
dated 1441, setting forth that tlie art and mystery of card- 
making and of printing figures, which were practised in 
Venice, had fallen into total decay, through the great 
quantity of foreign playing-cards and coloured printed 
figures which were "brought into the city. The Germans 
were the great caTd-makers of this period ; and the name 
"by -which a wood-engraver is still called in Germany, 
Form&chneider, meaning figure-cutter, occurs in the town 
"books of Nuremberg as early as 1441. Some of the early 
cards were very rude. Here is the Knave of Bells for 




spades, diamonds, hearts, and clubs were not then the 
universal symbols. Others called forth the skill of very 
clever artists, such as he who is known as " the Master 
of 1466," whose knave is a much more human knave than 
the traditionary worthy whom we look upon to this hour. 
When Caxton, therefore, was abroad for thirty years, he 

Knave of Bells. 

would unquestionably have seen every variety of these 
painted bits of paper ; some rich with crimson and purple, 
oftentimes painted on a golden ground, and calling forth, 
like the missals, the highest art of the limner ; others 
impressed with a rude outline, and daubed by the stenciller. 
It appears that the impressions of the engraved cards, as 
well as of most of the earlier block-prints, were taken 



off by friction. This is the mode by which, even at the 
present day, wood-engravers take off the specimen im- 
pressions of their works called proofs. The Chinese pro- 
duce their block-books in a similar manner, without the 
aid of a press. 

But there was another application of engraved blocks, 
about the same period, which was approaching still nearer 
to the art of printing. The representations of saints and 

Knave, of Master of 1466. 

of scriptural histories, which the limners in the monasteries 
had for several centuries been painting in their missals and 
bibles, were copied in outline ; and being divested of their 
brilliant colours and rich gilding, presented figures exceed- 
ingly rude in their want of proportion, and grotesque in 
their constrained and violent attitudes. But they were 
nevertheless highly popular; and as the pictures were 
accompanied with a few sentences from Scripture, they 


probably supplied the first inducement to the laity to learn 
to read, and thus prepared the way for that diffusion of 
knowledge which was to accompany the invention of 
printing from movable types. In the collection of Earl 
Spencer there" is a very curious print from a wood-block, 
representing St. Christopher carrying the Infant Saviour. 
This print bears the date 1423. It is probably not the 
earliest specimen of the art ; but it is the earliest undoubted 
document which determines with precision the period when 
wood-engraving was generally applied to objects of devo- 
tion. In a very few years from the date of this print the 
art was carried onward to a more important object, that 
of producing a book. 

Several of such books are now in existence, and are 
known as block-books. One of them is commonly called 
'Biblia Paupernm,' the Bible of the Poor. But an in- 
genious writer on the progress of woodcutting, in the 
valuable book on that subject published by Mr. John 
Jackson, has shown very clearly that this was not the 
original title of the book ; and he adds that it was rather 
a book for the use of preachers than the laity : " A series 
of skeleton sermons ornamented with woodcuts to warm 
the preacher's imagination, and stored with texts to assist 
his memory." This very rare book consists of forty leaves 
of small folio, each of which contains a cut in wood, with 
extracts from the Scriptures, and other illustrative sen- 
tences. Of other block-books the most remarkable is 
called 'Speculum Salutis,' the Mirror of Salvation. In 
this performance the explanations of the text are much 
fuller than in the ' Biblia Pauperum.' In addition to these 
works, wooden blocks were also used to print small 
manuals of grammar, called Donatuses, which were used 
in schools. We present a facsimile of a woodcut from one 
of the early block- books. 





The Wise Men's Offering. 

The use of carved blocks for the multiplication of copies 
of playing-cards and devotional pictures gave birth to a 
principle which has effected, and is still effecting, the most 


important changes in the world. These devotional pictures 
had short legends or texts attached to them ; and when a text 
had to be printed, it was engraved in a solid piece, as well 
as the picture. The first person who seized upon the idea 
that the text or legend might be composed of separate letters 
capable of re-arrangement after the impressions were taken 
off, so as to be applied, without new cutting, to other texts 
and legends, had secured the principle upon which the 
printing art was to depend. It was easy to extend the 
principle from a few lines to a whole page, and from one 
page to many, so as to form a book ; but then were seen 
the great labour and expense of cutting so many separate 
letters upon small pieces of wood or metaf, and another 
step was required to be made before the principle was 
thoroughly worked out. This step consisted in the ready 
multiplication of the separate letters by casting metal in 
moulds. Lastly, instead of using the old Chinese mode of 
friction to produce impressions, a press was to be perfected. 
All these gradations were undoubtedly the result of long 
and patient experiments carried on by several individuals, 
who each saw the importance of the notion they were 
labouring to work out. It is this circumstance which has 
given rise to interminable controversies as to the inventors 
of printing, some claiming the honour for Coster of 
Haarlem, and some for Guttenberg of Mentz ; and, as is 
usual in all such disputes, it was represented that the man 
to whom public opinion had assigned the credit of the in- 
vention had stolen it from another, who, as is also usual 
in these cases, thought of it in a dream, or received it by 
some other mysterious revelation. The general consent of 
Europe now assigns the chief honour to Guttenberg.* 

During the summer of 1837 a statue of John Guttenberg, 
by Thorwaldsen, was erected at Mentz (or Mayence), and 
* See Appendix A. 


on the 14th of August and the following days a festival 
was held there, upon the occasion of the inauguration of the 
monument. Abundant evidence has been brought forward 
of late years to show that Guttenberg deserves all the 
honours of having conceived, and in great part perfected, 
an art which has produced the most signal effects upon the 
destinies of mankind. At that festival of Mentz, at which 
many hundred persons were assembled, from all parts of 
Europe, to do honour to the inventor of printing, no rival 
pretensions were put forward ; although many of the com- 
patriots of Coster of Haarlem were present. The fine 
statue of Guttenberg was opened amidst an universal 
burst of enthusiasm. Never were the shouts of a vast 
multitude raised on a more elevating occasion ; never 
were the triumphs of intellect celebrated with greater 

Passing his life amidst the ceaseless activity that belongs 
to the commerce of literature in London, the writer of this 
volume felt no common interest in the enthusiasm which 
the festival in honour of Guttenberg called forth through- 
out Germany ; and he determined to attend that celebra- 
tion. The fine statue which was to be opened to public 
view on the 14th of August had been erected by a general 
subscription, to which all Europe was invited to contribute. 
We apprehend that the English, amidst the incessant 
claims upon their attention for the support of all sorts of 
undertakings, whether of a national or individual cha- 
racter, had known little of the purpose which the good 
citizens of Mentz had been advocating with unabated zeal 
for several years ; and perhaps the object itself was not 
calculated to call forth any very great liberality on the 
part of those who are often directed in their bounties as 
much by fashion as by their own convictions. Thus it 
is that we have monuments out of number to warriors. 


Caxton has no monument; neither has Shakspere. Be 
that as it may, England literally gave nothing towards the 
statue of a man whose invention has done as much as any 
other single cause to make England what she is. The 
remoteness of the cause may also have lessened its import- 
ance ; and some people, who, without any deserts of their 
own, are enjoying a more than full share of the blessings 
which have been shed upon us by the progress of intellect 
(which determines the progress of national wealth), have a 
sort of instinctive notion that the spread of knowledge is 
the spread of something inimical to the pretensions of mere 
riches. We met with a lady on board the steamboat 
ascending the Rhine, two days before the festival of 
Mentz, who, whilst she gave us an elaborate account of 
the fashionable dulness of the baths of Baden and Nassau, 
and all the other German watering-places, told us by all 
means to avoid Mentz during the following week, as a 
crowd of low people from all parts would be there, to make 
a great fuss about a printer who had been dead two 
or three hundred years. The low people did assemble 
in great crowds : it was computed that at least fifteer 
thousand strangers had arrived to do honour to the first 

The modes in which a large population displays its 
enthusiasm are pretty much the same throughout the 
world. If the sentiment which collects men together be 
very heart-stirring, all the outward manifestations of the 
sentiment harmonize with its real truth. Thus, proces- 
sions, and orations, and public dinners, and pageantries, 
which in themselves are vain and empty, are important 
when the persons whom they collect together have one 
common feeling which for the time is all-pervading. We 
never saw such a popular fervour as prevailed at Mentz 
at the festival of August 1837. The statue was to be 


opened on Monday the 14th ; but on the Sunday evening 
the name of Guttenberg was rife through all the streets. 
In the morning all Mentz was in motion by six o'clock ; 
and at eight a procession was formed to the Cathedral, 
which, if it was not much more imposing than some of the 
processions of trades in London and other cities, was 
conducted with a quiet precision which evidenced that the 
people felt they were engaged in a solemn act. The fine 
old Cathedral was crowded ; the Bishop of Mentz per- 
formed high Mass ; the first Bible printed by Guttenberg 
was displayed. What a field for reflection was here 
opened ! The first Bible, in connection with the imposing 
pageantries of Eoman Catholicism the Bible, in great 
part a sealed book to the body of the people ; the service 
of God in a tongue unknown to the larger number of wor- 
shippers; but that first Bible the germ of millions of 
Bibles that have spread the light of Christianity through- 
out all the habitable globe ! The Mass ended, the pro- 
cession again advanced to the adjacent square, where the 
statue was to be opened. Here was erected a vast amphi- 
theatre, where, seated under their respective banners, were 
deputations from all the great cities of Europe. Amidst 
salvos of artillery the veil was removed from the statue, 
and a hymn was sung by a thousand voices. Then came 
orations ; then dinners balls oratorios boat-races 
processions by torchlight. For three days the population 
of Mentz was kept in a state of high excitement ; and the 
echo of the excitement went through Germany, and 
Guttenberg ! Guttenberg ! was toasted in many a bumper 
of Rhenish wine amidst this cordial and enthusiastic 

And, indeed, even in one who could not boast of belong- 
ing to the land in which printing was invented, the 
universality of the mighty effects of this art, when rightly 


considered, would produce almost a corresponding enthu- 
siasm. It is difficult to look upon the great changes that 
have been effected during the last four centuries, and 
which are still in progress everywhere around us, and not 
connect them with printing and with its inventor. The 
castles on the Rhine, under whose ruins we travelled back 
from Mentz, perished before the powerful combinations of 
the people of the towns. The petty feudal despots fell, 
when the burghers had acquired wealth and knowledge. 
But the progress of despotism upon a larger scale could 
not have been arrested had the art of Guttenberg not been 
discovered. The strongholds of military power still 
frown over the same majestic river. The Rhine has seen 
its pretty fortresses crumble into decay ; Ehrenbreitstein 
is more strong than ever. But even Ehrenbreitstein will 
fall before the power of mind. The Rhine is crowded 
with steamboats, where the feudal lord once levied tribute 
upon the frail bark of the fisherman ; and the approaches 
to the Rhine from all Germany, and from France and 
Belgium, have become a great series of railroads. Such 
communications will make war a game much more difficult 
to play ; and when mankind are thoroughly civilized, it 
will never be played again. Seeing, then, what intellect 
has done and is doing, we may well venerate the memory 
of Guttenberg of Mentz. 




HE "most dear" Duke of Burgundy, with whom 
Caxton was appointed to negotiate in 1464, 
was Philip, surnamed the Good. He was a 
wise and peaceful prince, and honourably 
earned his title. We know not whether 
Caxton was in immediate attendance upon the court of 
Philip from the commencement of his mission until the 
death of the duke in 1467 ; but the evidence is subse- 
quently clear that he was about the court in some office of 
trust after the succession to the dukedom of the eldest son 
of Philip the Count of Charolois. The character of this 
prince was entirely opposed to that of his father ; and he 
acquired the name of Charles le Temeraire, or the Rash. 
This fiery prince, whose influence in that warlike age was 
perhaps greater than the benignant power of his father, 
was not likely to have looked very favourably upon an 
envoy from Edward of England : for he was allied by 
blood on his mother's side to the house of Lancaster, and 
was consequently opposed to the fortunes of the house of 
York. The court of Burgundy was the resort of many of 
the adherents of that unhappy house, who had fled from 
England after many a vain struggle with the triumphant 
Edward. These fugitives are described by Comines " as 
young gentlemen whose fathers had been slain in England, 


whom the Duke of Burgundy had generously entertained 
as his relations of the house of Lancaster." Comines adds, 
" Some of them were reduced to such extremity of want 
and poverty before the Duke of Burgundy received them, 
that no common beggar could have been in greater ; I 
saw one of them, who was Duke of Exeter (but he con- 
cealed his name), following the Duke of Burgundy's train 
bare-foot and bare-legged, begging his bread from door to 
door : this person was the next of the house of Lancaster ; 
had married King Edward's sister : and being afterwards 
known, had a small pension allowed him for his subsist- 
ence. There were also some of the family of the Somersets, 
and several others, all of them slain since, in the wars." 
But the policy of Charles of Burgundy, after his accession 
to the dukedom, led him to consider the ties of ancient 
friendship as of far less importance than the strengthening 
of his hand by an alliance with the successful house of 
York. Within a year of his succession he married Mar- 
garet, sister of Edward IV. Comines says this marriage 
" was principally to strengthen his alliance against the 
king of France, otherwise ho would never have done it, 
for the love he bore to the house of Lancaster." The 
establishment of Margaret as Duchess of Burgundy gave 
a direction to the fortunes of William Caxton, and was in 
all likelihood the proximate cause that he was our first 
English printer. 

Margaret Plantagenet was married to Charles of Bur- 
gundy at the city of Bruges, on the 3rd of July, 1468. 
We have the distinct evidence of Caxton that he was 
residing at Bruges some months previous to the marriage ; 
that he had little to do ; and that he employed his leisure 
in literary pursuits. In his ' Recuyell of the Historyes of 
Troye' it is stated in the title-page, "which said transla- 
tion and work was begun in Bruges, in the county of 


Flanders, the first day of March, the year of the Incar- 
nation a thousand, four hundred, sixty and eight." The 
prologue begins as follows : " When I remember that 
every man is bounden by the commandment and counsel 
of the wise man to eschew sloth and idleness, which is 
mother and nourisher of vices, and ought to put myself 
unto virtuous occupation and business, then I, having no 
great charge or occupation, following the said counsel, 
took a French book and read therein many strange mar- 
vellous histories, wherein I had great pleasure and delight, 
as well for the novelty of the same, as for the fair language 
of the French, which was in prose so well and compen- 
diously set and written, methought I understood the 
sentence and substance of every matter. And for so much 
as this book was new and late made and drawn into 
French, and never had seen it in our English tongue, I 
thought in myself it should be a good business to translate 
it into our English, to the end that it might be had as 
well in the royaume of England as in other lands, and 
also for to pass therewith the time, and thus concluded in 
myself to begin this said work, and forthwith took pen 
and ink, and began boldly to run forth, as blind Bayard, 
in this present work." 

Philip de Comines, speaking of the prosperity of the 
people at the time of the accession of Charles, says, " The 
subjects of the house of Burgundy lived at that time in 
great plenty and prosperity, grew proud and wallowed 
in riches. . . . The expenses and habits both of women 
and men were great and extravagant; their entertain- 
ments and banquets more profuse and splendid than in 
any other place that I ever saw." The city of Bruges 
was then the great seat of this wealth and luxury. The 
Flemish nobles lived here in mansions of striking archi- 
tecture, some traces of which still remain. The merchants 


vied with the nobles in tasteful magnificence. The canals 
of Bruges were crowded with boats laden with the richest 
treasures of distant lands. It was commerce that made 
the inhabitants of Bruges, of Ghent, and the other great 
Flemish towns so rich and powerful ; and the same com- 
merce was the encourager of art, which even at this early 
period displayed itself amongst a people naturally disposed 
for its cultivation. Charles the Rash destroyed much of 
this prosperity by his aptitude for war. But in the onset 
of his career he fought with all the pomp and graces of 
the old chivalry, and his court was the seat of such 
romantic pageantries that John Paston, an Englishman 
who went over with Margaret of York, writes, " As for 
the duke's court, as for lords, ladies, and gentlewomen, 
knights, esquires, and gentlemen, I heard never of none 
like to it save King Arthur's court." It was here, with- 
out doubt, that William Caxton, the yeoman's son of the 
Weald of Kent, and afterwards the mercer's apprentice of 
the city of London, acquired that love for the literature of 
chivalry which he dis-plays on many occasions in his office 
of translator and printer. Here he made acquaintances 
that led him to the study of the romance-writers, as for 
example of a worthy canon of whom he writes, " Oft times 
I have been excited of the venerable man Messire Henry 
Bolomyer canon of Lausanne, for to reduce for his pleasure 
some histories, as well in Latin and in romance as in other 
fashion written ; that is to say, of the right puissant, 
virtuous, and noble Charles the Great, King of France 
and Emperor of Rome, son of the great Pepin, and of his 
princes and barons, as Rowland, Oliver, and other." His 
zeal for this species of literature left him not in his latest 
years : for in his translation of ' The Book of the Order of 
Chivalry,' which was printed by him about 1484, he rises 
into absolute eloquence in his address at the conclusion of 



the volume : " Oh, ye knights of England, where is the 
custom and usage of noble chivalry that was used in those 
days ? What do ye now, but go to the baynes [baths] and 
play at dice? And some, not well advised, use not honest 
and good rule, against all order of knighthood. Leave 
this, leave it ! and read the noble volumes of St. Graal, 
of Lancelot, of Galaad, of Trystram, of Perse Forest, of 
Percyval, of Gawayn, and many more : there shall ye see 
manhood, courtesy, and gentleness. And look in latter 
days of the noble acts sith the Conquest, as in King 
Kichard days, Coeur de Lion, Edward I., and III. and his 
noble sons, Sir Eobert Knolles, Sir John Hawkwode, Sir 
John Chandos, and Sir Gueltiare Manny. Read Froissart ; 
and also behold that victorious and noble King Harry V., 
and the captains under him, his noble brethren the earls of 
Salisbury, Montagu, and many other, whose names shine 
gloriously by their virtuous noblesse and acts that they 
did in the honour of the order of chivalry. Alas, what do 
ye but sleep and take ease, and are all disordered from 
chivalry ? '.' Caxton was dazzled, as many others were, 
with the bravery and the generosity of the chivalric 
character. He did not see the cruelty and pride, the 
oppression and injustice, that lurked beneath the glitter- 
ing armour and the velvet mantle. Yet he was amongst 
those who first helped to destroy the gross inequality upon 
which chivalry was founded, by raising up the middle 
classes to the possession of knowledge. There were 
scenes transacting at Bruges, even at the very hour when 
Margaret of York came to give her hand to Charles of 
Burgundy, that must have shown him what fearful 
passions were too often the companions of the courage 
and graces of knighthood. 

