Inventors: William Caxton

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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

The printer, William Caxton, is included in the 2014 History curriculum. Find out more about this inventor and try printing activities in your classroom.

William Caxton

About William Caxton

Looking up a word in a dictionary, reading a newspaper, enjoying a good work of fiction… None of these would be possible today without the pioneering work of William Caxton (1420-1492).

As a young man Caxton worked as an apprentice to a textile merchant before moving to Bruges. It was while travelling on business in Europe that he first saw printing presses in operation. Printing using moveable type had been invented in China as early as the 11th century, but the technology to do this was not developed in Europe until the mid 15th century by Johann Gutenberg in Germany.

Caxton set up his own press in London in 1476. The first book he produced was an edition of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. He went on to produce over 100 different books, often translating and editing the text himself and putting it into standardised English before printing could take place.

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