First printed edition of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer


The Canterbury Tales is a poetical work of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer in the years 1387 to 1400. 

Its enduring popularity led William Caxton, England's first printer, to choose it in 1476 as the subject for his first major piece of printing after setting up his workshop in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. It is generally accepted as the first substantial book to be printed in Britain. 

Caxton had learnt to print with movable type in Germany and Flanders. Seeing a business opportunity back home, he brought a team of skilled craftsmen and their equipment to Westminster. This included the type used to print this volume, which was modelled on the handwriting of the best Flemish scribes.

Full title:
Begin. [fol. 2 recto:] wHan that Apprill with his shouris sote And the droughte of marche hath p[er]cid ye rote, etc.
Printed book
Middle English
Geoffrey Chaucer, William Caxton
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

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