The Printing Press


William Caxton (c.1422-91) is generally associated with the role of the first English printer along with being a translator, linguist, and merchant. Indeed, Caxton and his introduction of the printing press in England became very important for the development and standardization of the English language. While working as an apprentice in the Low Countries, he translated the first book printed in English, the Recuyell of Historyes of Troye.

In 1476 Caxton introduced the printing press in England and established a press at the Almonry, Westminster, where he could work close to the court. He printed about 100 pieces which were mostly his own translations of Latin or French texts into English. Amongst others, he published different editions of Chaucerís Canterbury Tales, Gower's Confession Amantis and a Latin grammar.

Caxton translated all of his prints into respective dialects as there was no fixed English at that time, thereby initiating forms of standardized written English.

The printing press made it possible to spread pieces of writing, not exclusively literature in the form of prose or poetry, in greater amounts in a set script. Before the printing press, people would bring manuscripts to scribes who would rewrite them by hand and in their own dialect.


Source of the picture: wikipedia.org

Printing press from 1811, photographed in Munich, Germany.