William Caxton was born in Kent around the year 1422. As a teenager he was apprenticed to Robert Lange, a mercer (cloth trader). In 1441 he moved to Bruges where he became prosperous and in 1463 he was appointed governor of the English Nation of Merchant Adventurers in Flanders.
Caxton became interested in literature and began making translations into English. He thought it would be a good business venture to translate works of literature into English and sell them to the English nobility.
The printing press had been invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1436 and by 1440 the first printing press had been perfected allowing books to be printed rather than written by hand. Caxton decided to find out more about printing and in 1473 set up his own printing press in Bruges. The first book to be printed in English was Caxton’s translation of the History of Troy.
In 1476 Caxton returned to England and set up his own printing press in Westminster. In 1477 the first dated book to be printed in English was produced. The book was The Dictes and Sayenges of the Phylosophers, translated from French by Earl Rivers and dated 18th November 1477.
Caxton was commissioned by rich nobles to translate and publish many well known works including Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In total Caxton published 100 books, 24 of which he translated into English himself.
William Caxton died in 1492.