Caxton and the Printing Press

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to the British Isles. After spending several years working as a printer in Bruges, Caxton returned to London and in 1476 set up his first printing press in Westminster, and also imported and sold other printed books. Caxton concentrated on producing popular books that he knew would sell, such as Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and small liturgical 'books of hours'. The standard of Caxton's printing may have lagged behind that on the continent, but he was a skilful businessman and unusually for printers at the time, he managed not to go bankrupt. The advent of print is now seen as one of the great revolutions in intellectual history - although many scholars believe it was a revolution that took many generations to have an effect.


Richard Gameson
Professor of the History of the Book at the University of Durham

Julia Boffey
Professor of Medieval Studies in the English Department at Queen Mary, University of London

David Rundle
Member of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Release date:

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43 minutes

Last on

Thu 18 Oct 2012 21:30


J. A. W. Bennett (ed.), ‘The Canterbury Tales: A Facsimile Edition of William Caxton’s Second Edition’ (Cambridge: Cornmarket Reprints, 1972)


N. F. Blake, ‘Caxton and his World’ (André Deutsch, 1969)


N. F. Blake, ‘Caxton: England’s First Publisher’ (Osprey, 1975)


N. F. Blake, ‘Caxton’s Own Prose’ (HarperCollins, 1973)


Lotte Hellinga, ‘Caxton in Focus: The Beginning of Printing in England’ (British Library, 1982)


Lotte Hellinga, ‘William Caxton and Early Printing in England’ (British Library, 2010)


L. Hellinga and J. B. Trapp (ed.), ‘The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Vol. III: 1400-1557’ (Cambridge, 1999)


E. Hodnett (ed.), ‘The History and Fables of Aesop translated and printed by William Caxton 1484, reproduced in facsimile’ (Scolar Press, 1976)


D. McKitterick, ‘Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order’ (Cambridge, 2005)


J. C. T. Oates and L. C. Harmer, ‘Vocabulary in French and English: a facsimile of Caxton’s edition of c.1480’ (Cambridge University Press, 1964)


George D. Painter, ‘William Caxton: A Quincentenary Biography of England’s First Printer’ (Chatto & Windus, 1976)


A. Pettegree, ‘The Book in the Renaissance’ (Yale, 2010)





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