The University of Manchester - The University of Manchester Library
First Impressions

Wynkyn de Worde d.1534/5

Wynkyn de Worde was probably born in Wœrden in Holland. Traditionally, he was believed to have accompanied William Caxton to England and worked with him as his apprentice or foreman until Caxton's death in 1492. However, there is not a shred of documentary evidence to support this. What is known is that he took over Caxton's printing house in Westminster around the time of his death, and in the first instance reprinted some of Caxton's titles. In 1496, following the settlement of family disputes over Caxton's will, he was able legally to take charge of the printing enterprise. De Worde improved the quality of Caxton's product, recasting typefaces and buying new founts from Paris, bringing originality and high quality to the books he produced. In many respects he could be called 'England's first typographer'.

His books were often illustrated with fine woodcuts; he certainly re-used woodblocks from Caxton's period but also commissioned new blocks from skilled craftsmen, whose names we may never know. These new blocks were much finer in their execution, and were often used again and again in different publications.

He printed over 400 titles in almost 750 editions and his work ranged from the fine editions of religious works, novels and contemporary poetry produced in the early years of his business, to relatively inexpensive books such as Latin schoolbooks, which epitomize his later work. The early years of the sixteenth century saw an increased demand for the uniform editions of these Latin texts that only the process of printing could satisfy. Printers such as De Worde took full advantage of this market and Robert Whittinton's Latin grammar was published fifty times between 1511 and 1520.

In 1500 De Worde moved his business from Westminster to London. He was the first printer to set up a press in Fleet Street, a location that was to become synonymous with printing.