At the midsummer of 1468 Bruges presented a scene of 
magnificence that was probably unequalled in those days 


of costly display. On the occasion of the approaching 
marriage, the nobility of Charles's extensive dominions 
arrived from every quarter. Ambassadors were there 
from all Christian powers. It looked like an occasion on 
which men should forget that there was such a thing as 
war in the world ; and when despotism should put on its 
blandest smile and its most courteous reverence fur all 
orders of men. The Duke of Burgundy anxiously desired 
the presence of the Count de St. Pol, the great Constable 
of France. The constable arrived, surrounded with every 
pomp that his pride could devise, with trumpets and 
banners, with pages on foot and crowds of horsemen, and 
a naked sword borne before him as the symbol of sove- 
reignty. Charles was irritated beyond measure, and refused 
to receive the great lord, who from that hour became his 
deadliest enemy. But there was something more tragic to 
be enacted in the midst of a population looking only for 
high triumphs and royal pleasures. One of the chamber- 
lains of the Duke of Burgundy was an illegitimate son of 
the Lord of Cond6 ; he was very young, of exceeding 
beauty, and the most agreeable manners. He had fought 
by the side of the duke at the battle of Montlhery, and 
was one of his most especial favourites. The youth, with 
that ferocious self-abandonment which was not incom- 
patible with the gentlest manners in courts and the noblest 
honours in camps, committed a murder under circumstances 
of extraordinary aggravation. He was playing at tennis, 
and, the fairness of a stroke being doubtful, a bystander 
was called upon to decide. Deciding against the Bastard 
of Conde, the young man swore that he would be revenged. 
The bystander, who was a canon of the church, fled to his 
home, and the furious youth pursued him. The canon 
escaped, but his brother encountered the madman. Some 
victim must be offered up to appease his selfish rage, and 

F 2 


the' brother was in his path. The wretched man fell on 
his knees, and, clasping his hands, begged for mercy. 
Those uplifted hands were cut off in an instant, and the 
sword that had been honourably drawn at Monti hery 
pierced the breast of an unoffending citizen. Such a 
murder could not pass unnoticed ; and yet the young man's 
friends did not doubt that he would go unpunished, for he 
had committed the crime in his father's lordship. Such 
crimes were often committed with impunity by the great 
and the powerful ; and even the commonalty were un- 
prepared to expect any heavier punishment than a pe- 
cuniary recompense to the relations of the murdered man. 
The duke, however, had taken his determination. The 
Bastard of Conde was held in arrest at the house of the 
gatekeeper of the city of Bruges. Charles was solicited 
on every side for pardon, and even the relations of the 
deceased, having been moved by suitable presents, suppli- 
cated his release ; but the duke kept the matter in suspense 
till Bruges was filled with his subjects from every part of 
his dominions, and especially with the most powerful of 
his nobles. At the instant that he was ready to depart to 
meet the Lady Margaret at the neighbouring port of 
Ecluse, he commanded that the young man should be 
taken to the common prison, and the next morning led to 
execution. Even the magistrate of the city to whom this 
command was intrusted thought it impossible that the 
duke should execute one so highly connected, as if he were 
a common offender. The execution was delayed several 
hours by the magistrate in the hope that the duke would 
relent ; but no respite came. The youth was carried 
through the city to the place of execution, amidst the 
tears of the people, who forgot his crime in his beauty. 
Ho was beheaded, and his body divided into four quarters. 
The Lord of Conde and his adherents left the city vowing 


vengeance. The nobles assembled felt themselves outraged 
by this exercise of absolute power. Even the citizens 
attributed the stern decree of the duke to his indomitable 
pride rather than to his love of justice. Such was the 
prelude to the bridal festivities of the court of Burgundy ; 
of which one who wrote an especial description in Latin 
says, " The sun never shone upon a more splendid ceremony 
since the creation of the world." 

There can be no doubt that Caxton was in the direct 
employ of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. What he has 
told us himself of his position in her court is far more 
interesting than all the conjectures which his biographers 
have exercised upon the matter. He was in an honourable 
position, he was treated with confidence, he was grateful. 
We have already given an extract from the prologue to 
his 'Eecuyell of -the History es of Troye,' which shows 
when and under what circumstances he commenced the 
translation of that work. Remembering his simpleness 
and unperfectness in the French and English languages 
(which passage we have already noticed), he continues : 
" When all these things came before me, after that I had 
made and written five or six quires. I fell in despair of 
this work, and purposed no more to have continued there- 
in, and the quires laid apart ; and in two years after 
laboured no more at this work, and was fully in will to 
have left it. Till on a time it fortuned that the right 
high, excellent, and right virtuous princess, my right 
redoubted lady, my Lady Margaret " and then he gives 
her a host of titles " sent for me to speak with her good 
grace of divers matters, among the which I let her highness 
have knowledge of the aforesaid beginning of this work ; 
which anon commanded me to shew the said five or six 
quires to her said grace. And when she had seen them, 
aiion she found defaute [fault] in mine English, which she 


commanded me to amend, and moreover commanded me 
straightly [immediately] to continue and make an end of 
the residue then not translated. Whose dreadful com- 
mandment I durst in no wise disobey, because I am a 
servant unto her said grace, and receive of her yearly fee, 
and other many good and great benefits, and also hope 
many more to receive of her highness ; but forthwith 
went and laboured in the said translation after my simple 
and poor cunning, all so nigh as I can following mine 
author, meekly beseeching the bounteous highness of my 
said lady, that of her benevolence list to accept and take 
in gree [take . kindly] this simple and rude work." The 
picture which Caxton thus presents to us of his showing 
his translation with an author's diffidence to the " dread- 
ful " duchess, her criticism of his English, and her very 
flattering command that in spite of all its faults he should 
make an end of his work, is as interesting as Froissart's 
account of his literary recreations with Gaston de Foix : 
" The acquaintance of him and of me was because I had 
brought with me a book, which I made at the contempla- 
tion of Winceslaus of Bohemia, Duke of Luxembourg and 
of Brabant, which work was called ' Meliador,' containing 
all the songs, ballads, rondeaux, and virelays which the 
gentle duke had made in this time, which, by imagination 
I had gathered together : which book the Count of Foix 
was glad to see. And every night after supper I read 
therein to him ; and while I read there was none durst 
speak any word, because he would I should be well under- 
stood, wherein he took great solace." In both cases the 
men of letters were received on a free and familiar footing 
in the courtly circles. In the case of Caxton this was 
even more honourable to the Lady Margaret, than the 
welcome which Gaston de Foix gave to the accomplished 
knight Sir John Froissart. Caxton had no knightly 


honours to recommend him ; he was a plain merchant : 
but he was unquestionably a man of modesty and intelli- 
gence ; he had travelled much ; he was familiar with the 
most popular literature of his day; and he desired to 
extend the knowledge of it by translations into his native 
language. It is difficult to say what was his exact 
employment in the court of the Lady Margaret. He was 
somewhat too old to partake of its light amusements, to 
mingle in its gallantries, or even to prompt my lady's fool 
with some word of wisdom. We have seen that four 
months before Margaret of York came to Bruges he had 
" no great charge or occupation," and he undertook the 
translation of a considerable work " for to pass therewith 
the time." It has, however, been maintained of late 
years that Caxton was at this very time a printer. The 
question is a curious one, and we may bestow a little 
space upon its examination. 

Mr. Hallam, in his ' Literature of Europe,' noticing the 
progress of printing, says that several books were printed 
in Paris in 1470 and 1471, adding, "But there seem to be 
unquestionable proofs that a still earlier specimen of 
typography is due to an English printer, the famous 
Caxton. His ' Recueil des Histoires de Troye ' appears to 
have beer printed during the life of Philip, Duke of Bur- 
gundy, and consequently before June 15, 1467. The 
place of publication, certainly within the duke's do- 
minions, has not been conjectured. It is, therefore, by 
several years the earliest printed book in the French 
language. A Latin speech by Russell, ambassador of 
Edward IV. to Charles of Burgundy, in 1469, is the next 
publication of Caxton. This was also printed in the Low 
Countries." The authority upon which the learned and 
accomplished historian of the Middle Ages relies for this 
statement is that of Mr. Dibdin, in his ' Typographical 


Antiquities.' The French edition of the 'Kecueil des 
Histoires de Troye ' bears no printer's name, date, or place. 
It purports to have been composed by Eaoul le Fevre, 
chaplain to Duke Philip de Bourgoyne, in the year 1464. 
The evidence that this book was printed by Caxton was 
summed up by Mr. Bryant, and communicated by him to 
Mr. Herbert, the first editor of Ames's ' Typographical 
Antiquities.' The Eev. Mr. Dibdin, the second editor, 
says that these memoranda of Mr. Bryant's " clearly prove 
it to have been the production of Caxton." The argument 
rests upon these points : that the French and English 
editions of Le Fevre's work have an exact conformity and 
likeness throughout, for not only the page itself, but the 
number of lines in a page, the length, breadth, and 
intervals of the lines, are alike in both, and the letters, 
great and small, are of the same magnitude. It cor- 
responds too with ' The Game ef the Chess,' printed by 
Caxton in England in 1474. " These considerations," says 
Mr. Bryant, " settle who the printer was." We venture 
to doubt this. Mr. Bryant has himself shown how this 
resemblance might be produced between books printed 
by Caxton, and books supposed to be printed by him, 
without Caxton being the actual printer. " Mentz was 
taken by the Duke of Saxony in the year 1462, and most 
of the artificers employed by John Fust, the great 
inventor, were dispersed abroad. I make no doubt but 
Caxton, who was at no great distance from Mentz, took 
this opportunity of making himself a master of the 
mystery, which he had been at much trouble and expense 
to obtain. This I imagine he effected by taking into pay 
some of Fust's servants, and settling them for a time 
at Cologne. Of this number probably were Pinson and 
Eood, Mechlin, Lettou, and Wynkyn de Worde. With 
the help of some of these, he printed the book [which 


Wynkyn do Worde says Caxton printed] ' Bartholomews 
de Prop. Eerum,' and the translation of the ' Eecueil ;' 
and probably many other books, which, being either in 
French or Latin, were not vendible in our country, and 
consequently no copies are extant here. Of all the books 
he printed in England, I do not remember above one in 
a foreign language." The calamity which drove the 
printers of Mentz from their homes, the storming of the 
city by Adolphus of Nassau, would naturally disperse 
their types, as well as break up their workshops. The 
resemblance between the doubtful books, and books un- 
doubtedly printed by Caxton, was the resemblance of 
types cast in the same matrices ; the spaces between the 
lines, as well as the form and magnitude of the letters, 
were produced by the letters being cast in the same 
mould. The resemblance would have been equally pro- 
duced whether the types were used by one and the same 
printer, or by two printers. The typographical anti- 
quarians say that the same types are used in the French 
and English works of Le Fevre and in Caxton's ' Game of 
Chess;' and Mr. Herbert adds, that the types are the 
same as those used by Fust and Schoeffer, the partners of 
Guttenberg. If the resemblance of types were sufficient 
to determine the printer of two or more books, then Fust 
and Schoeffer ought to be called the printers of the French 
'Recueil,' as well as of the English translation which 
Caxton says he printed at Cologne. There can be little 
doubt that, when Caxton went to Cologne to be a printer 
in 1471, he became possessed of the types and matrices 
with which he printed his translation of Le Fevie, and 
subsequently brought to England to print his ' Game of 
Chess.' Another printer might have preceded him in 
their possession, and might have received them direct 
from Fust and Schoeffer. When the art ceased to bo a 


mystery, a profit might arise from selling the types or 
multiplying the matrices. Upon these considerations we 
wholly demur to the assertion, resting solely upon this 
resemblance, that Caxton was a printer during the life 
of Philip le Bon. The belief is entirely opposed to his 
own statement, that shortly after the death of this prince 
he was completely at leisure, and set about a translation 
to while away his time. To be a printer in those days 
was a mighty undertaking. We shall subsequently see 
that he declares that he had practised and learnt the art 
at great charge and expense. It is wholly unlikely, also, 
that so gossiping a man, who makes a familiar friend of 
his readers, telling them of almost every circumstance 
that led to the printing of every book, that he in his 
translation should not have said one word of being the 
printer of the original work. The other book, the Latin 
speech by Russell, in 1469, which has been called the 
second publication of Caxton, is attributed to him abso- 
lutely upon no other grounds than the same resemblance 
of type. Assuredly we cannot receive the fact of resem- 
blance as conclusive of Caxton being the printer either in 
this case or in that of the preceding. He tells us that in 
1470 he was a servant receiving yearly fee from the 
Duchess of Bui-gundy, and completed an extensive work 
at her command, which he simply began " to eschew sloth 
and idleness," and to put himself " unto virtuous occu- 
pation and business." When he did fairly become a 
printer, he left sufficiently clear indications of his habitual 
industry. We have no question how he filled up his 
time when the press at Westminster was at work. 

It was in the autumn of 1470, when Master William 
Caxton would appear to have been busily labouring in 
some silent turret of the palace at Bruges, upon his trans- 
lation of Raoul le Fevre, that an event occurred, of all 


others the most calculated to spread consternation in the 
court of Burgundy, and to make the bold duke feel that in 
abandoning his family alliance with the house of Lancaster 
he had not done the politic thing which he anticipated. 
Edward IV., who had sat for some years with tolerable 
quiet upon the English throne, to which he had fought his 
way in many a battle-field with prodigious bravery, sud- 
denly arrived at Bruges, in the October of 1470, a dis- 
crowned fugitive. He made his escape from the over- 
whelming inroad of the power of Warwick, "attended," 
says Comines, " by seven or eight hundred men without 
any clothes but what they were to have fought in, no money 
in their pockets, and not one in twenty of them knew 
whither they were going." He, the most beautiful man of 
the time, as Comines describes him, who for twelve or 
thirteen years of prosperity had lived a life of the most 
luxurious gratification, he arrived at Bruges, after being 
chased by privateers, and with difficulty rescued from their 
hands, so poor that he " was forced to give the master of 
the ship for his passage a gown lined with martens." At 
Bruges, then, did this fugitive remain nearly five months, 
when he again leaped into his throne, in the following 
April, with a triumphant boldness which has only one 
parallel in modern history, that of the march of Napoleon 
from Elba. In May, 1471, he ad dressed a letter in French 
to the nobles and burgomasters of Bruges, thanking them 
for the courtesy and hospitality he had received from them 
during his exile. Edward was of a sanguine temper ; and, 
however depressed in fortune, was not likely, during those 
five months of humiliation, to have doubted that in good 
time he should regain the throne. He was of an easy and 
communicative disposition ; and would naturally confer 
with his sister and her confidential servants upon his plans 
and prospects. Comines says, " King Edward told me 


that, in all the battles which he had gained, his way was, 
when the victory was on his side, to mount on horseback, 
and cry out to save the common soldiers, and put the 
gentry to the sword." We mention this to show that he 
was not indisposed to talk of himself and his doings with 
those whom he met during his exile. It is more than 
probable, then, that he had the same sort of free communi- 
cation with his countryman Caxton. It was at this period 
that the progress of the art of printing must have been a 
subject of universal interest. The merchants of Bruges 
had commercial intercourse with all the countries of 
Europe ; and they would naturally bring to the court of 
Burgundy some specimens of that art which was already 
beginning to create a new description of commerce. From 
Mentz, Bamberg, Cologne, Strasburg, and Augsburg they 
would bring some of the Latin and German Bibles which, 
from 1461 to 1470, had issued from the presses of those 
cities. The presses of Italy, and especially of Rome, of 
Venice, and of Milan, had, during the same period, sent 
forth books, and more particularly classical works, in great 
abundance. The art had made such rapid progress in 
Italy, that in the first edition of St. Jerome's Epistles, 
printed in 1468, the Bishop of Aleria thus addresses Pope 
Paul II. : " It was reserved for the times of your holiness 
for the Christian world to be blessed with the immense 
advantages resulting from the art of printing; by means 
of which, and with a little money, the poorest person 
may collect together a few books. It is a small testimony 
of the glory of your holiness, that the volumes which 
formerly scarcely an hundred golden crowns would pur- 
chase may now be procured for twenty and less, and these 
well-written and authentic ones." It is pretty clear -that 
Caxton, when he began his translation of the ' Histories of 
Troy,' had some larger circulation in view than could be 


obtained by the medium of transcription : " I thought in 
myself it should be a good business to translate it into our 
English, to the end that it might be had as well in the 
royaume of England as in other lands." It is also probable 
that he was moving about in search of the best mode 
of printing it ; for he says, at the end of the second book 
of the ' Kecueil,' " And for as much as I suppose the said 
two books be not had before this time in our English 
language, therefore I had the better will to accomplish the 
said work ; which work was begun in Bruges, and con- 
tinued in" Gaunt [Ghent], and finished in Cologne, in time 
of the troublous world, and of the great divisions being 
and reigning as well in the royaumes of England and 
France as in all other places universally through the 
world, that is to wit, the year of our Lord one thousand, 
four hundred, and seventy-one." But he further says, 
with reference to his translation of the third book, which 
he doubted about doing, " because that I have now good 
leisure, being in Cologne, and have none other thing to do 
at this time in eschewing of idleness, mother of all vices, 
I have deliberated in myself of the contemplation of my 
said redoubted lady, to take this labour in hand."L We 
shall presently see when Caxton became, or at any rate 
avowed himself to have become, a printer. Up to this 
point we see him only as a translator, a man of leisure, and 
not one learning a new and difficult craft, i But we see him 
moving about from Bruges to Ghent, from Ghent to 
Cologne, without any distinct or specified object. There 
can be little doubt, we believe, that he was endeavouring 
to make himself acquainted with the new art, still in great 
measure a secret art, the masters of which required to be 
approached with considerable caution. That the presence 
of Edward IV. in Flanders, during a period when Caxton 
might readily have had access to his person, might have 


led him to believe that the time would come when, under 
the patronage of the restored prince, he might carry the 
art to London, is not an improbable conjecture. Amongst 
the companions of Edward's exile was his brother-in-law, 
the celebrated Lord Rivers. This brave and accomplished 
young nobleman subsequently translated a book called 
' The Dictes and Sayings of Philosophers,' which Caxton 
printed at Westminster, in 1477. The printer has added 
an appendix to this translation, from which we collect that 
the noble author and his literary printer were upon terms 
of mutual confidence and regard : " At such time as he had 
accomplished this said work, it liked him to send it to mo 

in certain quires to oversee And so afterward I 

came unto my said lord, and told him how I had read and 
Been his book, and that he had done a meritorious deed in 
the labour of the translation thereof. .... Then my 
said lord desired me to oversee it, and, where as I should 
find fault, to correct it, wherein I answered unto his lord- 
ship that I could not amend it Notwithstanding 

he willed me to oversee it." Earl Eivers, then Lord Scales, 
was also at Bruges upon the occasion of the Lady Mar- 
garet's marriage. Employed, therefore, by the the Duchess 
of Burgundy, the sister of Edward IV., and honoured with 
the confidence of Earl Eivers, his brother-in-law, we may 
reasonably believe that the presence of Edward at Bruges 
in 1470-71 might have had some influence upon the deter- 
mination of Caxton to learn and practise the new art of 
printing, and to carry it into England, if the " troublous 
times " could afford him occasion. We have distinct evi- 
dence that Edward IV. gave a marked encouragement to 
the labours of Caxton as a translator, in a book printed by 
him without any date, ' The Life of Jason,' written, as were 
the ' Histories of Troy," by Raoul le Fevre, in which Caxton 
sayg in his prologue, " For as much as late by the com- 


mandment of the right high and noble princess my Lady 
Margaret, &c., I translated a book out of French in English, 
named ' Eecueil,' &c Therefore, under the protec- 
tion and sufferance of the most high, puissant, and Christian 
king, my most dread natural liege, Lord Edward, &c., I 
intend to translate the said book of the ' Histories of 
Jason.'" The expression "for as much as late by the 
commandment," &c., brings the date of the ' Histories of 
Jason ' close to that of the ' Histories of Troy,' and points 
out the probability that the protection and sufferance of 
Edward was afforded to Caxton when the king was a 
fugitive at the court of Burgundy. In the ' Issues of the 
Exchequer ' there is the following entry of a payment on 
the 15th of June, in the 19th of Edward IV. : " To William 
Caxton, in money paid to his own hands, in discharge of 
twenty pounds which the lord the king commanded to be 
paid to the same William for certain causes and matters 
performed by him for the said lord the king." This is 
eight years after the period of Edward's exile, being in 
1479. But as the productions of Caxton's press were very 
prolific at this time, we may believe that the payment of 
such a large sum for certain causes and matters performed 
for the king was in some degree connected with his labours 
in the introduction of printing into England, a payment 
not improbably postponed for obligations incurred, and 
promises granted, at an earlier period. 




