The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

The Spread of the Printing Arts Part 3

Consequently, classics, standard theological treatises, and the ponderous excogitations of the schoolmen are practically absent from the list of his publications. On the other hand, the ~any volumes of poetry, romance, and fabled story which came from his press must have stimulated the demand for such literature; while, at the same time, by his own A.P.D. 2 translations from the French, he enlarged the bounds of English recreative reading.

Caxton did not long remain the sole printer in England. Theodoric Rood, a Cologne printer, was at work in Oxford from 1478 to 1485; and an unknown typographer, called the schoolmaster printer, printed eight books at St Albans between 1479 and 1486. The first London press was that of John Lettou, who, soon after his commencement in 1480, was joined by William de Machlinia, and together they printed chiefly law books.

At Westminster Caxton was succeeded by his chief assistant, Wynkyn de W orde, who carried on the traditions of the press, in so far as a large proportion of his books consists of romances and poetical pieces; but, unlike his master, De W orde was a mere printer and shewed no trace of literary talent. His finest book, an English version of the De proprietatibu8 rerum of Bartholomaeus Anglicus (about 1496), was the first book to be printed on paper made in England. De W orde died about the beginning of the year 1535. During his long career he is known to have printed between seven and eight hundred books, but many of these were short popular works and a large number were merely new editions.

Richard Pynson, Wynkyn de Worde's chief contemporary, printed in London from about 1490 to 1530. As befitted the office of king's printer he possessed the best-appointed printing house of his time in England. His output consisted to a large extent of law books and official work; but he also printed many books of literary interest, such as the Canterbury Tales, Barclay's English version of Brant's Ship of Fools, and Lord Berners's translation of Froissart's Chronicles, besides several liturgical books of very respectable workmanship. The only other English printer in the fifteenth century was Julian Notary, who began in London about 1496 and went on for nearly a quarter of a century.