Caxton was the first English printer and a translator and importer of books into England.
Caxton was born in around 1422 in Kent. He went to London at the age of 16 to become an apprentice to a merchant, later moving to Bruges, the centre of the wool trade, where he became a successful and important member of the merchant community.
From 1462 to 1470 he served as governor of the ‘English Nation of Merchant Adventurers’, which allowed him to represent his fellow merchants, as well as act as a diplomat for the king.
Caxton affiliated himself with the household of Margaret, the duchess of Burgundy, sister of the English king Edward IV.
She became one of his most important patrons and encouraged him with his translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ from French to English.
In the early 1470s Caxton spent time in Cologne learning the art of printing.
He returned to Bruges in 1472 where he and Colard Mansion, a Flemish calligrapher, set up a press.
Caxton’s own translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ was the first book printed in the English language.
In 1476 Caxton returned to London and established a press at Westminster, the first printing press in England. Amongst the books he printed were Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tal, Gower’s ‘Confession Amantis’ and Malory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’.
He printed more than 100 books in his lifetime, books which were known for their craftsmanship and careful editing.
He was also the translator of many of the books he published, using his knowledge of French, Latin and Dutch. He died in 1492.