T the end of the third book of Caxton's trans- 
lation of the 'Recuyell of the History es of 
Troye,' which we have so often quoted, ie the 
following most curious passage : " Thus end I 
this book, which I have translated after mine 
author, as nigh as God hath given me cunning, to whom 
be given the laud and praises. And for as much as in the 
writing of the same my pen is worn, mine hand weary 
and not stedfast, mine eyen dimmed with overmuch look- 
ing on the white paper, and my courage not so prone and 
ready to labour as it hath been, and that age creepeth on 
me daily and feebleth all the body; and also because I 
have promised to divers gentlemen and to my friends to 
address to them as hastily as I might this said book, 
therefore I have practised and learned, at my great 
charge and dispense [expense], to ordain this said book in 
print, after the manner and form as you may here see ; and 
is not written with pen and ink as other books are, to the 
end that every man may have them at once. For all the 
books of this story named the ' Recuyell of the Historyes 
of Troye,' thus imprinted as ye here see, were begun in 
one day, and also finished in one day. Which book I 
presented to my said redoubted lady as afore is said, and 


she hath well accepted it and largely rewarded me." It 
was customary for the first printers, which is not according 
to the belief that they wanted to palm their printed 
books off as manuscripts, to state that they were not 
drawn or written with a pen and ink. Udalricus Gallus, 
who printed at Kome about 1470, says, " I, Udalricus 
Gallus, without pen or pencil have imprinted this book." 
But he further says of himself at the end of one of his 
books, " I printed thus much in a day ; it is not written 
in a year." It has been held that Caxton uses a purely 
marvellous and hyperbolical mode of expression, when he 
says, " All the books of this story, thus imprinted as ye 
here see, were begun in one day and finished in one day." 
Dr. Dibdin inquires what Caxton meant " by saying that 
the book was begun and finished in one day? Did he 
wish his countrymen to believe that the translation of 
Le Fevre's book was absolutely printed in twenty-four 
hours?" Dr. Dibdin truly holds the thing to be im- 
practicable, because the book consisted of seven hundred 
and seventy-eight folio pages. Such feats have been done 
with the large capital and division of labour of modern 
times ; but to begin and finish such a book in one day in 
the fifteenth century was certainly an impossibility. We 
venture to think that Caxton says nothing of the sort. 
He puts with great force and justice the chief advantages 
of printing, the rapidity with which many copies could 
be produced at once. He promised, he says, to divers 
gentlemen and friends to address to them as hastily as 
he might this book. There were many who wanted the 
book. The transcribers could not supply their wants. 
He could not multiply copies himself with his pen, for 
his hand was weary and his eyes dim. He learned, there- 
fore, to ordain the book in print, to the end that all his 
friends might have the books at the same time, that 



every man might have them at once ; and to explain this, 
he says, all the books thus imprinted were begun in one 
day. If he printed a hundred copies, each of the hundred 
copies was begun at the same time; a hundred sheets, 
each sheet forming a portion of each copy, were printed 
off in one day, and in the same way were they also 
finished in one day. He does not say, as Dr. Dibdin in- 
terprets the passage, that the book was begun and finished 
in one day, one and the same day, but that all the 
books were begun on one day, and all the books were 
finished on another day. His expression is not very 
clear, but his meaning is quite apparent. This was the 
end that he sought to obtain at great charge and expense ; 
this is the end which has been more and more obtained 
at every step forward in the art of printing, the rapid 
multiplication of copies, so that all men may have them 
at once. 

The place where Caxton learned the art of printing, 
and the persons of whom he first learned it, are not 
shown in any of his voluminous prologues and prefaces. 
But an extraordinary statement was published in the 
year 1664, by a person of the name of Eichard Atkyns, 
who sought to prove that printing was a royal preroga- 
tive, because, as he says, the art was first brought into 
England at the cost of the crown. His narrative is held 
to be altogether a fiction ; for the document upon which 
he rests it was never forthcoming, and no person has ever 
testified to the knowledge of it, except Eichard Atkyns 
himself, who laboured hard to obtain a patent from the 
crown for the sole printing of law-books, upon the ground 
which he attempts to take of the crown having brought 
printing into England. " Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop 
of Canterbury, moved the then king, Henry VI., to use 
all possible means for procuring a printing-mould, for so 


it was then called, to be brought into this kingdom. 
The king, a good man, and much given to works of this 
nature, readily hearkened to the motion; and taking 
private advice how to effect this design, concluded it 
could not be brought about without great secrecy, and a 
considerable sum of money given to such persqn or persons 
as would draw off some of the workmen from Haarlem in 
Holland, where John Guttenberg had newly invented it, 
and was himself personally at work. It was resolved 
that less than one thousand marks would not produce the 
desired effect : towards which sum the said archbishop 
presented the king with three hundred marks. The 
money being now prepared, the management of the 
design was committed to Mr. Eobert Tumour, who then 
was keeper of the robes to the king, and a person most in 
favour with him of any of his condition. Mr. Turnour 
took to his assistance Mr. Caxton, a citizen of good 
abilities, who, trading much into Holland, might be a 
creditable pretence, as well for his going as staying in 
the Low Countries. Mr. Turnour was in disguise, his 
beard and hair shaven qiiite off, but Mr. Caxton appeared 
known and public. They having received the sum of 
one thousand marks, went first to Amsterdam, then to 
Leyden, not daring to enter Haarlem itself; for the town 
was very jealous, having imprisoned and apprehended 
divers persons, who came from other parts for the same 
purpose. They stayed till they had spent the whole one 
thousand marks in gifts and expenses. So as the king 
was fain to send five hundred marks more, Mr. Turnour 
having written to the king that he had almost done his 
work, a bargain, as he said, being struck between him 
and two Hollanders for bringing off one of the workmen, 
who should sufficiently discover and teach the new art. 
At last, with much ado, they got off one of the under 

o 2 


workmen, whose name was Frederick Corsells, or rather 
Corsellis ; who late one night stole from his fellows in 
disguise, into a vessel prepared before for that purpose ; 
and so the wind, favouring the design, brought him safe 
to London. It was not thought so prudent to set him on 
work at London, but by the archbishop's means, who 
had been Vice-chancellor and afterwards Chancellor of 
the University of Oxon, Corsellis was carried with a 
guard to Oxon, which constantly watched to prevent 
Corsellis from any possible escape, till he had made good 
his promise, in teaching how to print. So that at Oxford 
printing was first set up in England." This is certainly 
an extraordinary story, and one which upon the face of it 
has traces of inconsistency, if not of imposture. Eichard 
Atkyns says that a certain worthy person " did present 
me with a copy of a record and manuscript in Lambeth 
House, heretofore in his custody, belonging to the See, 
and not to any particular Archbishop of Canterbury. 
The substance whereof was this ; though I hope, for 
public satisfaction, the record itself in its due time will 
appear." The record itself did never appear, and, though 
diligently sought for, could never be found. But Atkyns 
further stated that the same most worthy person who 
gave him the copy of the record, trusted him with a book 
" printed at Oxon, A.D. 1468, which was three years before 
any of the recited authors [Stow and others] would allow 
it [printing] to be in England." He does not mention 
the book ; but there is such a book, and it is entitled ' Ex- 
positio Sancti leronimi in Simbolum, ad Papam Lauren- 
tiam ;' and at the end, ' Explicit Expositio, &c., Impressa 
Oxonie, et finita Anno Dom. MCCCCLXVIII, xvii die Decem- 
bris.' Anthony Wood repeats the story of Atkyns in his 
' History of the University of Oxford ;' and he adds, 
" And thus the mystery of printing appeared ten years 


sooner in the University of Oxford than at any other 
place in Europe, Haarlem and Mentz excepted. Not long 
after there were presses set up in Westminister, St. Albans, 
"Worcester, and other monasteries of note. After this 
manner printing was introduced into England, by the 
care of Archbishop Bourchier, in the year of Christ 1464, 
and the third of King Edward IV." Wood's version of 
the story makes it a little, a very little, more credible, for 
it brings it nearer to the time when the newly-discovered 
art of printing might have attracted some attention in 
England. But even in 1464 there were, with scai'cely 
more than one exception, no printed books known in 
Europe but the first productions of the press at Mentz. 
The story of Caxton going to Haarlem in the time of 
Henry the Sixth, that is, in some year previous to 1461, 
must altogether be a fabrication, or a mistake. The 
accounts that would ascribe the invention of printing to 
Laurence Coster, of Haarlem, set up a legendary story that 
John Fust, or John Guttenberg (not the real Guttenberg, 
but an elder brother), stole the invention from Coster and 
carried it to Mentz in 1442. If Caxton, therefore, went 
to Haarlem in Holland, with a companion, in disguise, to 
learn the art of printing, he must have gone there before 
1 442 ; for the story holds that Coster was not only robbed 
of his secret, but of his types, and gave up printing, in 
despair to his more fortunate spoiler. Bourchier was not 
Archbishop of Canterbury till 1454. We may be sure, 
therefore, that, wherever Caxton went to learn the art of 
printing at an earlier period than is generally supposed, he 
did not go to Haarlem in Holland. Substitute Mentz for 
Haarlem, and Atkyns's story is more consistent. It is by 
no means improbable that Henry the Sixth and Cardinal 
Bourchier might have seen the magnificent Latin Bible, 
called the Mazarine Bible, which was printed by Gutten- 


berg, Schoeffer, and Fust, and is held to have appeared 
about 1455. Of this noble book Mr. Hallam says, " It is a 
very striking circumstance, that the high-minded inventors 
of this great art tried at the very outset so bold a flight 
as the printing an entire Bible, and executed it with 
astonishing success. It was Minerva leaping on earth in 
her divine strength and radiant armour, ready at the 
moment of her nativity to subdue and destroy her enemies." 
The king and the archbishop might have desired that 
England should learn the art of executing so splendid a 
work as the first Bible. At that period we know that 
Caxton was residing abroad, and he was a fit person to be 
selected for such a commission. But kings at that day were 
scarcely better supplied with money than their subjects ; 
and if Henry the Sixth had sent to Mr. Eobert Tumour or 
Mr. William Caxton seven hundred marks at one time and 
five hundred at another, the gifts must have been registered 
with all due formality. We have the Exchequer registers 
of Henry the Sixth and his great rival ; and although we 
learn that Edward the Fourth gave Caxton twenty pounds, 
neither his name nor that of Mr. Tumour, nor even of the 
archbishop, is associated with any bounty of Henry the 
Sixth. We may, therefore, safely conclude, with Dr. 
Conyers Middleton, with regard to all this story, that 
" Mr. Atkyns, a bold vain man, might be the inventor of 
it, having an interest in imposing upon the world, to 
confirm his argument that printing was of the prerogative 
royal, in opposition to the stationers ; against whom he 
was engaged in expensive lawsuits, in defence of the 
king's patents, under which he claimed some exclusive 
powers of printing." The date of 1468 on the Oxford 
book is reasonably concluded to have been a typographical 
error. There are niceties in the printing of that book 
which did not belong to the earliest stages of the art ; and 


the same type and manner of printing are seen in Oxford 
books printed immediately after 1478. The probability 
therefore is, that an X was omitted in the Roman 

We could scarcely avoid detailing this story, apocry- 
phal as the whole matter is upon the face of it, because 
the claims of Oxford to the honour of the first printing- 
press were once the subject of a fierce controversy. The 
honest antiquarian Oldys complains most bitterly of 
Richard Atkyns, " How unwarrantably he robbed Master 
Caxton of the honour, wherewith he had long been, by the 
suffrage of all learned men, undeniably invested, of first 
introducing and practising this most scientifical invention 
among us." But had this story been true, Caxton would 
not have been robbed of his glory. He would still have been 
what Leland, writing within half a century of his death, 
calls him, " Angliae Prototypographus " the first printer 
of England. For it is not the man who is the accidental 
instrument of introducing a great invention, and then 
pursues it no further, who is to have the fame of its pro- 
mulgation. It is he who by patient and assiduous labour 
acquires the mastery of a new principle, sees afar off the 
high objects to which it may be applied, carries out its 
details with persevering courage, is not deterred by failure 
nor satisfied with partial success, works for a great purpose 
through long years of anxiety, is careless of honours or 
rewards, and finally does accomplish all and much more 
than he proposed, planting the tree, training it, rejoicing in 
its good fruit, he it is that is the real first introducer and 
practiser of a great scientific invention, even though some 
one may have preceded him in some similar attempt an 
experiment, but not a perfect work. We may well believe 
that, for some ten years of his residence abroad, the know- 
ledge that a new art was discovered, promising such 


mighty results as that of printing, must have excited the 
deepest interest in the mind of Caxton. He says himself, 
in his continuation of the Polychronicon, " About this time 
[1455] the craft of imprinting was first found in Mogunce 
in Almayne." During his residence at the court of Bur- 
gundy he would see the art multiplying around him. 
Italy, where it most extensively flourished before 1470, 
was too distant for his personal inspection. Bamberg, 
Augsburg, and Strasburg brought it nearer to him. But 
Cologne, where Conrad Winters set up a press about 1470, 
was very near at hand. A few days' journey would place 
him within the walls of the holy city of the Ehine. 
Cologne, we have no doubt, fixed the employment of the 
remainder of his life ; and made the London mercer, whose 
name, like the names of many other good and respectable 
men, would have held no place in the memory of the 
world but for the art he learnt in his latter years, 
Cologne rendered the name of Caxton a bright and vene- 
rable name ; a name that even his countrymen, who are 
accustomed chiefly to raise columns and statues to the 
warlike defenders of their country, will one day honour 
amongst the heroes who have most successfully cultivated 
the arts of peace, and by high talent and patient labour 
have rendered it impossible that mankind should not 
steadily advance in the acquisition of knowledge and 
virtue, and in the consequent amelioration of the lot of 
every member of the family of mankind, at some period, 
present or remote. 

The provost of the city of Mentz, on the occasion of the 
festival of Guttenberg, published an address full of German 
enthusiasm, at which we may be apt to smile, but which 
breathes a spirit of reverence for the higher concerns of 
our being which we might profitably engraft upon the 
practical good sense on which we pride ourselves. He 


says, " If the mortal who invented that method of fixing 
the fugitive sounds of words which we call the alphabet 
has operated upon mankind like a divinity, so also has 
Guttenberg's genius brought together the once isolated 
inquirers, teachers, and learners all the scattered and 
divided efforts for extending God's kingdom over the whole 
civilized earth as though beneath one temple. Gutten- 
berg's invention, not a lucky accident, but the golden 
fruit of a well-considered idea an invention made with 
a perfect consciousness of its end has above all other 
causes, for more than four centuries, urged forward and 
established the dominion of science : and what is of the 
most importance, has immeasurably advanced the mental 
formation and education of the people. This invention, a 
true intellectual sun, has mounted above the horizon, first 
of the European Christians, and then of the people of other 
climes and other faiths to an ever-enduring morning. It 
has made the return of barbarism, the isolation of man- 
kind, the reign of darkness, impossible for all future times. 
It has established a public opinion, a court of moral judi- 
cature common to all civilized nations, whatever natural 
divisions may separate them, as much as for the provinces 
of one and the same state. In a word, it has formed 
fellow labourers at the never-resting loom of Christian 
European civilization in every quarter of the world, in 
almost every island of the ocean." 

Filled with some such strong belief, although perhaps 
a vague belief, of the blessings which printing might 
bestow upon his own country, we may view William Caxton 
proceeding, about the end of 1470, to the city of Cologne, 
resolved to acquire the art of which he had seen some of 
the effects, without stint of labour or expense. That ho 
was an apt and diligent scholar his after works abundantly 


The first book printed in the English language, the 
' Recueil of the Histories of Troy,' which we have so often 
noticed, does not bear upon the face of it when and where 
it was printed. That it was printed by Caxton we can 
have no doubt, because he says, " I have practised and 
learned, at my great charge and dispense, to ordain this 
said book in print." He tells us, too, in the title-page, 
that the translation was finished at Cologne, in September, 
1471. That Caxton printed at Cologne we have tolerably 
clear evidence. There is a most curious book of Natural 
History, originally written in Latin by Bartholomew 
Glanvill, a Franciscan friar of the fourteenth century, 
commonly known as Bartholomaeus. A translation of this 
book, which is called 'De Proprietatibus Eerum,' was 
printed in England by Wynkyn de Worde, who was an 
assistant to Caxton in his printing-ofiice at Westminster, 
and there succeeded to him. In some quaint stanzas which 
occur in this edition, and which appear to be written 
either by or in the name of the printer, are these lines, 
which we copy, in the first instance, exactly following the 
orthography and non-punctuation of the original : 

" And also of your charyte call to remembraunce 
The soule of William Caxton first pryter of this boke 
Jn laten tonge at Coleyn hyself to auauce 
That euery well disposyd man may theron loke." 

