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The biography and typography of William Caxton, England's first printer online

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Daniel, or his sureties, shall be bound to pay aud restore to the said
Jeroneme Vento (without the said Jeroneme agree to a postponement)
the other payments above-named. The observance of which judgment
and arbitration by the said parties, and each of them, has been decreed
in the said full chamber of Sheriffs of Bruges.
Done the 12th of May, 1469.


Under the date of " Easter. 19 Edward IV, 15th June," is the fol-
lowing :

To William Caxton. In money paid to his own hands in discharge
of 20 1. which the Lord the King commanded to be paid to the same
William for certain causes and matters performed by him for the said
Lord the King.

By writ of privy seal amongst the mandates of this term 20 1.


( In the Vestry of St. Margaret's Church Westminster.)

A Volume of biennial Accounts of the Churchwardens, audited by
the chief Parishioners. Each Account is written on a quire of parch-
ment, complete in itself : they vary considerably in size, but have been
carefully bound in one Volume, and are in beautiful condition. The
period included in this Volume is 1464 to 1503. The contents consist of
Receipts of Fees for Burials, Obits, &c. Rents Legacies, and Gifts
Payments for Repairs Salaries Pew-rents Collections and other


" Compus Thome Frampton & Will! Stafford custod' bonore & orna-
mentore ecclle p'ochial' see margarete Westm' videl't a xvij die Maij
A regis Edwardi quarti post conq'm AngF quarto vsqu xxij diem
einsdem " * * *

In the List of Fees for Burial is

" It rec d de Oliver Cawston die sepult' p' iiij tapr' viij d "
Among the Miscellaneous Receipts for 1476
" It m of a rewarde for a boke & a Chales lent to Sir

Ric' Wideuyle xx d '*



" Here folowith Thaccompt of John Wycam and of Nicholas Wolles-
croft Wardeins of the parisshe Churche of seynt margarete of Westm*

* * from the vij th day of the moneth of may in the yere of our
lord god M e CCCC Ixxviij * * * vnto the xviij th day of may in
the yere of our lord god M l CCCC Ixxx " * * *

In the List of Fees for Burial in the first year

" It m the day of burying of William Caxton for ij torchis

and iiij tapirs at a lowe masse xx d "

The amount paid does not appear large ; but in a very long list of
burial fees there are only four equal in amount, the common rate of fees
being ij d, iiij d, or vj d.


The same Account. In the List of Fees for burial in the second

< It m the day of bureying of Jone large for ij tapirs iiij d "


The Audit at the end of the same Account is as follows :

" The whiche some of xxiij li. X s yd ob. q a the forsaide wardeyns

haue paid and delyned in the fulle Audite vnto william Garard and

William Hachet their Successours togeder w* the tresoures of and in the

chirche aforeseid to them delyued in the begynnyng of this accompte

* * in the presence of John Randolf squyer Richard Vmfrey gen-
tilman Thomas Burgeys John Kendall notary William Caxton * *
with other paryshyns " * *


In the Account for the years 1490-2, among the Burial Fees for the
first year

" Item atte Bureyng of Mawde Caxston for torches and tapres

iij s ijd "

In the second year

" Item atte Bureying of William Caxton for iiij torches vj s viij d "
" Item for the belle atte same bureyng vj d "

Here we remark again that in both these cases the fees paid are con-
siderably larger than usual.

