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William Caxton

William Caxton, the first English printer, was born in the Weald of Kent, in 1420, 1421 or 1422. In 1438, he became apprenticed to Robert Large, a leading textile merchant who became the mayor of London the following year. After Large's death in 1441, Caxton moved to Bruges, and built a successful textile business. By 1463 he became acting governor of the Merchant Adventurers in the Low Countries. Caxton was hired as an advisor to Charles the Bold's new duchess, the former Princess Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV. It was at the request of the duchess Margaret that he resumed his abandoned translation of a popular French romance, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye from the French of Raoul le Fèvre. After spending a year in Cologne learning the art of printing, Caxton returned to Bruges and set up a printing press, where he published his translation of The Recuyell, the first printed book in the English language, around 1474. His next publication, The Game and Play of Chess Moralised (1476), was a translation of the first major European work on chess, and was the first printed book in English to make extensive use of woodcuts.

In 1476, he returned to England and set up a printing shop at Westminster at the sign of the Red Pale. Here, Caxton published such major works as Troilus and Creseide, Morte d'Arthur, The History of Reynart the Foxe, and The Canterbury Tales. Over the course of 14 years, he printed more than 70 books.

The typefaces used by Caxton were all varieties of blackletter or gothic type. His earlier works were set in an early form of French lettre bâtarde. By 1490, he had acquired a more round and open typeface, a textura originally used by the Parisian printer Antoine Verard and later favored by Caxton's successor, Wynkyn de Worde.

He died in 1491 in Westminster. Many fonts were named after Caxton, such as the Lombardic-styled Caxton Initials (1905, Frederic Goudy, ATF, revived by Alter Littera in 2012), and the ITC Caxton Roman family.

His life's story can be found in Typophiles Chapbook: William Caxton and His Quincentenary (John Dreyfus). See also the Typographic Archives (1999).

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file name: William Caxton Angelsaechsisch Caxton Gotisch 15thcentury


file name: Caxton Latin Psalter 1480 1483


file name: Alter Littera Caxton Initials Missal Initials 2012


file name: Alter Littera Caxton Initials Missal Initials 2012b


file name: Jose Alberto Mauricio Initials A T F Missal Caxton 2012


file name: Jose Alberto Mauricio Initials A T F Missal Caxton 2012 Caxton


file name: Jose Alberto Mauricio Initials A T F Missal Caxton 2012b







Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html