That we are asked to call to remembrance the soul of 
William Caxton is perfectly clear ; but how are we to read 
the subsequent members of the sentence ? The most 
obvious meaning appears to be that William Caxton was 
the first printer of this book in the Latin tongue ; that he 
printed it at Cologne ; and that his object in printing it 
was to advance or profit himself, in addition to his desire 
that every well-disposed man might look upon it. But 
there is another interpretation of these words, which is 


certainly not a forced one : that William Caxton was the 
first printer of this book, the English book, and that 
the object of his printing it was to advance himself in 
the Latin tongue at Cologne. " This book " would appear 
then to be, this English book, this same book. If a copy 
of this book, whether in Latin or English, printed at 
Cologne at so early a period, could be found, the question 
would be set at rest. There is a Latin edition printed at 
Cologne, in 1481, by John Koelhoff; and there is an 
edition in Latin without date or place. The first English 
edition known is that by Wynkyn de Worde, and that 
translation was made much earlier than the time of Caxton, 
by John de Trevisa. Caxton could scarcely have been 
said to have desired to have advanced himself in the Latin 
tongue, unless he had translated the book as well as printed 
it. The mere fact of superintending workmen who set 
up the types in Latin would have done little to advance 
his knowledge of the language. We believe, therefore, 
that we must receive the obscure lines of Wynkyn de 
Worde as evidence that Caxton did print at Cologne, and 
that he undertook the Latin edition of Bartholomaeus as a 
commercial speculation, " himself to advance," or profit. 

And, indeed, when we look at the state of England after 
the return of Edward IV. from his exile, the "great 
divisions" of which Caxton himself speaks, we may 
consider that he acted with discretion in conducting his 
first printing operations in a German city. It must be 
also borne in mind that this was by far the readiest mode 
to obtain a competent knowledge in the new art. Had he 
come over to England with types and presses, and even 
with the most skilful workmen, the probability is that 
the man of letters who, two or three years before, had 
little or nothing to do in his attendance upon the 15m- 
gundian court, would have ill succeeded in so complicated 


and difficult a commercial enterprise. Lambinet, a French 
bibliographical writer, tells ns that Melchior de Stamham, 
wishing to establish a printing-office at Augsburg, engaged 
a skilful workman of the same town, of the name of 
Sauerloch. He employed a whole year in making the 
necessary preparations for his office. He bought five presses, 
of the materials of which he constructed five other presses. 
He cast pewter types, and, having spent a large sum, 
seven hundred and two florins, in establishing his office, 
began working in 1473. He died before he had completed 
one book : heartbroken, probably, at the amount of capital 
he had sunk; for his unfinished book was sold off at a 
mere trifle, and his office broken up. This statement, 
which rests upon some ancient testimony, shows us some- 
thing of the difficulties which had to be encountered by 
the early printers. The} 7 had to do everything for them- 
selves ; to construct the materials of their art, types, 
presses, and every other instrument and appliance. When 
Caxton began to print at Cologne, he probably had the 
means of obtaining a set of moulds from some previous 
printer, what are called strikes from the punches that 
form the original matrices. The writers upon typography 
seem to assume the necessity of every one of the old 
printers cutting his punches anew, and shaping his letters 
according to his own notions of proportionate beauty. 
That the great masters of their art, the first inventors, the 
Italian printers, the Alduses, the Stephenses, pursued this 
course is perfectly clear. But when printing ceased to be 
a mystery, about 1462, it is more than probable that those 
who tried to set up a press, especially in Germany, either 
bought a few types of the more established printers, or 
obtained a readier means of casting types than that of 
cutting new punches, a difficult and expensive operation. 
Thus we believe the attempts to assign a book without a 


printer's name to some printer whose types that book 
resembles can be little relied upon. Caxton's types are 
held to be like the type of this printer and the type of 
that ; and it is said that he copied the types, with the 
objection added that he did not copy the best models. 
What should have prevented him buying the types from 
the continent, as every English printer did until the 
middle of the last century? or at any rate what should 
have prevented him buying copies of the moulds which 
other printers were using? The bas-relief upon Thor- 
waldsen's statue of Guttenberg exhibits the first printer 
examining a matrix. But all the difficulties in the formation 
of the first matrix overcome, we may readily see that, at 
every stage, the art of making fusile types would become 
easier and simpler, till at length the division of labour 
should be perfectly applied to type-making, and the mere 
casting of a letter, as each letter is cast singly, exhibit 
one of the most rapid and beautiful pieces of handiwork 
that the arts can show. 

But the type obtained, Caxton would still have much 
to do before his office was furnished. We have seen how 
Melchior of Augsburg set about getting his presses : " He 
bought of John Schuesseler five presses, which cost him 
seventy -three Rhenish florins : he constructed with these 
materials five other smaller presses." To those who know 
what a well-adjusted machine the commonest printing- 
press now in use is, it is not easy at first to conceive what 
is meant by saying that Melchior bought five presses, and 
made five other presses out of the materials. The solution 
is this : in all probability this printer of Augsburg bought 
five old wine-presses, and, using the screws, cut them down 
and adapted them to the special purpose for which he 
designed them. The earliest printing-press was nothing 
more than a common screw-press, such as a cheese-press, 


or a napkin-press, with a contrivance for running the 
form of types under the screw after the form was inked. 
It is evident that this mode of obtaining an impression 
must have been very laborious and very slow. As the 
screw must have come down upon the types with a dead 
pull, that is, as the table upon which the types were 
placed was solid and unyielding, great care must have 
been required to prevent the pressure being so hard as to 
injure the face of the letters. 

A famous printer, Jodocus Badius Ascensianus, has 
exhibited his press in the title-page of a book printed 
by him in 1498. Up to the middle of the last century 
this rude press was in use in England ; although the press 
of an ingenious Dutch mechanic, Blaew, in which the 
pressure was rapidly communicated from the screw to the 
types, and all the parts of the press were yielding so as 
to produce a sharp but not a crushing impression, was 
gradually superseding it. The early printers manufactured 
their own ink, so that Caxton had to learn the art of ink- 
making. The ink was applied to the types by balls, or 
dabbers, such as one of the men holds who is working the 
press of Badius. Such dabbers were universally used in 
printing forty years ago. As the ancient weaver was 
expected to make his own loom, so, even this short time 
since, the division of labour was so imperfectly applied to 
printing, that the pressman was expected to make his own 
balls. A very rude and nasty process this was. The 
sheepskins, called pelts, were prepared in the printing- 
office, where the wool with which they were stuffed was 
also carded ; and these balls, thus manufactured by a man 
whose general work was entirely of a different nature, 
required the expenditure of at least half an hour's labour 
every day in a very disagreeable operation, by which they 
were kept soft. 


There were many other little niceties in the home con- 
struction of the materials for printing which Caxton would 
necessarily have to learn. But in the earlier stages of an 
art requiring such nice arrangement, both in the depart- 
ments of the compositor, or setter-up of the type, and of 
the pressman, it is quite clear that many things which, 

Ancient Press. 

by the habit of four centuries, have become familiar and 
easy in a printing-office, would be exceedingly difficult to 
be acquired by the first printers. Rapidity in the work 
was probably out of the question. Accidents must con- 
stantly have occurred in wedging up the single letters 
tightly in pages and sheets; and when one looks at the 


regularity of the inking of these old books, and the 
beautiful accuracy with which the line on one side of a 
page falls on the corresponding line on the other side 
(called by printers " register "), we may be sure that with 
very imperfect mechanical means an amount of care was 
taken in working off the sheets which would appear ludi- 
crous to a modern pressman. The higher operation of a 
printing-office, which consists in reading the proofs, must 
have been in the first instance full of embarrassment and 
difficulty. A scholar was doubtless employed to test the 
accuracy of the proofs ; probably some one who had been 
previously employed to overlook the labours of the tran- 
scribers. Fierce must have been the indignation of such 
a one during a course of painful experience, when he 
found one letter presented for another, letters and even 
syllables and words omitted, letters topsy-turvy, and even 
actual substitutions of one word for another. These are 
almost unavoidable consequences of the mechanical opera- 
tion of arranging movable types, so entirely different 
from the work of the transcriber. The corrector of the 
press would not understand this ; and his life would not 
be a pleasant one. Caxton was no doubt the corrector of 
his own press ; and well for him it was that he brought 
to his task the patience, industry, and good temper which 
are manifest in his writings. 

But the ancient printer bad something more to do before 
his manufacture was complete. He was a bookbinder as 
well as a printer. The ancient books, manuscript as well 
as printed, were wonderful specimens of patient labour. 
The board, literally a wooden board, between which the 
leaves were fastened, was as thick as the panel of a door. 
This was covered with leather, sometimes embossed with 
the most ingenious devices. There were large brass nails, 
with ornamented heads, on the outside of this cover, with 


magnificent corners to the lids. In addition, there were 
clasps. The back was rendered solid with paste and glue, 
so as to last for centuries. Erasmus says of such a book, 
"As for Thomas Aquinas's Secunda Secundae, no man can 
carry it about, much less get it into his head." An ancient 
woodcut shows us the binder hammering at the leaves to 
make them flat, and a lad sewing the leaves in a frame 
very like that still in use. Above are the books flying in 
the air in all their solid glory. 

But the most difficult labour of the ancient printer, and 
that which would necessarily constitute the great dis- 
tinction between one printer and another, was yet to come. 
He had to sell his books when he had manufactured them, 
for there was no division of the labour of publisher and 
printer in those days. His success would of course much 
depend upon the quality of his books ; upon their adapta- 
tion to the nature of the demand for books; upon their 
accuracy ; upon their approach to the beauty of the old 
manuscripts. But he had to incur the risk common to all 
copying processes, whether the thing produced be a medal 
or a book, of expending a large certain sum before a single 
copy could be produced. The process of printing, com- 
pared with that of writing, is a cheap process as ordinarily 
conducted ; but the condition of cheapness is this, that a 
sufficient number of copies of any particular book may be 
reckoned upon as saleable, so as to render the proportion 
of the first expense upon a single copy inconsiderable. If 
it were .required even at the present time to print a single 
copy, or even three or four copies only, of any literary 
work, the cost of printing would bo greater than the cost 
of transcribing. It is when hundreds, and especially thou- 
sands, of the same work are demanded, that the great 
value of the printing-press in making knowledge cheap is 
particularly shown. It is probable that the first printers 


did not take off more than, two or three hundred, if so 
many; of their works ; and, therefore, the earliest printed 
books must have been still dear, on account of the limited 
number of their readers. Caxton, as it appears by a passage 
in one of his books, was a cautious printer ; and required 
something like an assurance that he should sell enough of 
any particular book to repay the cost of producing it. In 
his 'Legend of Saints' he says, "I have submysed [sub- 
mitted] myself to translate into English the ' Legend of 
Saints,' called 'Legenda aurea' in Latin; and William, 
Earl of Arundel, desired me and promised to take a 
reasonable quantity of them and sent me a worshipful 
gentleman, promising that my said lord should during my 
life give and grant to me a yearly fee, that is to note, a 
buck in summer and a doe in winter." Caxton, with his 
sale of a reasonable quantity, and his summer and winter 
venison, was more fortunate than others of his brethren, 
who speculated upon a public demand for books without 
any guarantee from the great and wealthy, Sweynheim 
and Pannartz, Germans who settled in Eome, and there 
printed many beautiful editions of the Latin Classics, pre- 
sented a petition to the Pope, in 1471, which contains the 
following passage : " We were the first of the Germans 
who introduced this art, with vast labour and cost, into 
your holiness' territories, in the time of your predecessor; 
and encouraged by our example other printers to do the 
same. If you peruse the catalogue of the works printed 
by .us, you will admire how and where we oould procure a 
sufficient quantity of paper, or even rags, for such a number 
of volumes. The total of these books amounts to 12,475, 
a prodigious heap, and intolerable to us, your holiness' 
printers, by reason of those unsold. We are no longer 
able to bear the great expense of housekeeping, for want 
of 'Buyers ; of which there cannot be a more flagrant proof 


than that onr house, though otherwise spacious enough, is 
full of quire-books, but void of every necessary of life." 
For some years after the invention of printing, many of 
the ingenious, learned, and enterprising men who devoted 
themselves to the new art which was to change the face of 
society were ruined, because they could not sell cheaply 
unless they printed a considerable number of a book ; and 
there were not readers enough to take off the stock which 
they thus accumulated. In time, however, as the facilities 
for acquiring knowledge which printing afforded created 
many readers, the trade of printing books became one of less 
general risk ; and dealers in literature could afford more 
and more to dispense with individual patronage, and rely 
upon the public demand. 

H 2 






HE indications of the period at which Caxton 
first brought the art of printing into England 
are not very exact. Several of his books, sup- 
posed to have been amongst the earliest, are 
without date or place of impression. The first 
in the title of which a date or a place is mentioned is ' The 
Dictes and Sayinges of Philosophres,' translated by the 
Earl of Eivers from the French. This bears upon the 


title " Enprynted by me William Caxton, at Westminster, 
the yere of our Lord M.CCCC. Ixxvij." Another imprint, 
three years later, is more precise. It is in the ' Chronicles 
of Englond,' which book the printer says was " Enprynted 
by me, William Caxton, in thabbey of Westmynstre by 
london, &c., the v day of Juyn, the yere of thincarnacion 
of our lord god M.CCCC. Ixxx." In 1485 'A Book of the 
Noble Hystoryes of Kynge Arthur ' was " by me deuyded 
into xxi bookes chapytred and enprynted and fynysshed, in 
thabbey Westmestre." The expression " in the Abbey of 
Westminster" leaves no doubt that beneath the actual 
roof of some portion of the abbey Caxton carried on his 
art. Stow, in his ' Survey of London,' says, " In the 
Eleemosynary or Almonry at Westminster Abbey, now 
corruptly called the Ambry, for that the alms of the abbey 
were there distributed to the poor, John Islip, Abbot of 
Westminster, erected the first press of book-printing that 
ever was in England, and Caxton was the first that prac- 
tised it in the said abbey." The careful historian of 
London here committed one error ; John Islip did not 
become Abbot of Westminster till 1500. John Esteney 
was made abbot in 1474, and remained such until his 
death in 1498. His predecessor was Thomas Milling. In 
Dugdale's ' Monasticon ' we find, speaking of Esteney, " It 
was in this abbot's time, and not in that of Milling, or 
in that of Abbot Islip, that Caxton exercised the art of 
printing at Westminster. He is said to have erected his 
office in one of the side chapels of the abbey, supposed by 
some of our historians to have been the Ambry or Elee- 
mosynary." Oldys says, " Whoever authorized Caxton, it 
is certain that he did there, at the entrance of the abbey, 
exercise the art, from whence a printing-room is to this 
day called a chapel." When we consider the large extent 
of building that formed a portion of the abbey of West- 


minster, before the house was shorn of its splendour by 
Henry the Eighth, we may readily "believe that Caxton 
might have been accommodated in a less sacred and indeed 
less public place than a side chapel of the present church. 
There were buildings attached to that church which were 
removed to make room for the Chapel of Henry the Seventh. 
It has been conjectured that the ancient Scriptorium of 
the Abbey, the place where books were transcribed, might 
have been assigned to Caxton, to carry on an art which 
was fast superseding that of the transcriber. Nor are 
there wanting other examples of the encouragement 
afforded to printing by great religious societies. As early 
as 1480 books were printed at St. Alban's ; and in 1525 
there was a translation of Boetius printed in the monastery 
of Tavistock, by Dan Thomas Eichards, monk of the same 
monastery. That the intercourse of Caxton with the 
Abbot of Westminster was on a familiar footing we learn 
from his own statement, in 1490 : " My Lord Abbot of 
Westminster did shew to me late certain evidences 
written in Old English, for to reduce it into our English 
now used." 

Setting up his press in this sacred place, it is somewhat 
remarkable how few of Caxton's books are distinctly of a 
religious character.* Not more than five or six can be 
held strictly to pertain to theological subjects. Bibles 
he could not print, as we shall presently notice. 

There is no breviary or book of prayers found to have 
issued from his press. The only book distinctly connected 
with the Church is 'Liber Festivalis,' or Directions for 
keeping Feasts all the year. It is highly probable that 
many of such books have perished. But what furnishes 
a curious example of the accidents by which the smallest 
things may be preserved, there is now existing, preserved 

* See the list in Appendix. 


in Mr. Douce's collection in the Bodleian Library At 
Oxford, a handbill, precisely such as a publisher of the 
present day might distribute, printed in Caxton's largest 
type, inviting the people to come to his office and buy a 
certain book regulating the church service. "If it plese 
any man spirituel or temporel to bye ony Pyes of two and 
thre comenioracions of Salisburi vse enprynted after the 
forme of this present lettre whiche ben wel and truly 
correct, late hym come to Westmonester into the Al- 
monesrye at the reed pale and he shal have them good 
chepe. Supplico stet cedula." The preface to the present 
Liturgy of the Church of England explains what a Pye 
was : " The number and hardness of the rules called the 
Pie, and the manifold changings of the service, was the 
cause, that to turn the book only was so hard and intricate 
a matter, that many times there was more business to 
find out what should be read, than to read it when it was 
found out." It is a curious fact that printers even at the 
present day call a confused heap of types Pie ; and whilst 
no one has attempted to explain the origin of the word, 
we may venture to suggest that the intricacy of this 
Romish ordinal might lead the printers to call a mass of 
confused and deranged letters by a familiar expression 
of contempt derived from the Pie which they or their 
predecessors in the art had been accustomed to work upon. 
Sir Thomas More has clearly shown the reason why 
Caxton could not venture to print a Bible, although the 
people would have greedily bought WicklifFs translation. 
There were translations of the Bible before Wickliff, and 
that translation which goes by the name of this great 
reformer was probably made up in some degree from those 
previous translations. WicklifFs translation was inter- 
dicted, and thus More says, " On account of the penalties 
ordered by Archbishop Arundel's constitution, thongh the 


old translations that were before WicklifFs days remained 
lawful and were in some folk's hands had and read, yet he 
thought no printer would lightly be so hot to put any 
Bible in print at his own charge and then hang upon a 
doubtful trial whether the first copy of his translation 
was made before WicklifFs days or since. For if it were 
made since, it must be approved before the printing." 
This was a dilemma that Caxton would have been too 
prudent to encounter. 