In the Accounts for 1496-8 among thr Legacies, and their produce
" It receyued by the handes of William Ryolle for oone
of thoo printed bokes that were bequothen to the
Churche behove by William Caxston vj s viijd ''

" It m receyued by the handes of the said William for a

nother of the same printed Bokes called a legend vj s iiij d "


" It m by the hands of the parisshe prest for a nother of

the same legendes vj s viij d "

At the end of the Account

" Memorand' there remayneth in store to the said Chirch "
" It m in bokes called legendes of the bequest of William

Caxton xiij d "

Among the Payments at the end of the same Account
" It m paide for a supper gevyn vnto the Auditours herynge
and determenyng this accompt and to the newe
Chirchwardeyns as it hath ben vsed and accus-
tumed here tofore xx s "

In the Accounts for 1 498-1500

" The Receites of Bookes called Legendes in the first yere of this
accompte "

" Fyrst Receyued of John Crosse for a prainted legende v s viij d "
"Item Receiued for a nother legende solde in West-

mynster halle T s viij d "

" Item Receiued of Willm geyfe for a nother of the same

legendes vs viijd"

"It m receiued of the said Willm Geyfe for a nother

Legende v s viij d "

" Item R of Walter Marten for a nother legende v s x j d "

In the second year of the same account

" Item R. of William Geiffe for ij legendes printed x s iiij d "

" It m R of Daniell af orge for a printed legende' v s x d "

" Item R of William Geiffe for a printed legende v s "

" Memorand' ther remayneth in store to the saide chirch " * * *
" It in bokes called Legendes of the bequest of William Caxton iij "
In the Accounts for 1500-2 there are not entered any sales of
" Legends."

"Ther remayneth in store to the saide chirche " * * *

" Item a prynted legende booke of the bequeste of Will'm Caxton."


(In tlie Vestry of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster).
A Volume of triennial Accounts of the Fraternity of our Blessed
Lady Assumption, beautifully written on vellum, and in excellent pre-
servation. It includes the period between 1474 and 1522, and is of very
great interest in illustrating the customs of that period. The earlier as
well as the later Volumes are not known to exist. The following are the
principal headings of the various Accounts: Arrears of Members-
Rents received Bequests and Gifts Receipts for Obits of Members

Al'I'KXDJX. 161

Fees of new Members Rents paid Payments of Salaries Wages
Annuities to Almsmen and Women House-repairs Wax Candles, and
other expenses, for the Shrine of our Lady in St. Margaret's Church
and Miscellaneous expenses.

(24th June, 1474, to 24th June, 1477).

The first Account is headed

" This is thaccompte of maister William Thirleby henry marble gen-
tilman and James Fytt maistres or Wardeyns chosen of the Frat'nte or
gylde of oure blessed lady seint mary the virgyn w*in the p'issh chirch of
seint margaret of the towne of Westm in the shire of midd' founded, that
is to say from the fest of Natinite of seint John Baptist in the yere of
y e reigne of kyng Edward the iiij th after the conquest xiiij vnto the said
fest of the Natiuite of seint John the xvij th yere of the reigne of the
same kyng by three hole yeres as it p'ticulerly appiereth in p'cellez here
folowyng that is to wete."

Under Payments of Rent in the same Account

" Also the said late maistres charge themsilf w* a certeyn quite rent
due by John Randolff of london mercer for a licence of Fre entre of
comyng in and going out for his tenntes thurgh the gate and an Alley
called our lady Alley in the kynges Strete of the towne of westm r ."

In the same Account, under " thentre of diues p'sones of new to the
said frat'nite is " John Caxston vj s viij d."

Also among the Payments

' ; Diuers payments by the said late maisters for the said Fraternite
* * * of the which thay axe to be allowed in this accompt."

" Of the money by them paid to the wardeins of the Craft of mercery
of london for certain quite rent going out of the ten't in the p'isshe of
Aldermarie Chirche of london at vs by the yere."

The Fraternity appear also to have held tenements in King Street,
Westminster, at Kensington, and at Stroud.

In the same Account, after the payment of six priests' salaries

" Costes and p'celles allowed by the hole Brotherhode toward

thexpences of the genall fest in iij dc yere of this accompt."

