On This Day In History: William Caxton Printed His First Book – On Nov 18, 1477

On November 18, 1477, English printer William Caxton, printed the first book in England. It was his own book entitled “Sayings of the Philosophers” (Dictes or Sayengis).

A few years earlier (1471), Caxton came in contact with the art of printing in Cologne, Germany. He learned and practiced this art and translated the first book to the English language, namely Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye or (“Recueil des Histoires de Troye”), a French courtly romance.

Probably in 1474, Caxton set up a press in Bruges in partnership with a copyist and bookseller, Colard Mansion, so he could produce print “The Game and Playe of the Chesse”, a text, in which chess is an allegory of life.

In 1476, he returned to England, where he used his experience from abroad to set up a printing and publishing business “at the sign of the Red Pale” within the precincts of Westminster Abbey.

Now, he could print his own book entitled “Sayings of the Philosophers” (Dictes or Sayengis).

His customers were rich merchants and many noblemen, who were able to commission several books of their own.

Caxton printed books included works of chivalric romance, history, philosophy, and an encyclopedia. Soon, Caxton managed to print most of the contemporary English literature, including Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”.

In the next 15 years, he printed 107 works, including 74 books.

He died in 1492.

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