In the books printed by Caxton which treat of secular 
subjects, there is constant evidence of the sincere and 
unpretending piety of this skilful and laborious author 
and artisan. He lived in an age when the ancient power 
of the church was somewhat waning ; and far-sighted 
observers saw the cloud no bigger than a man's hand 
which indicated the approaching storm. One of his 
biographers, the Eev. Mr. Lewis, says of him that " he 
expressed a great sense of religion, and wrote like one 
who lived in the fear of God, and was very desirous of 
promoting his honour and glory." It was in this spirit 
that he desired the religious teaching of the people not 
to be formal and pedantic. The preface to ' The Doctrinal 
of Sapyence,' which was translated out of French into 
English by Caxton, contains a curious passage : " This 
that is written in this little book ought the priests to 
learn and teach to their parishes : and also it is necessary 
lor simple priests that understand not the Scriptures: and 
it is made for simple people and put in English. And 
by cause that for to hear examples stirreth and moveth 
the people, that ben simple, more to devotion than to that 
great authority of science as it appeareth by the right 
reverend father and doctor Bede, priest, which saith, in 
the Histories of England, that a bishop of Scotland, a 
subtle and a great clerk, was sent by the clerks of Scot- 


land into England for to preach the Word of God ; but 
by cause lie used in his sermon subtle authorities, such 
as [for] simple people had, nor took, no savour, he returned 
without doing of any great good ne profit, wherefore they 
sent another of less science : the which was more plain, 
and used commonly in his sermons examples and parables, 
by which he profited much more unto the erudition of the 
simple people than did that other." 

But, in wishing the highest knowledge to be simplified 
and made popular, the good old printer had no thought 
of rendering knowledge a light and frivolous thing, to be 
taken up and laid down without earnestness. In his 
truly beautiful exposition of the uses of knowledge, con- 
tained in his prologue to the ' Mirror of the World,' he 
says, " Let us pray the Maker and Creator of all creatures, 
God Almighty, that, at the beginning of this book, it list 
him, of his most bounteous grace, to depart with us of the 
same that we may learn ; and that learned, to retain ; and 
that retained, to teach ; that we may have so perfect 
science and knowledge of God, that we may get thereby 
the health of our souls, and to be partners of his glory, 
permanent, and without end, in heaven. Amen." 

Gibbon, we think, has taken a somewhat severe view 
of the character of the works which were produced by the 
father of English printing: "It was in the year 1474 
that our first press was established in- Westminster Abbey, 
by William Caxton : but in the choice of his authors, that 
liberal and industrious artist was reduced to comply with 
the vicious taste of his readers ; to gratify the nobles with 
treatises on heraldry, hawking, and the game of chess, and 
to amuse the popular credulity with romances of fabulous 
knights and legends of more fabulous saints." The his- 
torian, however, notices with approbation the laudable 
desire which Caxton expresses to elucidate the history of 


his country. But his censure of the general character 
of the works of Caxton's press is somewhat too sweeping. 
It appears to us that a more just as well as a more liberal 
view of the use and tendency of these works is that of 
Thomas Warton, which we may be excused in quoting 
somewhat at length : " By means of French translations, 
our countrymen, who understood French much better than 
Latin, became acquainted with many useful books which 
they would not otherwise have known. With such as- 
sistances, a commodious access to the classics was opened, 
and the knowledge of ancient literature facilitated and 
familiarised In England, at a much earlier period than 
is imagined ; and at a time when little more than the 
productions of speculative monks and irrefragable doc- 
tors could be obtained or were studied. . . . When these 
authors, therefore, appeared in a language almost as in- 
telligible as the English, they fell into the hands of 
illiterate and common readers, and contributed to sow the 
seeds of a national erudition, and to form a popular taste. 
Even the French versions of the religious, philosophical, 
historical, and allegorical compositions of those more 
enlightened Latin writers who flourished in the middle 
ages, had their use, till better books came into vogue : 
pregnant as they were with absurdities, they communi- 
cated instruction on various and new subjects, enlarged 
the field of information, and promoted the love of reading, 
by gratifying that growing literary curiosity which now 
began to want materials for the exercise of its opera- 
tions. . . . These French versions enabled Caxton, our first 
printer, to enrich the state of letters in this country with 
many valuable publications. He found it no difficult task, 
either by himself or the help of his friends, to turn a con- 
siderable number of these pieces into English, which he 
printed. Ancient learning had as yet made too little 


progress among us to encourage this enterprising and 
industrious artist to publish the Roman authors in their 
original language : and had not the French furnished him 
with these materials, it is not likely that Virgil, Ovid, 
Cicero, and many other good writers would by the means 
of his press have been circulated in the English tongue 
so early as the close of the fifteenth century." Warton 
adds in a note, " It was a circumstance favourable at least 
to English literature, owing indeed to the general illiteracy 
of the times, that our first printers were so little employed 
on books written in the learned languages. Almost all 
Caxton's books are English. The multiplication of English 
copies multiplied English readers, and these again pro- 
duced new vernacular writers. The existence of a press 
induced many persons to turn authors who were only 
qualified to write in their native tongue." Having thus 
given the somewhat different views of two most able and 
accomplished scholars, viewing as they did the same 
objects through different media, we shall proceed to notice 
some of the more remarkable characteristics of the books 
issued from Caxton's press, rather regarding them as illus- 
trations of the state of knowledge and the manners of his 
time, than as mere bibliographical curiosities. 

' The Histories of Troy ' is a book with which our readers 
must now be tolerably familiar. A writer in the century 
succeeding Caxton, one Robert Braham, is very severe 
upon the old printer for this his work : " If a man studious 
of that history [the Trojan war] should seek to find the 
same in the doings of William Caxton, in his lewd [idle] 
' Recueil of Troye,' what should he then find, think ye ? 
Assuredly none other thing but a long, tedious, and 
brainless babbling, tending to no end, nor having any 
certain beginning ; but proceeding therein as an idiot in 
his folly, that cannot make an end till ho be bidden. 


Much like the foolish and unsavoury doings of Orestes, 
whom Juvenal remembereth which Caxton's ' Kecueil,' 
who so list with judgment peruse, shall rather think his 
doings worthy to be numbered amongst the trifling tales 
and barren lewderies of Eobin Hood and Bevis of Hampton, 
than remain as a monument of so worthy an history." 
We have no sympathy with writers, old or modern, who 
are severe upon " trifling tales and barren lewderies "- 
the stories and ballads which are the charm of childhood 
and the solace of age. It is somewhat hard that Caxton 
should be thus maltreated for having made the English 
familiar with that romance of the Trojan war with which 
all Europe was enamoured in some language or another. 
The authority which Le Fevre partly followed was the 
Troy Book of Guido di Colonna ; and he is traced to have 
translated his book from a Norman-French poet of the 
time of Edward the Second ; and the Norman is to be 
traced to Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis, the sup- 
posed authors of two ancient works on the History of 
Troy, but which histories are held to have been manu- 
factured by an Englishman of the twelfth century. Guido 
di Colonna constructed the most captivating of the ro- 
mances of chivalry upon these supposititious tales of Troy. 
Hector and Achilles are surrounded by him with all the 
attributes of knight-errantry ; and the Grecian manners 
are Gothicised with all the peculiarities of the civilization 
of the Middle Ages. Lydgate constructed upon this 
romance his poem of the Troy Book; and Ohaucer availed 
himself of it in his poem of 'Troilus and Cressida.' 
Shakspere, in his wonderful play upon the same part of 
the Trojan story of the middle ages, has used Chaucer, 
Lydgate, and Caxton ; and several passages show that 
our great dramatic poet was perfectly familiar with the 
translation of our old printer, which was so popular that 


by Shakspere's time it had passed through six editions 
and continued to be read even in the last century. 

' The Book of the whole Life of Jason,' printed by Caxton 
in 1475, is another of these middle-age romances, founded 
upon the supposititious histories of Dares and Dictys. 

Of ' The Game and Play of the Chess,' Caxton printed 
two editions, which he translated himself from the French. 
The first was finished on the last day of March, 1474 ; and 
it is supposed to have been the first book which he printed 
in England. Bagford says, "Caxton's first book in the 
Abbey was ' The Game of Chess ;' a book in those times 
much in use with all sorts of people, and in all likelihood 
first desired by the abbot, and the rest of his friends and 
masters." It was a book that Caxton clearly intended for 
the diffusion of knowledge amongst all ranks of people ; 
for in his second edition he says, in not very complimentary 
phrase, " The noble clerks have written and compiled 
many notable works and histories," that they might come 
"to the knowledge and understanding of such as be 
ignorant, of which the number is infinite." And he adds, 
with still plainer speech, that, according to Solomon, " the 
number of fools is infinite." He says that amongst these 
noble clerks there was an excellent doctor of divinity in 
the kingdom of France, which " hath made a book of the 
chess moralised, which at such a time as I was resident in 
Bruges came into my hands." 

It would seem to be an ingenious device of the reverend 
writer of the book of chess which Caxton translated, to 
associate with very correct instructions as to the mode of 
playing the game, such moralisations as would enable him 
therewith to teach the people " to understand wisdom and 
virtue." Caxton readily adopts the same notion. Ho 
dedicates the book to the Duke of Clarence : " Forasmuch 
as I have understood and known that you are inclined 


unto the commonweal of the king, our said sovereign lord, 
his nobles, lords, and common people of his noble realm 
of England, and that ye saw gladly the inhabitants of the 
same informed in good, virtuous, profitable, and honest 
manners." This book contains authorities, sayings, and 
stories, " applied unto the morality of the public weal, as 
well of the nobles and of the common people, after the 
game and play of chess ;" and Caxton trusts that " other, 
of what estate or degree he or they stand in, may see in 
this little book that they govern themselves as they ought 
to do." This book of chess contains four treatises. The 
first describes the invention of the game in the time of a 
king of Babylon, Emsmerodach, a cruel king, the son of 
Nebuchadnezzar, to whom a philosopher showed the game 
for the purpose of exhibiting " the manners and condition 
of a king, of the nobles, and of the common people and 
their ofiices, and how they should be touched and drawn, 
and how he should amend himself and become virtuous." 
This is a bold fable, and takes us farther back than Sir 
William Jones, who says that chess was imported from 
the west of India, in the sixth century, and known imme- 
morially in Hindustan by the name of Chaturanga, or the 
four members of an army, namely, elephanfs, horses, 
chariots, and foot-soldiers. The second treatise in Caxton's 
book describes, first, the office of a king : by this name 
the principal piece was always known. Secondly, of the 
queen ; this name would seem to belong to the time of 
Caxton, for Chaucer and Lydgate call the piece Fers or 
Peers, a noble, a general, hence Peer. Thirdly, of the 
Alphyns: this is the same as the present bishop; the 
French called this personage the Fou, and Eabelais calls 
him the Archer. Fourthly, the knight, who was always 
called by this name, in English and French chess. The 
rook, the fifth dignified piece, is from the Eastern name 


Rue. Caxton goes on to inform us that the third treatise 
is of the offices of the common people. This treatise 
relates to the pawns; and a curious thing it is that the 
eight pawns of the board are taken by him each to repre- 
sent large classes of the commonalty. The denominations 
of these classes somewhat vary in the two editions, but 
their general arrangement is the same. We have, in the 
first class, labourers and tillers of the earth ; in the second, 
smiths and other workers in iron and metal ; in the -third, 
notaries, advocates, scriveners, drapers, and makers of 
cloth; in the fourth, merchants and changers; in the fifth, 
physicians, leeches, spicers, and apothecaries ; in the sixth, 
taverners, hostelei-s, and victuallers ; in the seventh, 
guards of the cities, receivers of custom, and tollers; and 
lastly, messengers, couriers, ribalds, and players at the dice. 

The second edition of ' The Game of the Chess,' which 
is without date or place, was the first book printed in 
the English language which contained woodcuts. On the 
following page we give &, fac-simile of the figure of the 
knight in Caxton's volume. 

The original art of engraving on wood, and the produc- 
tion of block -books, gradually merged, as we have seen, 
into the art of printing from movable types. From that 
time woodcuts became a secondary part of books, used, 
indeed, very often by the early printers, but by no means 
forming an indispensable branch of typography. Imitat- 
ing the manuscript books, the first printers chiefly 
employed the wood-engraver upon initial letters; and 
sometimes the pages of their works were surrounded by 
borders, which contained white lines or sprigs of foliage 
upon a black ground. If a figure, or group of figures, was 
introduced, little more than the outline was first attempted. 
By degrees, however, endeavours were made to represent 
gradations of shadow ; and a few light hatchings, or white 




dots, were employed. All cross-hatchings, such as charac- 
terize a line-engraving upon metal, were carefully avoided 
by the early woodcutters, on account of the difficulty in 
the process. Mr. Ottley, in his ' History of Engraving,' 
says that an engraver on wood, of the name of Wohl- 
gemuth (who flourished at Kuremburg about 1480), 
" perceived that, though difficult, this was not impossible ;" 

and, in the cuts of the ' Nuremburg Chronicle,' a " suc- 
cessful attempt was first made to imitate the bold hatchings 
of a pen-drawing." Albert Durer, an artist of extra- 
ordinary talent, became the pupil of Wohlgemuth; and 
oy him, and many others, wood-engraving was carried to 
a perfection which it subsequently lost till its revival in 
our own country. 




Lord Rivers presenting his book to Edward IV. 



N the library belonging to the Archbishops of 
Canterbury, at Lambeth, is a beautiful manu- 
script, on vellum, of a French work, 'Les Diets 
Moraux des,' which contains the 
illumination of which the above is a copy. In 
lines written under the illumination the book is stated to 
be translated by " Antony erle," by which Lord Rivers is 
meant. This book was printed by Caxton in 1477; and 
it is held that the man kneeling by the side of the earl in 



the illumination is the printer of the book. We have 
already mentioned the confidential intercourse which 
subsisted between Lord Eivers and his printer, with 
regard to the revision of this work. (See page 78.) The 
passages which we there quote are given in a sort of 
appendix, in which Caxton professes to have himself 
translated a chapter upon women, which Lord Eivers did 
not think fit to meddle with, and which he prints with a 
real or affected apprehension. The printer's statement is 
altogether such a piece of sly humour, that we willingly 
transcribe it, trusting that our readers will see the drollery 
through the quaintness : 

" I find that niy said lord hath left out certain and 
divers conclusions touching women. Whereof I marvelled 
that my said lord hath not writ on them, nor what hath 
moved him so to do, nor what cause he had at that time. 
But I suppose that some fair lady hath desired him to 
leave it out of his book ; or else he was amorous on some 
noble lady, for whose love he would not set it in his book ; 
or else for the very affection, love, and good will that he 
hath unto all ladies and gentlewomen, he thought that 
Socrates spared the sooth, and wrote of women more than, 
truth ; which I cannot think that so true a man and so 
noble a philosopher as Socrates was, should write otherwise 
than truth. For if he had made fault in writing of women, 
he ought not or should not be believed in his other Dictes 
and Sayings. But I perceive that my said lord knoweth 
verily that such defaults be not had nor found in the 
women born and dwelling in these parts nor regions of 
the world. Socrates was a Greek, born in a far country 
from hence, which country is all of other conditions than 
this is, and men and women of other nature than they be 
here in this country ; for I wot well, of whatsoever con- 
dition women be in Greece, the women of this country be 


right good, wise, pleasant, humble, discreet, sober, chaste, 
obedient to their husbands, true, secret, stedfast, ever busy, 
and never idle, attemperate in speaking, and virtuous in 
all their works; or at least should be so. For which 
causes so evident, my said lord, as I suppose, thought it 
was not of necessity to set in his book the sayings of his 
author Socrates touching women." 

There is a book translated by Caxton from the French, 
and printed by him in 1484, which we may incidentally 
here notice, as illustrating the female manners of that 
century. Jt is called 'The Knight of the Tower;' and 
really would seem to justify the sarcasm of Caxton where 
he says, " The women of this country be right good, &c-., 
or at least should be so." The preface implies that the 
work, though written by a Frenchman, applies to the 
contemporary state of society in England ; and it may be 
well to see how our ladies were employed about four 
centuries ago. It appears from this curious performance 
that the ladies, although well accomplished in needlework, 
confectionery, church music, and even taught something 
of the rude surgery of those days, were not great proficients 
in reading, and the art of writing was thought to be 
better let alone by them. The Knight of the Tower com- 
plains of the levity of the ladies. Their extravagance in 
dress, the husband's standing complaint, is thus put by 
the Knight of the Tower : " The wives say to their 
husbands every day, ' Sir, such a wife and such hath such 
goodly array that beseemeth her well, and I pray you 
I may have of the same.' And if her husband say, ' Wife, 
if such have such array, such that are wiser than they 
have it not,' she will say, ' No force it is [that is of no 
consequence], for they cannot wear it ; and if I have it, 
ye shall see how well it will become me, for I can wear 
it.' And thus with her words her husband must needs 

i 2 


ordain her that which she desireth, or he shall never have 
peace with her, for they will find so many reasons that 
they will not be warned [put off]." The women of lower 
estate come in for the same censure, the complaint being 
that they fur their draperies and fur their heels. It 
appears to have been the practice for ladies to go very 
freely to feasts and assemblies, to joustings and tourna- 
ments, without what we now call the protection of a 
husband or a male relation. A contemporary writer says 
they lavished their wealth and corrupted their virtue by 
these freedoms. If we may judge from the warnings 
which the Knight of the Tower gives his daughters of 
the discipline they would receive at the hands of their 
husbands for any act of disobedience, the discipline not 
only of hard words, but of harder blows, it is not to be 
wondered at that they sought abroad for some relief to 
the gloom and severity of their home lives. It is pleasant, 
amidst these illustrations of barbarous and profligate 
manners, to find a picture of that real goodness which has 
distinguished the female character in all ages, and which, 
especially in the times of feudal oppression of which we 
are speaking, mitigated the lot of those who were depen- 
dent upon the benevolence of the great possessors of 
property. The good Lady Cecile of Balleville is thus 
described by the Knight of the Tower : " Her daily 
ordinance was, that she rose early enough, and had ever 
friars and two or three chaplains, which said matins 
before her within the oratory. And after, she heard a 
high mass and two low, and said her service full devoutly. 
And after this she went and arrayed herself, and walked 
in her garden or else about her place, saying her other 
devotions and prayers. And as time was she went to 
dinner. And after dinner, if she wist and knew any sick 
folk or women in their childbed, she went to see and 


visited them, and made to be brought to them her beet 
meat. And there as she might not go herself, she had a 
servant proper therefore, which rode upon a little horse, 
and bare with him great plenty of good meat and di-ink, 
for to give to the poor and sick folk there as they were. 
Also she was of such custom, that, if she knew any poor 
gentlewoman that should be wedded, she arrayed her with 
her jewels. Also she went to the obsequies of poor gentle- 
women, and gave there torches, and such other luminary 
as it needed thereto. And after she had heard evensong 
she went to her supper if she fasted not, and timely she 
went to bed, and made her steward to come to her to wit 
[know] what meat should be had the next day. She made 
great abstinence, and wore the hair upon the Wednesday 
and upon the Friday." This is a true character of the 
Middle Ages ; goodness based upon sincere piety, but that 
degenerating into penances and mortifications, which our 
Reformed faith teaches us to believe are unnecessary for 
spiritual elevation. 

