British Library Treasures in full: Caxton's Chaucer
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print Caxton's texts

Caxton printed a high proportion of his books in English. While that may seem obvious to us today, it was unusual in the 15th century. Caxton focused his own production on the local market, importing books in Latin but not exporting his own books to Europe. A book printed in English could not be expected to find readers abroad.

It is perhaps a little surprising that Caxton, who had such a knowledge of European affairs, did not try to compete with big continental publishers for a Europe-wide customer base, but in the 15th century England was marginal to Europe, both culturally and in terms of trade. London was not a good base for competing for the European market, but it was a good base for the niche-market printing of English. This was a market where Caxton would have had little competition from the well-financed printers of Venice, Nuremberg, Paris or Cologne.

In this section we will look at the first book printed in English, at the Canterbury Tales themselves, and have a brief look at Caxton’s English. Caxton’s printing in French and Latin is discussed in the section on Caxton’s England.

Tell me more:

1. The first book printed in English
2. The Canterbury Tales
3. Caxton's English

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