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hand, would naturally prevent any such traffic in them as would make it a distinct business to sell them. Booksellers, however, appeared at the latter part of the twelfth century. The lawyers and the universities originated this trade.
Some curious records of the price of books before the introduction of printing have come down to us. Stow, in his “Survey of London,” says that in 1433, 661. 13s. 4d. was paid for transcribing a copy of the works of Nicholas Lyra, in two volumes, to be chained in the library of the Grey Friars. We
estimate how large a sum that was when we find that the usual price of wheat then was 58. 4d. the quarter; the wages of a ploughman 1d. a day; of a mechanic, as a sawyer
; or stone-cutter, 4d. In 1429 the price of one of Wickliffe's English New Testaments was four marks and forty pence, or 21. 16s. 8d. The price of a cow at this time was 8s., and of a good horse about 20s.
Warton, in his “ History of English Poetry," says, “when a book was bought, the affair was of so much importance that it was customary to assemble persons of consequence and character, and to make a formal record that they were present on the occasion.” Bonds were given, and extensive deposits of plate or money, when manuscripts were borrowed. When they were bequeathed as legacies, it was often in fee, and for
the term of a life, and afterwards to the library of some religious house.
When all these facts are considered, it is not surprising that many monasteries had only one missal, or one psalter, and that in 1400 the library at Rome had little else than missals and legends.
The common people, who could have no access to books, were necessarily dependent on oral teaching, and Wickliffe's preaching, rather than his writings, spread his opinions among the populace.
William Caxton, the first English printer, was a Kentish man, born about 1412.
His parents were worthy people; and it is memorable that, at a time when from political troubles and the unsettled state of the country, education was neglected, the parents of Caxton reared their son carefully. “I am bounden,” says he, “to pray for my father's and mother's souls, that, in my youth, sent me to school, by which by the sufferance of God I get my living, I hope, truly." He was apprenticed to a citizen of London, - a mercer,
that name being then given to designate a general merchant trading in various goods. That Caxton was a diligent and faithful apprentice may be inferred from the fact, that his master, William Large, in 1441 left him, in his will, a legacy of 131. 6s. 8d., a handsome sum in those days. After he received this legacy he went abroad, being pro
bably engaged in mercantile pursuits. He continued, for the most part, in the countries of Brabant, Flanders, Holland, and Zealand, all at this time under the dominion of the Duke of Burgundy, one of the most powerful princes of Europe. While Caxton's countrymen were contesting in the battle-field the claim of the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, he was exercising his acute and observant mind, acquiring the French and Dutch languages, and preparing himself, by a peaceful and thoughtful life, for his great work as a benefactor to his country. In 1464 he was sent on a mission by Edward IV. to continue and confirm some important treaties of commerce with the Duke of Burgundy. The Low Countries were at that time the great mart of Europe, and Caxton, bred to commerce, from his experience, would be able to enter into treaties beneficial to his own long-troubled land.
In 1450 Guthenberg, generally considered to be the first printer, entered into partnership with Fust, a rich merchant of Mentz, who supplied the sums necessary to carry the invention into effect.
Charles, the son and successor to the Duke of Burgundy, whom Caxton had first known, married Margaret, sister to our Edward IV., and Caxton, who could scarcely have been a merchant on his own account, was appointed to some post in the
household of the Duchess. The exact nature and salary of his office is not known; but he was on terms of familiar intercourse with Margaret, who seems to have rightly appreciated her estimable countryman. Caxton had been deeply interested in the new and wondrous art of printing, and he had exercised himself in making some translations from books that pleased him.
“ In 1469,” he says, “ having no great charge or occupation, and wishing to eschew sloth and idleness, which is the mother and nourisher of vices, having good leisure, being at Cologne, I set about finishing the translation of the Histories of Troy'). When, however, I remembered my simpleness and imperfections in French and English, I fell in despair of my works, and after I had written five or six quairs, purposed no more to have continued therein, and the quairs (books) laid apart; and in two years after laboured no more in this work; till in a time it fortuned the Lady Margaret sent for me to speak with her good Grace of divers matters, among the which I let her have knowledge of the foresaid beginning.” “The Dutchess,” he adds, “found fault with myne English, which she commanded me to amend, and to continue and make an end of the residue; which command I durst not disobey.” The Duchess both encouraged and rewarded him liberally. He mentions in the prologue and epilogue to this book, that his eyes are dim with overmuch looking on the white paper; and that age was creeping on him daily, and enfeebling all his body; that he “ had learned and practised at great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print, and not written with pen and ink, as other books be.”
. This, it seems, was not the first book he had printed at Cologne.
He returned to England about 1472, when he would be sixty years old, after having lived thirty years on the continent.
He brought with him some unsold copies of the works he had printed at Cologne. Thomas Milling, Bishop of Hereford, and Abbot of Westminster, was Caxton's first patron. It was probably by his permission that Caxton set up his printing press in the almonry or one of the chapels attached to the Abbey.
There is something inexpressibly interesting in the fact that this great and good man entered on his new and difficult enterprise at a time of life when most men are seeking rest and quietude. Patronage was to be obtained, prejudice to be overcome, expence to be incurred, labour to be performed. What but a deep sense of the importance of his art to the welfare of his countrymen could have sustained him? It has been argued that the inferior character of most of the works he printed is an evidence of a very humble intellect in Caxton, as well as a degenerate taste in the age. The