Monday, August 14, 2006

The First Printed English Translation

According to the Writer’s Almanac, yesterday was the birthday of the man who first printed a book in English, William Caxton. We translators can be proud of the fact that the book Mr. Caxton printed was a translation! This means that English translations have been printed since 1475.

Here is the quote from yesterday’s edition of the Writer’s Almanac:

Today is believed to be the birthday of the first man ever to print a book in English, William Caxton, born in Kent, England (1422). He was a wealthy trader and merchant, and also a part-time linguist and translator. He was living in Cologne, Germany, when he translated a book about the history of Troy. The printing press had been invented about twenty-five years earlier, but it had only recently started to spread beyond Germany. Caxton realized that the new technology of printing would make the job of distributing his books a lot easier. So instead of copying the book by hand, he printed the book he had translated about Troy in 1475. He eventually went back to England, where he established the first English printing press. He printed all the available English literature, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (c. 1478). For a long time, people in England called printed books "Caxtons."

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