Who was William Caxton? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about William Caxton.

  • William Caxton is best known for introducing the printing press to England.
  • He was probably born in Kent between 1415 and 1422, and he died in 1492.
  • He moved to Bruges, Belgium and worked for 30 years as a merchant. He was so successful at this that he became governor of a group of English merchants.
  • The printing press had been invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1436. For the first time ever, it allowed books to be printed and mass produced, rather than written by hand.
  • Caxton was intrigued with the process and set up his own printing press in Bruges to print books in English for wealthy people. He printed the first ever book in English, a History of Troy.

William Caxton

  • He also worked for some time as a financial advisor to a Duchess in France, and lived in Cologne, Germany. Cologne had a large university and became one of the main printing centres in Germany.
  • In 1476, he returned to London and set up the first printing press in England. He printed several well known books of the time, including the Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • As well as printing books of general interest, William Caxton also printed books on philosophy, history and romance, and an encyclopedia. He also printed books on request.
  • From 1481 onward, Caxton used woodcuts to illustrate his books. These were wooden stamps dipped in ink. They were very basic when compared to the woodcuts being used in Germany.
  • William Caxton printed over 100 books, many of which were admired for their accurate editing and their craftsmanship. He also translated many books from Latin, Dutch and French.
  • William Caxton was buried in St. Margaret’s Church, in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, London. A memorial was unveiled in the abbey in 1954, close to where Caxton’s shop stood.

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