Caxton's early friend and patron, Lord Rivers, appears, 
as far as we can judge from the books which remain, to 
have been the only one of the first English printer's con- 
temporaries who rendered him any literary assistance. 
He contributed three works to Caxton's press namely, 
the 'Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers,' 'The Moral 
Proverbs of Christine de Pisa/ and the book named 
* Cordial.' 

The book named ' Cordial ' is clearly described in a 
prologue by Caxton. It was delivered to him, he says, 
by Lord Rivers, " for to be imprinted and so multiplied 
to go abroad among the people, that thereby more surely 
might be remembered the four last things undoubtedly 
coming." Caxton, in an elaborate commendation of his 
patron, of whose former " great tribulation and adversity " 


he speaks, says, " It seemeth that he conceiveth well the 
mutability and the unstableness of this present life, and 
that he desireth, with a great zeal and spiritual love, our 
ghostly help and perpetual salvation." Lord Rivers had 
indeed borne tribulation since the time when, the flower 
of Edward's court, he jousted with the Bastard of Burgundy 
in Smithfield, in 1468. In the following year his father 
and brother were murdered by a desperate faction at 
Northampton. When Lord Rivers, conceiving the muta- 
bility and unstableness of life, wrote the book called 
' Cordial,' he was only six and thirty years of age. Three 
years after Caxton printed the book, the translator was 
himself murdered at Pomfret by the Protector Richard. 
Shakspere did not do injustice to the noble character of 
this peer when he makes him exclaim, when he was led to 
the block, 

" Sir Richard Batcliff, let me tell thee this, 
To-day shall thou behold a subject die, 
For truth, for duty, and for loyalty." 

Richard HI., Act iii., Scene 2. 

There is left to us a remarkable fragment which indi- 
cates to us something higher than the ability and literary 
attainment of this unfortunate nobleman. It has been 
preserved by John Rouse, a contemporary historian, who 
lived in the pleasant solitude of Guy's Cliff, near Warwick, 
and died there in 1491. He says (we translate from his 
Latin), " In the time of his imprisonment at Pomfret he 
wrote a balet in English, which has been shown to me, 
having these words Sum what musyng," &c. ; and then 
Rouse transcribes the ballad, of which the second stanza 
is imperfect, but has been supplied from another ancient 
copy. Percy, who prints the ballad in his ' Reliques,' 
says, " If we consider that it was written during his cruel 
confinement in Pomfret Castle, a short time before his 


'execution in 1483, it gives us a fine picture of the com- 
posure and steadiness with which this stout earl beheld 
his approaching fate." We subjoin the ballad, modernising 
the orthography : 

Somewhat musing, and more mourning, 

In remembering the unstedfastness, 
This world being of such wheeling, 

Me contrarying what may I guess. 

I fear doubtless, remediless 

Is now to seize my woful chance ; 
For unkindness withouten less 

And no redress, me doth avance, 

With displeasance to my grievance 

And no siirauce of remedy : 
Lo in this trance, now in substance 

Such is my dance, willing to die. 

Methints truly bounden am I, 

And that greatly, to he content, 
Seeing plainly fortune doth wry 

All contrary from mine intent. 

My life was lent me to one intent ; 

It is nigh spent. Welcome, fortune ! 
But I ne went thus to be shent, 

But she it meant such is her won [wont], 

Turn ve to one of the more important works of Caxton, 
in which he sought to inform his countrymen generally 
with a knowledge of history. ' The Chronicles of England,' 
printed in 1480, begins at the fabulous period before the 
liomans, and ends at the commencement of the reign of 
Edward IV. The early legends of English History, which 
even Milton did not disdain to touch upon, are founded 
upon the ' History ' of Nennius, which \yas composed in 
the ninth century, and which was copied by Geoffrey of 
Monmouth and other of the early chroniclers. Caxton 
took the thing as he found it, and continued the narrative 


to his own time. He deals prudently with contemporary 
events. Caxton followed up these chronicles in the same 
year with another book, called ' The Description of Britain,' 
in which he tells of the extent of the island, its marvels 
and wonders, its highways, rivers, cities, and towns, pro- 
vinces, laws, bishoprics, and languages. He describes also 
Scotland and Ireland. Some of his marvels and wonders 
are a little astounding ; but others are as precise in their 
description, and as forcible (brevity being an essential 
quality), as we could well desire. Thus of Stonehenge : 
" At Stonehinge beside Salisbury there be great stones and 
wondrous huge ; and be reared on high, as it were gates 
set upon other gates ; nevertheless it is not known cleanly 
nor aperceived how and wherefore they be so areared and 
so wonderfully hanged." 

From the chronicles of his own country Caxton sought 
to lead his readers forward to a knowledge of the history 
of other countries. He published in 1482 ' The Polychroni- 
con, containing the bearings and deeds of many times.' 
This book was originally composed by Higden, a Benedic- 
tine monk of Chester ; and was translated from Latin into 
English by John de Trevisa, who lived in the times of 
Edward III. and Eichard II. Caxton in his title-page 
says, " Imprinted by William Caxton, after having some- 
what changed the rude and old English, that is to wit 
certain words which in these days be neither used nor 
understanden." In another place he says, " And now at 
this time simply imprinted and set in form by me, William 
Caxton, and a little embellished from the old making." 
Caxton was here doing what every person who desires to 
advance the knowledge of his time, by extending that 
knowledge beyond the narrow circle of scholars and anti- 
quarians, must always do. He popularised an old book ; 
he made it intelligible. He did not do, as some verbal 


pedants amongst us still persist in doing, present our 
old writers, and especially our poets, in all the capricious- 
ness of their original orthography. He was the first great 
diffuser of knowledge amongst us ; and surely we think 
he took a judicious course. He says of the ' Polychroni- 
con,' " The book is general, touching shortly many notable 
matters." But, general as the book was, and extensively 
as he desired to circulate it according to his limited means, 
he does not approach his task without a due sense of the 
importance of the knowledge he was seeking to impart. 
The praise of history in his proem is truly eloquent : 
" History is a perpetual conservatrice of those things that 
have been before this present time ; and also a quotidian 
witness of benefits, of malfaits [evil deeds], great acts, and 
triumphal victories of all manner of people. And also, if 
the terrible feigned fables of poets have much stirred and 
moved men to right and conserving of justice, how much 
more is to be supposed that history, assertrice of virtue 
and a mother of all philosophy, moving our manners to 
virtue, reformeth and reconcileth near hand all those men 
which through the infirmity of our moral nature hath led 
the most part of their life in otiosity [idleness], and mis- 
spended their time, passed right soon out of remembrance : 
of which life and death is equal oblivion." Again, " Other 
monuments distributed in divers changes endure but for 
a short time or season ; but the virtue of history diffused 
and spread by the universal world hath time, which con- 
sumeth all other things, as conservatrice and keeper of her 

' The Image or Mirror of the World ' is one of the popular 
books which Caxton translated from the French. It treats 
of a vast variety of subjects, after the imperfect natural 
philosophy of those days. We have an account of the 
seven liberal arts ; of nature, how she worketh ; and how 


the earth holdeth him right in the middle of the world. 
We have also much geographical information, amongst 
which the wonders of Inde occupy a considerable space. 
Meteorology and astronomy take up another large portion. 
The work concludes with an account of the celestial 
paradise. This book seems specially addressed to high and 
courtly readers, for Caxton says, ' The hearts of nobles, in 
eschewing of idleness at such time as they have none other 
virtuous occupations on hand, ought to exercise them in 
reading, studying, and visiting the noble feats and deeds 
of the sage and wise men, sometime travelling in profitable 
virtues ; of whom it happeneth oft that some be inclined 
to visit the books treating of sciences particular ; and 
other to read and visit books speaking of feats of arms, of 
love, or of other marvellous histories ; and among all other, 
this present book, which is called the ' Image or Mirror 
of the World,' ought to be visited, read, and known, by 
cause it treateth of the world, and of the wonderful divi- 
sion thereof." But the translator tells us, " I have en- 
deavoured me therein, at the request and desire, cost and 
dispense, of the honourable and worshipful man, Hugh 
Brice, citizen and alderman of London." We may there- 
fore believe that Caxton intended this book for a wider 
circulation than that of the nobles whom he addresses ; 
especially as he says, " I have made it so plain that every 
man reasonable may understand it, if he advisedly and 
attentively read it, or hear it." The good old printer 
rendered the book intelligible to all classes, under the 
condition that all who read it should give their attention. 
This is one of the books into which Caxton has introduced 
woodcuts, giving twenty-seven figures, " without which it 
may not lightly [easily] be understood." These twenty- 
seven figures are diagrams, explanatory of some of the 
scientific principles laid down in this book ; but there are 




eleven other cuts illustrative of other subjects treated in 
the work. An idea may be formed of the manner in which 
those cuts are engraved from the following fac-simile of 
' Music.' 

One of the most popular books of Caxton's translation 
must unquestionably have been the ' History of Reynard the 
Fox.' It is held that this work was composed in the twelfth 
century ; and surely the author must have been a man of 
high genius to have constructed a fable which has been ever 
since popular in all countries, and delights us even to this 
hour. Caxton has no woodcuts to his edition, to which the 
book subsequently owed a portion of its attractions. 

'The Subtil Histories and Fables of Esop,' translated by 
Caxton from the French, were printed by him in 1483, 
" The first year of the reign of King Richard the Third." 


In the first leaf there is a supposed portrait of Esop, a 
large rough woodcut, exhibiting him as he is described, 
with a great head, large visage, long jaws, sharp eyes, a 
short neck, curb-backed, and so forth. There is a con- 
troversy whether Kichard the Third was a deformed man 
or not. It is held by many that it was one of the scandals 
put forth under his triumphant successor (which scandal 
Shakspere has for ever made current), that Richard was 

" Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, 
Deform'd, unfinished." 

It strikes us that Caxton would scarcely have ventured, in 
the first year of King Richard 1 1 1., to exhibit a print of a 
hump-backed Esop (for any print was then a rare thing), 
if his dread sovereign had been remarkable amongst the 
people for a similar defect. The conclusion of these fables of 
Esop has a story told by Caxton as from himself, which is 
a remarkable specimen of a plain narrative style, with a 
good deal of sly humour : 

" Now then I will finish all these fables with this tale 
that followeth, which a worshipful priest and a parson 
told me late : he said that there were dwelling at Oxen- 
ford two priests, both Masters of Arts of whom that one 
was quick and could put himself forth ; and that other 
was a good simple priest. And so it happened that the 
master that was pert and quick was anon promoted to a 
benefice or twain, and after to prebends, and for to be a 
dean of a great prince's chapel, supposing and weening 
that his fellow, the simple priest, should never be promoted, 
but be always an annual, or, at the most, a parish priest. 
So after a long time that this worshipful man, this dean, 
came running into a good parish with five or seven horses, 
like a prelate, and came into the church of the said parish, 
and found there this good simple man, sometime his fellow, 


\rhich came and welcomed him lowly. And that other 
bade him 'Good morrow, Master John,' and took him 
slightly by the hand, and axed him where he dwelt. And 
the good man said, ' In this parish.' ' How,' said he, ' are 
ye here a sole priest, or a parish priest ? ' ' Nay, sir,' said 
he, ' for lack of a better, though I am not able nor worthy, 
I am parson and curate of this parish.' And then that 
other vailed [lowered] his bonnet, and said, ' Master Parson, 
I pray you to be not displeased ; I had supposed ye had 
not been beneficed. But, master,' said he, ' I pray you 
what is this benefice worth to you a year ? ' ' Forsooth,' 
said the good simple man, ' I wot never ; for I make never 
accompts thereof, how well I have had it four or five 
years.' ' And know ye not,' said he, ' what it is worth ? 
it should seem a good benefice.' ' No, forsooth,' said he, 
' but I wot well what it shall be worth to me.' ' Why, 
said he, ' what shall it be worth ? ' ' Forsooth,' said he, 
' if I do my true dealing in the cure of my parishes in 
preaching and teaching, and do my part belonging to my 
cure, I shall have heaven therefore. And if their souls be 
lost, or any of them, by my default, I shall be punished 
therefore. And hereof I am sure.' And with that word 
the rich dean was abashed : and thought he should be the 
better, and take more heed to his cures and benefices than 
he had done. This was a good answer of a good priest 
and an honest. And herewith I finish this book, translated 
and imprinted by me, William Caxton." The moral of the 
fable is not obsolete. 

One of Caxton's most splendid books, of which he seems 
to have printed three editions, was ' The Golden Legend.' 
This is, indeed, an important work, printed in double 
columns, and containing between four and five hundred 
pages, which are largely illustrated with woodcuts. It was 
not without great caution, as we have already mentioned 


(page 98), that Caxton proceeded with this heavy and 
expensive undertaking. Happy would it have been for all 
printers if puissant and virtuous earls, and others in high 
places had thought it a duty to encourage knowledge by 
taking a " reasonable quantity " of a great work ; but 
happier are we now, when, such assistance being grudg- 
ingly bestowed or honestly despised, the makers of books 
can depend upon something more satisfying than the rich 
man's purse, which was generally associated with "the 
proud man's contumely." 

In the prologue to the ' Golden Legend ' Caxton recites 
several of the works which he had previously " translated 
out of French into English at the request of certain lords, 
ladies, and gentlemen." Those recited are the ' Eecueil 
of Troy,' the ' Book of the Chess,' ' Jason,' the ' Mirror 
of the World,' Ovid's ' Metamorphoses,' and ' Godfrey of 
Boulogne.' It is remarkable that no printed copy exists 
of Ovid's ' Metamorphoses ;' but in the library of Magdalen 
College, Cambridge, there is a manuscript containing five 
books of the ' Metamorphoses,' which purport to be trans- 
lated by Caxton. It was evidently a part of his plan for 
the encouragement of liberal education, to present a portion 
of the people with translations of the classics through the 
ready means that were open to him of re-translation from 
the French. Many translators in later times have availed 
themselves of such aids, without the honesty to indicate 
the immediate sources of their versions. Caxton printed 
' The Book of Tully of Old Age,' and ' Tullius his Book of 
Friendship.' He seems to have had great difficulty in ob- 
taining a copy of an old translation of ' Tullius de Senec- 
tute.' The Book ' De Amicitia ' was translated by John, 
Earl of Worcester, the celebrated adherent of the house of 
York, who was beheaded in 1470. Caxton, we think some- 
what unnecessarily, limits the perusal of the treatise on 


Old Age. " This book is not requisite nor eke convenient 
for every rude and simple man, which understandeth not 
of science nor cunning, and for such as have not heard 
of the noble policy and prudence of the Romans ; but for 
noble, wise, and great lords, gentlemen, and merchants, 
that have been and daily be occupied in matter touching 
the public weal : and in especial unto them that been 
passed their green age, and eke their middle age, called 
virility, and been approached unto senectute, called old and 
ancient age. Wherein they may see how to suffer and 
bear the same patiently ; and what surety and virtue been 
in the same, and have also cause to be joyous and glad that 
they have escaped and passed the manifold perils and 
doubteous adventures that been in juvente and youth, as 
in this said book here following ye may more plainly see." 
' The Book of Eneydos,' compiled from Virgil, is not a 
translation of Virgil's great epic, but a sort of historical 
narrative formed upon the course of the poet's great story. 
The most remarkable passage of this book is that of 
Caxton's preface, in which he complains of the unstead- 
fastness of our language, and the difficulty that he found 
between plain, rude, and curious terms. (See page 15.) In 
this translation he again limits his work to a particular 
class of persons ; as if he felt, which was probably a pre- 
judice of his time, that the inferior members of the laity 
ought not to touch anything that pertained to scholastic 
learning. He says, "Forasmuch as this present book is 
not for a rude uplandish man to labour therein, nor read 
it, but only for a clerk and a noble gentleman that feeleth 
and understandeth in faits of arms, in love, and in noble 
chivalry : therefore, in mean between both, I have reduced 
and translated this said book into our English, not over 
rude nor curious, but in such terms as shall be under- 
standen, by God's grace, according to my copy/' 


' The book called Cathon ' (Cato's Morals) was destined by 
Caxton for a wider circulation : " In my judgment it is 
the best book for to be taught to young children in schools, 
and also to people of every age it is full convenient if it be 
well understanden." 

Dr. Dibdin, in his ' Typographical Antiquities,' says 
of Caxton, " Exclusively of the labours attached to the 
working of his press as a new art, our typographer con- 
trived, though well stricken in years, to translate not 
fewer than five thousand closely printed folio pages. As 
a translator, therefore, he ranks among the most laborious, 
and, I would hope, not the least successful, of his tribe. 
The foregoing conclusion is the result of a careful enume- 
ration of all the books translated as well as printed by 
him ; which [the translated books], if published in the 
modern fashion, would extend to nearly twenty-five octavo 
volumes ! " The exact nature of his labours seems, as 
might well be imagined, to have been often determined by 
very accidental circumstances. One noble lord requests 
him to produce this book, and one worshipful gentleman 
urges him to translate that. He says himself of his Virgil, 
" After divers works made, translated, and achieved, having 
no work in hand, I, sitting in my study whereas lay many 
divers pamphlets and books, happened that to my hand 
came a little book in French, which late was translated out 
of Latin by some noble clerk of France, which book is 
named Eneydos, made in Latin by that noble poet and 
great clerk Virgil." Some books, indeed, he would be 
determined to print by their existing popularity. Such 
were his two editions of Chaucer's ' Canterbury Tales,' 
which we may be sure, from his sound criticism, he felt 
the necessity of promulgating to a much wider circle than 
had been reached by the transcribers. (See page 36.) 
Caxton was especially the devoted printer of Chaucer. 