These " Costs and Parcels " occupy two full folio pages, and have

yielded the following items :

" A tonn of wyne vj li "

" Paide to John Drayton chief cok for his reward xxv s "

" Also for the hire of xxiiij doseyn of erthen pottes for

ale & wyne iiij s "

" Also for erthen pottes broken & wasted at the same fest vj s viij d "
" Also to iiij players for their labour xij s xd "



" Also to iij mynstrelles ix s x d "

" Also for the mete of diues of strangers xvj s "

"Also for russhes ij s iiij d "

" Also for vj doseyn of white cuppes iij s "


" Also for portage and botehyre of the Turbut iiij d "

" Also for ix Turbutts xv s i j d "

In addition to scores of " Capons, chekyns, gese, conyes, and peiones,"
(pigeons), the chief " cok " provided them with " swannys " and " herons,"
with all sorts of fish, including oysters and " see pranys," or prawns, with
all kinds of meats and game, with jellies in " ix dosen gely disshes,"
and with abundance of fruits. The quantity of ale, wine, and ypocras
provided by the butler is marvellous, and one cannot wonder at the heavy
entries for "pottes and cuppes broken, and wasted." The Cook seems
to have been paid much more liberally than the Wardens, who had but
xxx s between them " for their dilligence."

In the Accounts for 1490-3 are the Receipts of Rent from tenements,
known as " The Maidenhead," " The Sonne," " The Rose," and " The

Also, under payment of Rent

" For a certayn Quit rent paid out of a litell tent in the wolstaple to
the mair of the staple at xxd by the yere."

" Also for a certain Quit rent paid out of the Rents in

Alderm'ay p'isshe to John More Renter of the Mercers xv s "

From " Rymer's Foedera." Folio. London. 1710. Vol. XI. 636.


The King to all whom it may concern, &c. Greeting.
Be it known that

Inasmuch as determinate arrangements concerning the intercourse of
merchandise between our subjects and the subjects of our well-beloved
Cousin the Duke of Burgundy have in a sure form and manner been
accorded and agreed to in times past and since that time often renewed,

Wishing on our part to hold good and observe such arrangements,
and being well assured of the faithfulness and discretion of our well-
beloved subjects Richard Whetehill, Knight, and William Caxton,

Do make, ordain and constitute, by these presents, the said Richard
and William our true and accredited Ambassadors, Agents, Nuncios,
and several Deputies ;


Giving and Granting to our said Ambassadors, Agents, Nuncios, and
Deputies, and to either of them, full power and authority and general as
well as special commandment to meet, to enter into treaty and to com-
municate with our aforesaid Cousin or his Ambassadors, Agents, Nuncios,
and Deputies delegated with sufficient powers for this purpose by our
said Cousin, concerning and upon the continuation and renewal of the
aforesaid Intercourse, and, should occasion require, to make and conclude
new arrangements,

And to do and exercise all and singular other deeds which may be fit
or necessary.

Promising, in good faith and on our kingly word, always to hold as
ratified, acceptable, and binding, all and any the Acts and Deeds of our
said Ambassadors, Agents, Nuncios, and Deputies, or either of them, as
aforesaid, which may be done, performed, or done by procuration, in the
foregoing matters, or any portion thereof.

As witness our hand at Wy combe, this 20th day of October (1464).


The manuscript is

" To tharchedeacon of Westm' that nowe is and for the tyme shalbe.
We, Richard Fitz James, Almoner and Counsaillor unto oure souTerain
lord the King, and Richard Hatton, chaplayne and counsaillor vnto our
said souverain lord, greting in our Lord God enerlasting. And whereas
we, the said Richard and Richard, were appoynted, lymy tted and assigned
by our said souverain lord and the l^rdes of his most noble connsaill to
examine, determyne and pacific a certain variaunce depending betwene
Gerard Croppe of Westminster, taillour, of the oone partie, and Eliza-
beth, the doughter of William Caxton, wif to the said Gerard, of the othre
partie ; We, the vij th daie of May, the xj th yere of our said souverain
lord, had the said parties before us in the Kinges Chapell within his
palois of Westminster at this appoyntement and conclusion by thcire both
assentes and aggrementes : That noon of theim, ne any othre for theim,
shall fromhcnsforth vexe. sue or trouble othre for any maner matier or
cause theim concernying for matrimony betwix theim before had ; and
every of theim to lyve sole from othre, except that the said Gerard shall
mowe fynde the meanes to have the love and favour of the seid Elizabeth.
For thaccomplisshment of which aggrement eithre of theim of their owne
voluntarie willes bound theim self unto us by their faithes and tronthes,
and never to varie from their said promyses. And therupon the said
Gerard to have of the bequest of William Caxton, the fadre of the said
Elizabeth, xx 11 prynted legendes at xiij s iiij d a legend. And the said
Gerard to delyver a generall acquitaunce unto thexecutours of William
Caxton, her said fadre, for their discharge in that behalf. And besides



