First Book Printed with Movable Type in English

William Caxton
William Caxton (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1473 or 1474, William Caxton printed the first book using movable type in the English language. “At the end of his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye … Caxton wrote, ‘I have practised and earned at my great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as you may here see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books been, to the end that every man may have them at once.’”

“Caxton began his translation, as he tells us in his preface, in Bruges in 1468, and completed it in Cologne in 1471.” (Sotheby’s)

Read more about Caxton and the first books he printed, just 20 years after Gutenberg’s press set to work, on the British Library’s website.

Sotheby’s has a thorough article as well as a good look at the pages of the book.

Here’s a later edition of the book, in 1892, designed and typeset by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. This one’s in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Geniza in Cairo

Reading news across the internet, I discovered this video, “The Geniza in Cairo: a rich source of Jewish life in the Middle Ages.” In the video, Miriam Frenkel (Department of Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) “examines the Cairo Geniza records as a source of Jewish life in the Middle Ages, focusing on clothing and textiles, the importance of clothes in medieval society, food and the strange rareness of recipes in the records, and finally a shopping list written by a Jewish judge from Jerusalem.”

From the Cairo to the Cloud website, diorama Beit Hatfutsot, at the Museum of the Jewish People, in Tel Aviv, Israel: putting documents into the Geniza at the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo.

An article in Akadem by Édouard Drumont states, “A Geniza is the store-room in a synagogue, used specifically for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics that were stored there before they could receive a proper cemetery burial, it being forbidden to throw away writings containing the name of God.” Read more about a Geniza, and in particular the Geniza in Cairo.

Michelle Paymar and a host of experts are finishing up a documentary entitled Cairo to the Cloud, which explores the Cairo Geniza, which “is not only the largest cache of Jewish history ever found, it is a window into a vanished civilization, with over 350,000 documents illuminating over a thousand years of Jewish, Christian and Moslem life in the heart of the Islamic world.” There’s a trailer here.