His truly honourable conduct in venturing upon a new 
edition of the ' Canterbury Tales,' when he found his first 
was incorrect, exhibits an example in the first printer and 
the first publisher which the printers and publishers of all 
subsequent times ought to reverence and imitate. The 
early printers, English and foreign, were indeed a high 
and noble race. They did not set themselves up to be the 
patrons of letters ; they did not dispense their dole to 
scholars grudgingly and thanklessly ; they worked with 
them ; they encountered with them the risks of profit and 
of fame ; they were scholars themselves ; they felt the 
deep responsibility of their office; they carried on the 
highest of all commerce in an elevated temper ; they were 
not mere hucksters and chafferers. It was in no spirit of 
pride, it was in the spirit of duty, that Caxton raised a 
table of verses to Chaucer in Westminster Abbey. In his 
edition of Boetius, which he gives us to understand was 
translated by Master Geoffrey Chaucer, he says, " And 
furthermore I desire and require you, that of your charity 
ye would pray for the soul of the said worshipful man 
Geoffrey Chaucer, first translator of this said book into 
English, and embellisher in making the said language 
ornate and fair, which shall endure perpetually, and there- 
fore he ought eternally to be remembered ; of whom the 
body and corps lieth buried in the Abbey of Westminster, 
beside London, to fore the chapel of Saint Benet, by whose 
sepulture is written on a table, hanging on a pillar, his 
epitaph made by a poet-laureate, whereof the copy 
followeth." The writer of the Life of Chaucer, in the 
' Biographia Britannica,' says, " It is very probable he lay 
beneath a large stone of gray marble in the pavement 
where the monument to Mr. Dryden now stands, which is 
in the front of that chapel [St. Benet's], upon the erecting 
of which [Dryden's monument] this stone was taken up, 



and sawed in pieces to make good the pavement. At least 
this seems best to answer the description of the place 
given by Caxton." There appears, according to the 
ancient editors of Chaucer's works, to have been two 
Latin lines upon his tombstone previous to the epitaph set 
up upon a pillar by Caxton. That epitaph was written 
by Stephanus Suriganius, poet-laureate of Milan. The 
monument of Chaucer, which still remains in the Abbey, 
around which the ashes of Spenser, and Beaumont, and 
Drayton, and Jonson, and Cowley, and Dryden have 
clustered, was erected by an Oxford student in 1555. 
There might have been worse things preserved, and yet to 
be looked upon, in that Abbey, than honest old Caxton's 
epitaph upon him whom he calls " the worshipful father 
and first founder and embellisher of ornate eloquence in 
our English." 

As the popularity of Chaucer demanded various im- 
pressions of his works from Caxton's press, so did he print. 
an apparently cheap edition of Gower's 'Confessio Anxantis,' 
in small type. Two of Lyd gate's works were also printed 
by him. The more fugitive poetry which issued from his 
press has probably all perished. In one of the volumes of 
Old Ballads in the British Museum is a fragment of a 
poem, of which nothing further is known, telling the 
story of some heroine that lived a life of unvaried 
solitude : 

"From her childhood I find that she fled 

Office of woman, and to wood she went, 
And many a wild harte's blood she shed 
With arrows broad that she to them sent." 

One of the most important uses of early printing in 
England is to be found in fragments of the Statutes' of the 
Realm, made in the first parliament of Eichard III., and 
in the first, second, and third parliaments of Henry VII., 


some leaves of which exist. That the promulgation of the 
laws would soon follow the introduction of the art of 
printing was a natural consequence. Early in the next 
century the publication of Acts of Parliament became an 
important branch of trade ; and a King's Printer was 
formally appointed. Up to our own times all the 
cheapening processes of tho art of printing had been 
withheld, at least in their results, from that branch of 
printing which was to instruct the people in their new 
laws. The Statutes were the dearest of books, and kept 
dear for no other purpose but to preserve one relic of the 
monopolies of the days of the Stuarts. The abuse has 
been partially remedied. 

We have purposely reserved to the conclusion of this 
account of the productions of Caxton's press, some notice 
of those works to the undertaking of which he seems to 
have been moved by his familiarity with the frequenters 
of the court, those whose talk was of tournaments and 
battles, of gallant knights and noble dames; and whose 
heads, like that of the worthy Knight of La Mancha, were 
"full of nothing, but enchantments, quarrels, battles, 
challenges, wounds, complaints, amours, torments." It is 
quite marvellous to look upon the enthusiasm with which 
Master Caxton deals with these matters in the days when 
he had achieved 

" The silver livery of advised age." 

It offers us one of the many proofs of the energy and 
youthfulness of his character. We have already quoted 
his address to the knights of England (see page 66), given 
in his ' Book of the Order of Chivalry,' supposed to have 
been printed in 1484. After this address he proposes a 
question which shows that he considers he has fallen upon 
degenerate days. " How many knights be there now in 

E 2 


England that have the use and the exercise of a knight ? 
that is to wit, that he knoweth his horse, and his horse 
him ; that is to say, he being ready at a point to have all 
thing that belongeth to a knight, an horse that is according 
and broken after his hand, his armour and harness suit, 
and so forth, et cetera. I suppose, an a due search should 
be made, there should be many founden that lack : the 
more pity is ! I would it pleased our sovereign Lord, that 
twice or thrice a year, or at the least once, he would cry 
jousts of peace, to the end that every knight should have 
horse and harness, and also the use and craft of a knight, 
and also to tourney one against one, or two against two ; 
and the best to have a prize, a diamond or jewel, such as 
should please the prince. This should cause gentlemen to 
resort to the ancient customs of chivalry to great fame 
and renown : and also to be alway ready to serve their 
prince when he shall call them, or have need." There is 
always some compensating principle arising in the world 
to prevent its too rapid degeneracy ; and thus, although 
the tournament has long ceased, except as a farce, there is 
many a noble who may still say, " That he knoweth his 
horse, and his horse him," through the attractions of 
Melton Mowbray and Epsom. Hunting and horse-racing 
have done much to keep up our pristine civilization. In 
' The Fait of Arms and Chivalry,' 1489, Caxton undertakes 
a higher strain. He translates this book, " to the end that 
every gentleman born to arms and all manner men of war, 
captains, soldiers, victuallers, and all other, should have 
knowledge how they ought to behave them in the faits of 
war and of battles." And yet, strange to relate, this 
belligerent book was written by a fair lady, Christina of 
Pisa. The ' Histories of King Arthur,' printed in 1485, 
lands us at once into all the legendary hero-worship of the 
Middle Ages. Caxton, in his preface to this translation by 


Sir Thomas Mallory, gives us a pretty full account of the 
Nine Worthies, " the best that ever were ;" and then he 
goes on to expound his reasons for once doubting whether 
the Histories of Arthur were anything but fables, and 
how he was convinced that he was a real man. But surely 
in these chivalrous books Caxton had an honest purpose. 
He exhorts noble lords and ladies, with all other estates, 
to read this said book, "wherein they shall well find many 
joyous and pleasant histories, and noble and renowned 
acts of humanity, gentleness, and chivalries; for herein 
may be seen noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendli- 
ness, hardiness, love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, 
virtue, and sin. Do after the good, and leave the evil, and 
it shall bring you to good fame and renown." ' The Life 
of Charles the Great ' succeeded the ' Histories of King 
Arthur;' for, according to Caxton, Charlemagne was the 
second of the three worthy. It is in the preface to this 
book that Caxton says that his father and mother in his 
youth sent him to school, by which, by the sufferance of 
God, he gets his living. 

We may conclude this imperfect description of Caxton's 
labours in the literature of romance and chivalry, BO 
characteristic of the age in which he lived, with the 
following extract from the ' History of King Blanchardine 
and Queen Eglantine his Wife,' which he translated from 
the French, at the command of the Duchess of Somerset, 
mother of King Henry VII. The passage shows us that 
the old printers were dealers in foreign books as well as 
in their own productions : " Which book I had long to fore 
sold to my said lady, and knew well that the story of it 
was honest and joyful to all virtuous young noble gentle- 
men and women, for to read therein, as for their pastime. 
For under correction, in my judgment, histories of noble 
feats and valiant acts of arms and war, which have been 


achieved in old time of many noble princes, lords, and 
knights, are as well for to see and know their valiantness 
for to stand in the special grace and love of their ladies, 
and in like wise for gentle young ladies and demoiselles 
for to learn to be stedfast and constant in their part to 
them that they once have promised and agreed to, such as 
have put their lives oft in jeopardy for to please them to 
stand in grace, as it is to occupy the ken and study over- 
much in books of contemplation." This is a defence of 
novel- reading which we could scarcely have expected at 
so early a period of our literature. 

In 1490 Caxton was approaching, according to all his 
biographers, to the great age of fourscore. About this 
period he appears to have consigned some relation to the 
grave, perhaps his wife. In the first year of the church- 
wardens' accounts of the parish of St. Margaret's, West- 
minster, from May 17, 1490, to June 3, 1492, there is the 
following entry : 

" Item ; atte bureynge of Mawde Caxton for 

torches and tapers iiij 3 ij d ." 

On the 15th June, 1490, Caxton finished translating out 
of French into English ' The Art and Craft to know well 
to die.' The commencement of the book is an abrupt one : 
"When it is so, that what man maketh or doeth it is 
made to come to some end, and if the thing be good and 
well made it must needs come to good end ; then by 
better and greater reason every man ought to intend in 
such wise to live in this world, in keeping the command- 
ments of God, that he may come to a good end. And then 
out of this world, full of wretchedness and tribulations, 
he may go to heaven unto God and his saints, unto joy 


That the end of Caxton was a good end we have little 
doubt. We have a testimony, which we shall presently 
see, that he worked to the end. He worked upon a book 
of pious instruction to the last day of his life. He was not 
slumbering when his call came. He was still labouring 
at the work for which he was born. 

There is the following entry in the churchwardens' 
accounts of the parish of St. Margaret, in the second year 
of the period we have above mentioned : 

" Item ; atte bureyng of WILLIAM CAXTON 

for iiij torches vj" viii d 

Item ; for the belle at same bureyng . vj d ." 



Mark of Wynkyn de Worde.* 




r was evensong time when, after a day of listless- 
ness, the printers in the Almonry at West- 
minster prepared to close the doors of their 
workshop. This was a tolerably spacious 
room, with a carved oaken roof. The setting sun shone 
brightly into the chamber, and lighted up such furniture 
as no other room in London could then exhibit. Between 
the columns which supported the roof stood two presses 
ponderous machines. A form of types lay unread upon 
the table of one of these presses ; the other was empty. 
There were cases ranged between the opposite columns ; 
but there was no copy suspended ready for the compositors 

* He always, in these marks, associated the device of Caxton with 
his own ; glorying, as he well might, in succeeding to the business of 
his honoured master, and continuing for so many years the good work 
which he had begun. 


to proceed with in the morning. No heap of wet paper 
was piled upon the floor. The balls, removed from the 
presses, were rotting in a corner. The ink-blocks were 
dusty, and a thin film had formed over the oily pigment. 
He who had set these machines in motion, and filled the 
whole space with the activity of mind, was dead. His 
daily work was ended. 

Three grave-looking men, decently clothed in black, 
were girding on their swords. Their caps were in their 
hands. The door opened, and the chief of the workmen 
came in. It was Wynkyn de Worde. With short speech, 
but with looks of deep significance, he called a chapel the 
printer's parliament a conclave as solemn and as omni- 
potent as the Saxons' Witenagemot. Wynkyn was the 
Father of the Chapel. 

The four drew their high stools round the imposing-stone 
those stools on which they had sat through many a day 
of quiet labour, steadily working to the distant end of 
some ponderous folio, without hurry or anxiety. Upon 
the stone lay two uncorrected folio pages a portion of the 
' Lives of the Fathers.' The proof was not returned. He 
that they had followed a few days before to his grave in 
Saint Margaret's Church had lifted it once back to his 
failing eyes, and then they closed in night. 

" Companions," said Wynkyn (surely that word " com- 
panions " tells of the antiquity of printing, and of the old 
love and fellowship that subsisted amongst its craft) 
" companions, the good work will not stop." 

" Wynkyn," said Eichard Pynson, " who is to carry on 
the work ? " 

" I am ready," answered Wynkyn. 

A faint expression of joy rose to the lips of these honest 
men, but it was damped by the remembrance of him they 
had lost. 


" He died," said Wynkyn, " as he lived. The ' Lives of 
the Holy Fathers ' is finished, as far as the translator's 
labour. There is the rest of the copy. Eead the words 
of the last page, which I have written : 

" Thus endeth the most virtuous history of the devout 
and right-renowned lives of holy fathers, living in desert, 
worthy of remembrance to all well-disposed persons, 
which hath been translated out of French into English by 
William Caxton of Westminster, late dead, and finished 
at the last day of his life." * 

The tears were in all their eyes ; and " God rest his 
soul ! " was whispered around. 

" Companion," said William Machlinia, " is not this a 
hazardous enterprise ? ". 

" I have encouragement," replied Wynkyn ; " the 
Lady Margaret, his Highness' mother, gives me aid. So 
droop not, fear not. We will carry on the work briskly 
in our good master's house. So fill the case."f 

A shout almost mounted to the roof. 

" But why should we fear ? You, Machlinia, you, 
Lettou, and you, dear Eichard Pynson, if you choose not 
to abide with your old companion here, there is work for 
you all in these good towns of Westminster, London, and 
South wark. You have money ; you know where to buy 
types. Printing must go forward." 

" Always full of heart," said Pynson. " But you forget 
the statute of King Eichard ; we cannot say ' God rest 
his soul,' for our old master scarcely ever forgave him 
putting Lord Eivers to death. You forget the statute. 
We ought to know it, for we printed it. I can turn to 

* These are the words with which this book closes, 
t " Wynkyn de Worde this hath set in print, 
In William Caxton's house : so fill the case." 

Stanzas to ' Scala Perfectionis,' 1494. 


the file in a moment. It is the Act touching the 
merchants of Italy, which forbids them selling their wares 
in this realm. Here it is : ' Provided always that this 
Act, or any part thereof, in no wise extend or be preju- 
dicial of any let, hurt, or impediment to any artificer or 
merchant stranger, of what nation or country he be or 
shall be of, for bringing into this realm, or selling by 
retail or otherwise, of any manner of books written or 
imprinted.' Can we stand up against that, if we have 
more presses than the old press of the Abbey of West- 
minster ? " 

" Ay, truly, we can, good friend," briskly answered 
Wynkyn. "Have we any books in our stores? Could 
we ever print books fast enough? Are there not readers 
rising up on all sides ? Do we depend upon the court ? 
The mercers and the drapers, the grocers and the spicers 
of the city, crowd here for our books. The rude uplandish 
men even take our books ; they that our good master 
rather vilipended. The tapsters and taverners have our 
books. The whole country-side cries out for our ballads 
and our Robin Hood stories ; and, to say the truth, the 
citizen's wife is as much taken with our King Arthurs and 
King Blanchardines as the most noble knight that Master 
Caxton ever desired to look upon in his green days of 
jousts in Burgundy. So fill the case."* 

" But if foreigners bring books into England," said 
cautious William Machlinia, " there will be more books 
than readers." 

" Books make readers," rejoined Wynkyn. " Do you 
remember how timidly even our bold master went on before 
he was safe in his sell ? Do you forget how he asked this 

* To "fill the case" is to put fresh types in the cose, ready to 
arrange in new pages. The bibliographers scarcely understood the 
technical expression of honest Wynkyn. 


lord to take a copy, and that knight to give him some- 
thing in fee ; and how he bargained for his summer 
venison and his winter venison, as an encouragement in 
his ventures ? But he found a larger market than he ever 
counted upon, and so shall we all. Go ye forth, my brave 
fellows. Stay not to work for me, if you can work better 
for yourselves. I fear no rivals." 

" Why, Wynkyn," interposed Pynson, " you talk as if 
printing were as necessary as air ; books as food, or 
clothing, or fire." 

" And so they will be some day. What is to stop the 
want of books ? Will one man have the command of books, 
and another desire them not ? The time may come when 
every man shall require books." 

" Perhaps," said Lettou, who had an eye to printing the 
Statutes, " the time may come when every man shall want 
to read an Act of Parliament, instead of the few lawyers 
who buy our Acts now." 

" Hardly so," grunted Wynkyn. 

" Or perchance you think that, when our sovereign liege 
meets his Peers and Commons in Parliament, it were well 
to print a book some month or two after, to tell what the 
said Parliament said, as well as ordained ? " 

" Nay, nay, you run me hard," said Wynkyn. 

" And if within a month, why not within a day ? Why 
shouldn't we print the words as fast as they are spoken ? 
We only want fairy fingers to pick up our types, and 
presses that Doctor Faustus and his devils may some day 
make, to tell all London to-morrow morning what is done 
this morning in the palace at Westminster." 

" Prithee, be serious," ejaculated Wynkyn. " Why do 
you talk such gallymaufry ? I was speaking of possible 
things ; and I really think the day may come when one 
person in a thousand may read books and buy books, and 

CHAP, viii.] CAXTON'S TYPES. us 

we shall have a trade almost as good as that of armourers 
and fletchers." 

" The Bible ! " exclaimed Pynson ; " that we might 
print the Bible ! I know of a copy of Wickliffe's Bible. 
That were indeed a book to print ! " 

" I have no doubt, Eichard," replied Wynkyn, " that the 
happy time may come when a Bible shall be chained in 
every church, for every Christian man to look upon. You 
remember when our brother Hunte showed us the chained 
books in the Library at Oxford. So a century or two 
hence a Bible may be found in every parish. Twelve 
thousand parishes in England? We should want more 
paper in that good day, Master Eichard." 