thies premisses both the said parties were aggreed before us to be bound,
eche to othre, in C.li. by their dedes obligatorie with the condicions above
wreten to perform e alle the premisses. In wittenesse whereof I, the said
Richard FitzJames, have to thies preseutes sette the scale of myn office.
And I, the said Richard Hatton, have setto my seal, and eithre of us
subscribed our names with oure owne handes, the xx u daie of May the
x jth vere o f the reigne of our said souverain Lord."




TYPE No. 1.


5n, or QUINTERNION, means a section of five sheets folded together in

half =10 leaves = 20 pages.
4n, or QUATERNION - 8 leaves = 16 pages.
3n, or TEBNION = 6 leaves = 12 pages.
RECTO is the right-hand page of an open book.
VERSO is the reverse, or the left-hand page.
A DIRECTOR is the name given to the small letter placed where the

Illuminator was intended to paint in a large initial.


Cnwb, 0. ? etc 1. The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy e . . .1474?

2. Le Recueil des Histoires de Troyes . . . 1476?

f t &>r>'i> &&* 3 - The Game and Pla y of the Chess Moralised 1475-76 ?

4. Les fais et prouesses du noble et vaillant Chevalier Jason . 147- ?

-&/- , , ... 5. Meditacions sur les Sept Pseaulmes penitenciaulx . 1478?


Translated 1469-71. Folio. Without Place or Date.

COLLATION. Book I has fourteen 5 ns and one 4" =148
leaves, of which the first is blank. Book II has nine 5 ns , one
4 n , and one 3 n =104 leaves. Book III has ten 5 n8 =100
leaves. Total 351 printed leaves and one blank.

of very uneven length ; full lines measure 5 inches, but vary
in different parts from 4J to 5J inches. 31 lines to a full
page. Without signatures, catchwords, or numerals. Space
is left, with a director, for 3 to 7-line initials. As may be
seen by the collation, each book begins a fresh gathering,
probably for the convenience of binding in three separate

Commencing the work with a blank leaf, Caxton's preface
follows, printed in red ink, and occupying the second recto.

The Text begins thus :

(re fceggnnetf) tije bolume intituled anto nameto
f) tfje reeugell of tfje fjtstorgcs of Croge/ compoaefc

antJ fcratoen out of fcguerce fcoofeeg of latgn in
to frenssije tg ttye rpgijt benrratle prrsone anfo toor-
gfnpfuU man . l&aoul le ffrure . preest antr rfjaprlagn
bnto tijc rggijt noile glorjpous anto tnsgfjtiD prpnce in
t)is tgrne 13ijcUp liur of ^ourgogne of ^rabantj ^c
$n ttje gere of tfje SJncarnacion of our lorto goti a tjou-
santi foure ^on^ert stitjp anti foure / UntJ translatetr
anti fcratoen out of frensfte in to engli00t)e tip S^iUpam
(!!ajton mercer of e ente of Uonfcon / at tije comautiemet


