3. From Flanders to Cologne
Caxton ceased to be Governor of the English Nation in Bruges in, or just after, 1470. Certainly by 1472 John Pickering is mentioned as Governor. Perhaps it was because of the changing political situation back in England. In 1469 Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, ‘the king-maker’, staged a Lancastrian coup and made a show of restoring Henry VI to power. Edward IV fled England and landed in the Low Countries on 9 October 1470. He was protected by Louis de Gruuthuse, first in the Hague and later in Bruges in his magnificent town house, which still stands.
Caxton had strong Yorkist connections
so he was well placed to improve his contacts with Edward’s
court during the exile, but with a Lancastrian king in power back
in England, his position as representative of the English Nation
was perhaps becoming difficult. By 17 July 1471 he was in Cologne.
At that date he obtained a Geleit from the city, which granted him
a specific legal status. Twice he ensured that his Geleit was renewed,
the last extension expiring on 19 December 1472.
Printing was introduced to Cologne in the mid 1460s, the first printer being Ulrich Zell who had worked in Mainz in the workshop of Gutenberg’s successors. Unusually among early printing towns, Cologne also had an important university. Combining a good local market for books with the advantages of being a major trading centre, Cologne soon overtook Mainz and Strasbourg to become the dominant printing city of the western and northern parts of Germany.
Cologne was one of the towns that constituted
the Hanseatic League and, situated on the Rhine, it was of particular
importance for trade with England. Although the rivers of Europe
were not the well-regulated waterways that we know today, shipping
was more reliable and far easier than land-based transport. The
export of books followed established trade routes from Cologne to
the Low Countries and England, towards the German and Scandinavian
cities on the Baltic Sea, and to central Germany and further east
into present-day Poland.
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