" You had better fancy at once," said Lettou, " that 
every housekeeper will want a Bible ! Heaven save the 
mark, how some men's imaginations run away with them ! " 

" I cannot see," interposed Machlinia, " how we can 
venture upon more presses in London. Here are two. 
They have been worked well, since the day when they 
were shipped at Cologne. Here are five good founts of 
type, as much as a thousand weight Great Primer, Double 
Pica, Pica a large and a small face, and Long Primer. 
They have well worked ; they are pretty nigh worn out. 
What man would risk such an adventure, after our good 
old master ? He was a favourite at court and in cloister. 
He was well patronized Who is to patronize us ? " 

" The people, I tell you," exclaimed Wynkyn. " The 
babe in the cradle wants an Absey-book ; the maid at her 
distaff wants a ballad ; the priest wants his Pie ; the 
young lover wants a romance of chivalry to read to his 
mistress ; the lawyer wants his Statutes ; the scholar 
wants his Virgil and Cicero. They will all want more the 
more they are supplied. How many in England have a 
book at all, think you ? Let us make books cheaper by 





printing more of them at once. The churchwardens ot 
St. Margaret's asked me six-and-eightpence yesterday for 
the volume that our master left the parish ;* for not a 
copy can I get, if we should want to print again. Six- 
and-eightpence 1 That was exactly what he charged his 
customers for the volume. Print five hundred instead of 
two hundred, and we could sell it for three-and-four- 

" And ruin ourselves," said Machlinia. " Master 
Wynkyn, I shall fear to work for you if you go on so 
madly. What has turned your head ? " 

" Hearken," said Wynkyn. " The day our good master 
was buried I had no stomach for my home. I could not 
eat. I could scarcely look on the sunshine. There was a 
chill at my heart. I took the key of our office, for you all 
were absent, and I came here in the deep twilight. I sat 
down in Master Caxton's chair. I sat till I fancied I saw 
him moving about, as he was wont to move, in his furred 
gown, explaining this copy to one of us, and shaking his 
head at that proof to the other. I fell asleep. Then I 
dreamed a dream, a wild dream, but one that seems to 
have given me hope and courage. There I sat, in the old 
desk at the head of this room, straining my eyes at the old 
proofs. The room gradually expanded. The four/rame* 
went on multiplying, till they became innumerable. I 
saw case piled upon case ; and form side by side with form. 
All was bustle, and yet quiet, in that room. Readers 
passed to and fro ; there was a glare of many lights ; all 
seemed employed in producing one folio, an enormous 
folio. In an instant the room had changed. I heard a 
noise as of many wheels. I saw sheets of paper covered 

* There is a record in the parish books of St. Margaret'* of the 
churchwardens selling for 6. 8d. one of the books bequeathed to 
the church by William Caxton. 



with ink as quickly as I pick up this type. Sheet upon 
sheet, hundreds of sheets, thousands of sheets, came from 
forth the wheels flowing in unstained, like corn from the 
hopper, and coming out printed, like flour to the sack. 
They flew abroad as if carried over the earth by the winds. 
Again the scene changed. In a cottage, an artificer's 
cottage, though it had many things in it which belong to 
princes' palaces, I saw a man lay down his basket of tools 
and take up one of these sheets. He read it ; he laughed, 
he looked angry ; tears rose to his eyes ; and then he read 
aloud to his wife and children. I asked him to show me 
the sheet. It was wet ; it contained as many types as our 
'Mirror of the World.' But it bore the date of 1844. I 
looked around, and I saw shelves of books against that 
cottage wall large volumes and small volumes ; and a boy 
opened one of the large volumes and showed me number- 
less block-cuts ; and the artificer and his wife and his 
children gathered round me, all looking with glee towards 
their books, and the good man pointed to an inscription on 
his book-shelves, and I read these words, 


I woke in haste ; and, whether awake or dreaming I know 
not, my master stood beside me, and smilingly exclaimed, 
'This is my fruit.' I have encouragement in this 

" Friend Wynkyn," said Pynson, " these are distempered 
visions. The press may go forward ; I think it will go 
forward. But I am of the belief that the press will never 
work but for the great and the learned, to any purpose 
of profit to the printer. How can we ever hope to send 
our wares abroad ? We may hawk our ballads and our 
merry jests through London ; but the citizens are too busy 


to heed them, and the apprentices and serving-men too 
poor to buy them. To the country we cannot send them. 
Good lack, imagine the poor pedlar tramping with a pack 
of books to Bristol or Winchester ! Before he could reach 
either city through our wild roads, he would have his 
throat cut or be starved. Master Wynkyn, we shall always 
have a narrow market till the king mends his highways, 
and that will never be." 

" I am rather for trying, Master Wynkyn," said Lettou, 
" some good cutting jest against our friends in the Abbey, 
such as Dan Chaucer expounded touching the friars. That 
would sell in these precincts." 

"Hush!" exclaimed Wynkyn: "the good fathers are 
our friends ; and though some murmur against them, we 
might have worse masters." 

"I wish they would let us print the Bible though," 
ejaculated Pynson. 

" The time will come, and that right soon," exclaimed 
the hopeful Wynkyn. 

" So be it," said they one and all. 

" But what fair sheet of paper is that in your hand, 
good Wynkyn?" said Pynson. 

" Master Richard, we are all moving onward. This is 
English-made paper. Is it not better than the brown 
thick paper we have Lad from over the sea? How he 
would have rejoiced in this accomplishment of John Tate's 
longing trials ! Ay, Master Richard, this fair sheet was 
made in the new mill at Hertford ; and well am I minded 
to use it in our Bartholomaeus, which I shall straightly 
put in hand, when the Formschneider is ready. I have 
thought anent it ; I have resolved on it ; and I have in- 
dited some rude verses touching the matter, simple person 
as I am : 

L 2 


" For in this world to reckon every thing 

Pleasure to man, there is none comparable 
As is to read and understanding 

In books of wisdom they ben so delectable, 
Which sound to virtue, and ben profitable; 
And all that love such virtue ben full glad 
Books to renew, and cause them to be made. 

And also of your charity call to remembrance 

The soul of William Caxton, first printer of this book 

In Latin tongue at Cologne, himself to advance, 
That every well-disposed man may thereon look ; 
And John Tate the younger joy mote [may] he brook, 

Which hath late in England made this paper thin, 

That now in our English this book is printed in." 

" Fairly rhymed, Wynkyn," said Lettou. " But John 
Tate the younger is a bold fellow. Of a surety England 
can never support a paper-mill of its own." 

" Come, to business," said William of Mechlin. 


providence of God) the method of cutting (incidendi) the characters 
in a matrix, that the letters might each be singly cast, instead of 
being cut. He privately cut matrices for the whole alphabet ; and 
when he showed his master the letters cast from these matrices, 
Fust was so pleased with the contrivance, that he promised Peter to 
give him his only daughter Christina in marriage ; a promise which 
he soon after performed. But there were as many difficulties at first 
with these letters as there had been before with wooden ones ; the 
metal being too soft to support the force of the impression : but this 
defect was soon remedied by mixing the metal with a substance 
which sufficiently hardened it." John Schoeffer, the son of Peter, 
who was also a printer, confirms this account, adding, " Fust and 
Schoeffer concealed this new improvement by administering ao 
oath of secrecy to all whom they intrusted, till the year 1462, when, 
by the dispersion of their servants into different countries, at the 
sacking of Mentz by the Archbishop Adolphus, the invention was 
publicly divulged." 

( 152 ) 



To our first printer are assigned 64 works, from 1471 to 1491. 
We subjoin a list of them, furnished to the ' Penny Cyclopaedia ' by 
Sir Henry Ellis, Principal Librarian of the British Museum. In this 
list are included the French edition of the ' Eecueil, ' and the 
Oration of Russell, which are considered doubtful. 

1. 'Le Recueil des Histoires de Troyes, compose par raoulle le 
feure, chapellein de Monseigneur le due Philippe de Bourgoingne en 
1'an de grace mil cccclxiiii.,' fol. 

2. ' Propositio clarissimi Oratoris Magistri Johannis Russell, 
decretorum doctoris ac adtunc Ambassiatoris Edwardi Regis Anglie 
et Francie ad illustr. Principem Karolum ducem Burgundie super 
susceptione ordinis garterij,' &c., 4to. 

3. ' The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, composed and 
drawen out of diverce bookes of latyn into Frensshe by Raoul le 
ifeure in the yere 1464, and drawen out of frensshe in to Englisshe 
by William Caxton at the commaundement of Alargarete Duchess 
of Burgoyne, &c., whych sayd translacion and werke was begonne 
in Brugis in 1468 and ended in the holy cyte of Colen 19 Sept. 
1471,' fol. 

4. 'The Game and Playe of the Chesse, translated out of the 
French, fynysshid the last day of Marche, 1474,' fol. 

5. A second edition of the same, fol. (with woodcuts). 

6. ' A Boke of the hoole lyf of Jason' (1475), fol. 

7. ' The Dictes and notable wyse Sayenges of the Phylosophers, 
transl. out of Frenshe by lord Antoyne Wydeville Erie Ryuyeres, 
empr. at Westmestre, 1477,' fol. 


8. ' The Morale Prouerbes of Christyne (of Pisa),' fol. 1478. 

9. 'The Book named Cordyale; or Memorare Novissima, which 
treateth of The foure last Things,' begun 1478, finished 1480, fol. 

10. The Chronicles of Englond,' Westm., 1480, fol. 

11. ' Description of Britayne,' 1480, fol. 

12. ' The Mirrour of the World or thymage of the same,' 
1481, fol. 

13. ' The Historye of Reynart the Foxe,' 1481, fol. 

14. 'The Boke of Tullius de Senectute, with Tullius de Amicitia, 
and the Declamacyon, which laboureth to shew wherein honour 
sholde reste,' 1481, fol. 

15. ' Godefroy of Boloyne ; or, the laste Siege and Conqueste of 
Jherusalem,' Westm., 1481, fol. 

16. ' The Polycronycon,' 1482, fol. 

17. ' The Pylgremage of the Sowle ; ' translated from the French, 
Westm., 1483, foL 

18. 'Liber Festivalis, or Directions for keeping Feasts all the 
Yere,' Westm., 1483, fol. 

19. ' Quatuor Sermones ' (without date), fol. 

20. ' Confessio Amantis, that is to saye in Englisshe, The Con- 
fessyon of the Louer, maad and compyled by Johan Gower, squyer,' 
Westm., 1483, fol. 

21. ' The Golden Legende,' Westm., 1483, fol. 

22. Another edition of ' The Legende,' sm. folio. 

23. A third, ' fin. at Westmestre,' 20ih May, 1483, fol. 

24. 'The Booke callid Cathon' (Magnus), translated from the 
French, 1483, fol. 

25. 'Parvus Chato' (without printer's name or date, but in 
Cax ton's type), folio. 

26. 'The Knyght of the Toure,' translated from the French; 
Westm. (1484), fol. 

27. ' The Subtyl Historyes and Fables of Esope,' translated from 
the French, 1484, fol. 

28. ' The Book of the Ordre of Chy valry, or Knyghthode,' trans- 
lated from the French (assigned to 1484), fol. 

29. 'The Book ryal ; or the Book for a Kyng,' 1484, fol. 

30. 'A Book of the noble Historyes of Kynge Arthur and of 
certen of his Knyghtes, which book was reduced in to Englysshe by 
syr Thomas Malory Knyght,' 1485, fol. 


31. 'The Lyf of Charles the Grete Kyng of Fraunce and 
Emperour of Rome,' 1485, fol. 

32. Another edition of the same, 1485, fol. 

33. ' Thystorye of the noble ryght valyaunt and worthy Knyghte 
Parys and of the fayr Vyenne, the doulphyns doughter of Vyennoys,' 
translated from the French, 1485, fol. 

34. ' The Book of Good Maners,' 1486, fol. 

35. 'The Doctrinal of Sapyence,' translated from the French, 
1489, fol. 

36. ' The Book of Fayttes of Armes and of Chyvalrye,' a transla- 
tion from the first part of Vegetius de Re Militari, 1489, fol. 

37. ' The Arte and Crafte to knowe well to dye,' translated from 
the French, 1490, fol. 

38. 'The Boke of Eneydos, compyled by Vyrgyle,' translated 
from the French, 1490, fol. 

39. ' The Talis of Cauntyrburye ' (no date), fol. 

40. Another edition (without date or place), fol. 

41. ' Infancia Salvatoris,' 4to. 

42. ' The Boke of Consolacion of Philosophic, whiche that Boecius 
made for his comforte and consolacion ' (no date nor place), fol. 

43. A collection of Chaucer's and Lydgate's Minor Poems, 4to. 

44. ' The Book of Fame, made by Gefferey Chaucer,' fol. 

45. ' Troylus and Creseyde,' fol. 

46. ' A Book for Travellers,' fol. 

47. ' The Lyf of St. Katherin of Senis,' fol. 

48. ' Speculum Vite Christi ; or the myrroure of the blessyd 
Lyf of Jhesu Criste,' fol. 

49. ' Directorium Sacerdotum : sive Ordinale secundum Usum 
Sarum,' Westm., fol. 

50. 'The Worke (or Court) of Sapience,' composed by John 
Lydgate, fol. 

51. ' A Boke of divers Ghostly Maters,' Westm., fol. 

52. ' The Curial made by Maystre Alain Charretier,' translated 
from the French, fol. 

53. ' The Lyf of our Lady, made by Dan John Lydgate, monke 
of Burye,' fol. 

54. ' The Lyf of Saynt Wenefryde, reduced into Englisshe,' fol. 

55. ' A Lytel Tretise, intytuled or named The Lucidarye,' 4to. 

56. ' Reverendissimi viri dni. Gulielmi Lyndewodi, LLD. et 


epi Asaphensis constitutiones provinciates Ecclesiaj Anglican*,' 

57. ' The Hystorye of Kynge Blanchardyne and Queen Eglantyne 
his wife,' fol. 

58. 'The Siege of the noble and invyncyble Cytee of Rhodes,' 

59. ' Statuta apud Westmonasterium edita, anno primo Eegis 
Eicardi tercii,' fol. 

60. 'Statutes' made in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Parliaments of 
Henry VII., folio. (The only fragment of this work known consists 
of two leaves.) 

61. ' The Accidence ' (mentioned in one of the sale catalogues of 
the library of T. Martin of Palgrave). 

62. ' The Prouffy table Boke of manes soule, called The Chastysing 
of Goddes Chyldren,' fol. 

63. ' Boras,' &c., 12mo, a fragment of eight pages, now at 
Oxford, in the library bequeathed to the Bodleian by the late F. 
Douce, Esq. 

64. A fragment of a Ballad, preserved in a volume of scraps and 
ballads in the British Museum. 

From the time of Caxton's press to that of Thomas Hacket, we 
have the enumeration of 2926 books in Dr. Dibdin's work. The 
' Typographical Antiquities ' of Ames and Herbert comes down to a 
later period. They recorded the names of three hundred and fifty 
printers in England and Scotland, or of foreign printers engaged in 
producing books for England, that flourished between 1474 and 
1600. The same authors have recorded the titles (we have counted 
with sufficient accuracy to make the assertion) of nearly 10,000 
distinct works printed amongst us during the same period. Many 
of these works, however, were only single sheets ; but on the other 
hand, there are doubtless many not here registered. Dividing the 
total number of books printed during these 130 years, we find that 
the average number of distinct works produced each year was 75. 

( 156 ) 


To avoid encumbering the preceding pages with foot-notes upon 
particular passages, the author subjoins a list of the principal books 
which he has referred to, or consulted, in this imperfect sketch of 
the Life of the Father of English Printing : 

'Typographical Antiquities, or an Historical Account of the 
Origin and Progress of Printing in Great Britain and Ireland.' By 
Joseph Ames and William Herbert. 3 vols. 4to, 1785. 

The same. Now greatly enlarged, with copious notes. By the 
Kev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin. 4 vols. 4to, 1810. 

' Biographia Britannica.' By Andrew Kippis. Article, ' Caxton,' 
in vol. iii., 1784. 

' Life of William Caxton.' Treatise, Library of Useful Know- 
ledge. 1828. 

' A Treatise on Wood Engraving, Historical and Practical.' With 
illustrations engraved on wood, by John Jackson. 1839. 

' A Concise History of the Origin and Progress of Printing.' 

' Introduction to the Literature of Europe.' By Henry Hallam. 
Vol. i., 1836. 

' Philobiblion, a Treatise on the Love of Books.' By Richard de 
Bury. Translated by John B. Inglis. 1832. 

' History of English Poetry.' By Thomas Warton. 4 vols. 8vo, 

'The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer.' With an Essay on .his 
Language and Versification, &c. By Thomas Tyrwhitt. 5 vols., 

' Specimens of the Early English Poets,' to which is prefixed an 


' Historical Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the English Poetry 
and Language.' By George Ellis. 3 vols., 1811. 

'Illustrations of the Lives and Writings of Gower and Ghaucer.' 
By the Rev. Henry J. Todd. 1810. 

' Three Early English Metrical Romances.' Edited by John 
Robson for the Camden Society. 1842. 

' Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.' By Thomas Percy. 3 
vols., 1794. 

' Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.' By Sir Walter Scott. ' In- 
troductory Remarks on Popular Poetry.' 1833. 

' Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of 
Society.' By Robert Southey. 2 vols., 1831. 

'Utopia.' Written in Latin by Sir Thomas More. Translated 
by Ralph Robinson. A new edition, by the Rev. T. F. Dibdin. 2 
vols., 1808. 

' The History of London.' By Thomas Maitland. 2 vols. folio, 

'The New Chronicles of England and France.' By Robert 
Fabyan. Edited by Sir Henry Ellis. 2 vols. 4to, 1811. 

' The History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London.' 
By William Herbert. 2 vols. 8vo, 1834. 

'Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster.' By John 
Stow. Augmented by John Strype. 2 vols. fol., 1720. 

' Sir John Froissart's Chronicles.' Translated by Lord Berners. 
2 vols. 4to, 1812. 

' Memoirs of Philip de Comines.' Translated by Mr. Uvedale. 2 
vols. 8vo. 1723. 

' Paston, Letters. Original Letters, written during the Reigns of 
Henry VI., Edward IV., and Richard III.' By Sir John Fenn. A 
new edition, by A. Ramsay. 2 vols., 1840. 

' Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne.' Par M. de Barante. 10 vols. 
8vo, 1836. 

'Statutes of the Realm.' From original records and authentic 
manuscripts. Vol. ii., 1816. 

' Memoirs of Wool,' &c. By John Smith. 2 vols., 1747. 

' Extracts from the Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, Henry III. to 
Henry VI.' 1837. 

Historic of the Arrivall of Edward IV.' Edited by John Bruce 
for the Camden Society. 1838. 

158 AUTHORITIES. [App. C. 

' Wardrobe Accounts of Edward the Fourth.' By Nicholas 
Harris Nicolas. 1830. 

' Monasticon Anglicanum.' By Sir William Dugdale. Edition of 

' Ketrospective Keview.' Vol. xv. s Article, ' The Knight of the 
Tower's Advice to his Daughters.' 



Knight, Charles 

William Cax ton, the first 
C38K6 English printer 
1877 New ed.