of tfje rigijt fjpe mpgfjtp ant bertuouse ^rpncesse ijps
retoufctpt latp . Jftargarete tip tfje grace of got . 29u-
djesse of IScurgopne of Hotrpfe of iSrafcant &t/
2TO)icf)e sapt translation ant toerfee toas fcegonne in
iSrugis in tfje (tfountee of dHauntres tfje fprst tag of
mardje tfje pere of tfje ^ncarnacion of our sait lort got
a tfjougant foure fjontert stitg ant epgfjte / ^nt entet
ant f|m;ps!3if)i % & in tt)e ^olp cgte of CTolen tfje . xix . tap of
septemtre tfje pere of our sapt lort got a tijousant
foure ijontert sta:tp ant eieuen ^c,

on tijat otfjer site of tfjis leef folotoetj tije prologe

Caxton's Prologue begins on the verso of the same leaf,
with space for a 4-line initial "W.

J^an $ rememfcre tfiat euerp man is fcounten

The first book commences on the fifth recto, with space for
a 7-line initial "W. The second begins on the 149th, and the
third on the 253rd recto, the whole ending with some Latin
rhymes on the 852nd recto, the verso being blank.

REMARKS. No one speaking the English language can
look at this patriarchal volume with indifference. Here, for
the first time, our forefathers saw their language in print ;
and, could our interest in any way have been heightened, it
would have been by knowing it to have been printed in our
own instead of a foreign land. The history of its origin is
shortly this. In the original French it was a favourite novel
of the English and Burgundian courtiers, for, although nomi-
nally an account of the Trojan wars, it is really a series of
love scenes mixed with mythology and knight-errantry. The
manuscript translation made by Caxton for the Duchess of
Burgundy, whose court was at Bruges, having excited great
interest, a demand arose for copies quicker than Caxton could
supply them. The printing-press having been just established
in that city by Colard Mansion, Caxton, whose thoughts were
now homewards, determined to use it as a means of multiply-
ing his translation, and of learning at the same time a new trade
which would support him on his return to England. This


he did at a great charge and expense, and then, having pro-
cured a new fount of types and all the necessory material,
came over to England and erected his press at Westminster.

Fortunately this work cannot be reckoned among the
rarities of Caxton's press, as there are copies in the British
Museum, Sion College, College of Physicians, London, at
Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, and fourteen other libraries. The
Duke of Devonshire gave 1060 10s. for a copy in 1812, the
same copy having been purchased by the Duke of Roxburgh
a few years previously for 50.

en Van de grace 1464. Folio. Without Printer's
Name, Place, or Date. (1476 ?).

COLLATION. Boole I, twelve 5 n "=120 leaves, of which
the first and last are blank. Book II, eight 5 ns and one 3 n =
86 leaves. Book III, eight 5 D8 =80 leaves. Total, 284
printed and two blank leaves.

The lines for the greater part are spaced out to one length,
being more even in this particular than the two English books
in this type. A full page has 31 lines, without signatures,
numerals, headlines, or catchwords. A space two to four lines
in depth has been left at the commencement of each chapter
for the insertion of an illuminated initial, a director being
sometimes inserted. v

The Text, 31 lines to a page, which is divided into three
books, begins thus on the second recto, after a blank leaf:

(g commence le bolume gntttule le recuetl ties fjtstotreg
tie trogeg (ftompose par benerafcle fjomme raaul le feure
prestre cijappcllatn toe men trcsretooufrte seigneur JHonset-
gneur le Buc $f)eltppe be fcourgmngne n Ian lie grace,
mil , cccc . Ittut . : .

and ends on the 286th verso.

anttpfjo 9 le raj? estort 9 le rog protfjenor et le roj> ofctome 9 .
* : * Explicit * : *


