Caxton probably left Cologne around December
1472, but we do not know exactly why. There may have been an English
political aspect to Caxton’s return to Burgundian territory.
Edward IV had returned to England and regained power in 1471. Caxton
was once again to become active in Edward’s service abroad,
securing the support of Charles the Bold for a joint war against
Presentation miniature of Margaret of York in Le
dyalogue de la ducesse de bourgogne a Ihesu Crist, written circa
1470. The British Library, MS Add. 7970, f.1v.
His departure may have been connected with
a conflict brewing between the city and the Archbishop of Cologne.
Or perhaps it had to do with the growing competition between printers
in Cologne with the arrival in 1472 of the very solidly financed
Johann Koelhoff. He had worked in Venice, which was rapidly emerging
as the most important centre of commercial book production in the
Several persons connected with the book
trade left Cologne. Johann Schilling, for instance, who had printed
for Caxton, moved to Basel. Johann Veldener, who had designed and
probably cast the types used for Caxton’s first book, settled
in Louvain. Caxton may also have stopped over in Louvain before
again settling in Bruges, by 1473 or 1474.
Bruges was a trading centre where manuscript
and printed books were sold, among other luxury items, and it was
also a centre for the production of manuscripts. Charles the Bold
himself commissioned luxury
manuscripts, but Margaret of York was a much more important
patron of manuscript
book production. In March 1469 Caxton had begun a translation of
The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy apparently on his
own initiative. He showed the first part of his translation to Margaret
of York who encouraged him to continue it.
This may be an indication that, already
in the 1460s, Caxton had been engaged with the book trade, before
becoming involved with printing. In the years when Anglo-Flemish
trade was difficult because of trade restrictions on both sides,
diversification into the book trade could have been an astute commercial
choice: books were not covered by the English embargo on Flemish
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