William Caxton

About William Caxton

Who is it?: First person to introduce a printing press into England
Birth Year: 1422
Birth Place: Kent, British
Resting place: St Margaret's, Westminster
Occupation: merchant, diplomat, writer, printer
Period: Late Plantagenet, Early English Renaissance
Notable work: Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres Brut Chronicles

William Caxton

William Caxton was born on 1422 in Kent, British, is First person to introduce a printing press into England. William Caxton was an English merchant, writer, printer and translator. Caxton started his career as a merchant, apprenticing under Robert Large’s Mercers’ Company. Trained at the profession, he went on to establish his own company and in the course became a successful and wealthy merchant. Meanwhile, he even took up the role of the governor of the Company of Nation of Merchant Adventurers of London. The 1460s witnessed a turn in Caxton’s career, as he slowly drifted towards literature. He tried his hand at translation, translating in English works by French originals. However, the major turn in his career came when he visited Cologne. Impressed by the German printing technology and realizing the commercial potential of the same, he introduced England to the world of printing press. He became the first English person to work as a printer and also the first English retailer of printed books. Over the course of his latter career, he printed over 108 books in different genres, four-fifth of them being in English language. He is greatly responsible for standardizing English language through printing. Such was the demand for his printed books that even after his death in 1492, the press continued to thrive for another 40 years under Wynkyn de Worde, one of his immigrant workers.
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In November 1954, a memorial to Caxton was unveiled in Westminster Abbey by J. J. Astor, chairman of the Press Council. The white stone plaque is on the wall next to the door to Poets' Corner. The inscription reads:


Caxton is credited with standardising the English language through printing—that is, homogenising regional dialects and largely adopting the London dialect. This facilitated the expansion of English vocabulary, the regularisation of inflection and syntax, and a widening gap between the spoken and the written word. Richard Pynson started printing in London in 1491 or 1492 and favoured what came to be called Chancery Standard, largely based on the London dialect. Pynson was a more accomplished Stylist than Caxton and consequently pushed the English language further toward standardisation.

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