REMARKS. The history of the Trojan War, a favourite
subject for several centuries with European writers, was the
foundation of numerous romances. Of these the chief were
the apocryphal history by Dares Phrygius, a Trojan priest,
celebrated by Homer ; the account of the same war by Dictys
Cretensis, a supposititious historian ; and the History of the
Siege of Troy by Guido of Colonna, a native of Messina in
Sicily, who wrote in the thirteenth century. The rise of
these histories, their growth under the editorial care of
successive scribes, the incorporation of incidents from other
romances, and their final development in the compilation of
" Le Recueil des Histoires de Troye," form a curious and
typical example of this class of literature. According to
the unanimous testimony of all printed editions and all
manuscripts of the complete work, "Le Recueil" was the
composition of Raoul Lefevre, chaplain and secretary to
Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy: but in a manuscript
copy of this work in the National Library, Paris, the first two
books are attributed to Guillaume Fillastre. And this is
remarkable that Lefevre succeeded Fillastre (who was a
voluminous author) in the office of secretary to the duke.
Probably, finding his predecessor's history unfinished, he took
it up, and, after adding Book III, issued the whole under his
own name. In that age a similar course was by no means
uncommon, nor was it an infringement of any recognised
literary right ; we can hardly, therefore, with M. Paris, call
it (even if true) " une grande fraude literaire." On the other
hand, several copies were issued with the name of Lefevre
while Fillastre was yet living, and Caxton, who was contem-
porary with both writers, ascribes the whole work to Lefevre.
Nor is there any noticeable variation in style between the two
portions, as might be expected if composed by two authors ;
indeed the style of " Le Recueil " is the same as that of " Les
fais du Jason," an acknowledged work of Lefevre.

Steevens asserts that Shakspere derived the greater por-
tion of his materials for the play of "Troilus and Cressida"
from Lydgate's metrical composition, "The last destruction
of Troy ;" but Douce, in his " Illustrations," is far nearer the


truth in tracing the incidents employed by our great poet to
Caxton's translation of " Le Recueil des Histoires de Troye."
The latter was popular, and frequently reprinted long alter
Lydgate's laboured metre had become antiquated.

There is a perfect copy in the British Museum, besides a
large fragment. The National Library, Paris, has a copy,
and four others are in private libraries. A fragment of eight
leaves was purchased some years ago by a bookseller, and
made into four thick volumes, each volume having two
printed leaves with a hundred blank leaves on each side.
These were all disposed of as specimens to lie open in the
show-cases of museums.

(Translated 1475). First Edition. Folio. Without
Printer's Name, Place, or Date. (1475-76 ?)

COLLATION. Eight 4 nB and one 5 n =74 leaves, of which
the 1st and 74th are blank.

TYPOGRAPHICAL PARTICULARS. There is only one type,
No. 1, used throughout the work. The lines are not spaced
out ; the longest measure 5 inches ; a full page has 31 lines.
Without title-page, signatures, numerals, or catchwords.

The volume commences with a blank leaf, and on the
second recto is Caxton's prologue, space being left for a 2-line
initial, without director.

The Text begins thus :

<& tije rigf)t noble/ rtgfjt excellent & bertuoim prtnre
(George touc of Clarence <rl of TOlartogfc anti of
saltsfwrge/ grete djamfcerlagn of (nglonfc & leutenant
of 3Jrelon& oltet totter of fcjmge (titoar'tf ftp tfje grare
of go* fcgnge of <nglanfc anto of frauce / pout most
jjjuwtle geruant tot'Uiam <ajton amonge otfjer of gout
getuantes senses tinto goto peas . fjeltfje . Sfope anfc btrto-
rpe bpon gout Ornempeg / i&tgijt ftigfje pugssant anfc

The Text ends on the 73rd recto,
seri&e goto tfjaccompltofjement of pour i)ge nofcle .


anfc bettuous tetrs &men :/: dFgngssfjto tfje
last fcaj) of matcf)* tfje per of out lorti golf * a . tfjousanti
foute f)on < &er'& antr Irriut. *.:*:.

The 74th leaf is blank.

Online LibraryWilliam BladesThe biography and typography of William Caxton, England's first printer → online text (page 14 of 29)