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at Oxford till towards the very close of the fifteenth century. The case was different with regard to the other most memorable incident in the history of literature which illustrates the age of which we are now treating. The three towns, of Haerlem in Holland and of Mayence and Strasburg in Germany, contend for the honour of having given birth, shortly before the middle of this century, to the art of printing. The claim of Haerlem rests upon a tradition that one of its citizens, Lawrence (or Laurent) Janszoon Coster, had, without assistance or communication with any other individual, not only invented the art, but brought it to perfection, through the successive stages of wooden types, types of cut metal, and types cast in the modern fashion, before the year ] 441; in which year one of his servants named John—whom some suppose to have been John Fust— made his escape to Mayence, carrying with him both the secret and a quantity of Coster's types and implements, with which he began to print in the last-mentioned city in the following year. Among those who reject this story there is little disagreement as to the persons to whom the several parts of the invention are to be attributed; the principal dispute is, whether the art was first practised at Mayence or at Strasburg. The supporters of the pretensions of Coster of Haerlem, we have said, assert his claims to the invention both of the art of printing and of the art of typefounding. These are properly to be considered as two perfectly distinct inventions; and, though coming the one in aid of the other, the latter was nearly as great an improvement upon the former, as the notion of printing with moveable types was upon the process, long previously practised in China, of producing impressions from blocks of wood and other materials.* The principle of the one consisted in making the same type available in the production of many different words and pages; the principle of the other consisted in making one cutting serve for the production of many copies of the same type. They proceeded, in fact, in opposite directions; the object of the former was attained by the contrivance of separate types, by the breaking down of the one block into many pieces: the latter was suggested by viewing the different types of each letter as essentially the same, that is to say, by bringing together, as it were, the many into one. The Germans agree in venerating three names as those of the fathers of the whole art of printing—John Gutenberg, or Gutenberger; Peter Schoeffer, otherwise called Opilio; and John Fust. The share which Fust had in the matter is involved in some obscurity. According to one account, he merely interested himself warmly in the invention, and, being wealthy, assisted Gutenberg, who was poor, with the means of carrying on his operations. It is admitted that the grand fundamental conception of printing with separate or moveable types is due to Gutenberg alone. And to Schoeffer is attributed, with equal unanimity, the invention of casting types of metal by means of a matrix. For this happy improvement— without which, indeed, printing with moveable types would have been checked in its natural development, like an animal or a plant left without adequate nourish
* We have elsewhere endeavoured to state more distinctly than had previously been done in what it really is that the invention of printing essentially consists.—See Art. PrintIng in Penny Cyclopadia, xix. 14—18.
ment, Sehoeffer, who was at the time in the service of Gutenberg and Fust, is said to have received from the latter his only daughter in marriage. The first servants of this high mystery, however, were not of the class of ordinary workmen; the fabrication of books, which even 31 its most mechanical forms had hitherto always been an employment of an intellectual nature, was not now committed to persons without any literary education; Sehoeffer had studied in his youth at the University of Paris, and his scholarly acquirements had no doubt in the first instance recommended him to Gutenberg as a fit assistant in his scholarly craft.
FRINTING IN ENGLAND.—CAXTON.
The art of printing had been practised nearly thirty years in Germany before it was introduced either into England or France—with so tardy a pace did knowledge travel to and fro over the earth in those days, or so unfavourable was the state of these countries for the reception of even the greatest improvements in the arts. At length a citizen of London secured a conspicuous place to his name for ever in the annals of our national literature, by being, as far as is known, the first of his countrymen that learned the new art, and certainly the first who either practised it in England, or in printing an English book. William Caxton was born, as he tells us himself, in the Weald of Kent, it is supposed about the year 1412. Thirty years after this date his name is found among the members of the Mercers' Company in London. Later in life he appears to have repeatedly visited the Low Countries, at first probably on business of his own, but afterwards in a sort of public capacity,—having in 1464 been commissioned, along with another person, apparently also a merchant, by Edward IV. to negotiate a commercial treaty with the Duke of Burgundy. He was afterwards taken into the household of Margaret Duchess of Burgundy. It was probably while resident abroad, in the Low Countries, or in Germany, that he commenced practising the art of printing. He is commonly supposed to have completed, before the end of the year 1471, impressions of Raoul 1c Fevre's ' Recueil des Histoires de Troyes,' in folio; of the Latin oration of John Russell on Charles Duke of Burgundy being created a Knight of the Garter, in quarto; and of an English translation by himself of Le Fevre's above-mentioned history, in folio; "whyche sayd translacion and werke," says the title, "was begonne in Brugis in 1468, and ended in the holy cyte of Colen, 19 Sept. 1471." But these words undoubtedly refer only to the translation; and sufficient reasons have lately been advanced by Mr. Knight for entertaining the strongest doubts of any one of the above mentioned books having been printed by Caxton.* The earliest work now known, which we have good grounds for believing to have been printed by Caxton, is another English translation by himself, from the French, of a moral treatise entitled 'The Game and Playe of the Chesse,' a folio volume, which is stated to have been "finished the last day of March, 1474." It is generally supposed that this work was printed in England; and the year 1474 accordingly is assumed to have been that
of the introduction of the art into this country. It is certainly known that Caxton was resident in England in 1477, and had set up his press in the Almonry, near Westminster Abbey, where he printed that year, in folio, 'The Dictes and Notable Wyse Sayenges of the Phylosophers,' translated from the French by Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. From this time Caxton continued both to print and translate with indefatigable industry for about a dozen years, his last publication with a date having been produced in 1490, and his death having probably taken place in 1491, or 1492.* Before he died he saw the admirable art which he had introduced into his native country already firmly established there, and the practice of it extensively diffused. Theodore Rood, John Lettow, William Machelina, and Wynkyn de Worde, foreigners, and Thomas Hunt, an Englishman, all printed in London both before and after Caxton's death. It is probable that the foreigners had been his assistants, and were brought into the country by him. A press was also set up at St. Alban's by a schoolmaster of that place, whose name has not been preserved; and books began to be printed at Oxford so early as the year 1478. It would even appear that before the end of this period some exportation of the productions of the English press had commenced. At the end of a Latin translation of the Epistles of Phalaris, printed at Oxford in 1485, is a Latin couplet, boasting that the English, who had been wont to be indebted for
* See article on Caxton in Penny Cyclopedia, vol. vi. p. 393; and with much more fulness of detail and illustration in Mr. Kisight's Biography of Caxton.