WORDE, Wynkyn de

WORDE, Wynkyn de
(d. 1535)
Wynkyn de Worde was the student and successor of William Caxton, En­gland's first printer, and he produced more than eight hundred editions of almost four hundred titles, more than any other English printer before 1600. Born in either Holland or Alsace, de Worde learned the printing trade and met Caxton in either Cologne or Bruges. De Worde apparently accompanied Caxton when he moved to Westminster in 1476 and inherited the shop and equipment when Caxton died in 1491 or 1492. De Worde did not have the connections to the nobility that his mentor had enjoyed, so he moved the shop from Westminster to Fleet Street in London. The move increased his business sufficiently that by 1509 he was selling from another shop in St. Paul's Churchyard, the center of the London book trade. By the time of his death in 1535 he was counted among the wealthier inhabitants of his parish. Before the move to Fleet Street, most of the works printed by de Worde were homages to his master in the form of reprints, translations, and new editions of Caxton's books, such as Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1498) and Tho­mas Malory's Morte d'Arthur (1498). After the move he developed new interests and produced grammar books, handbooks, contemporary religious writing, ro­mances, and satires. A change in content also heralded a change in format, and de Worde's productions decreased in size (and, therefore, expense) from large folio volumes to the smaller quarto and octavo sizes.
De Worde had a tremendous influence on the early English book trade. The relative newness of the printed book, the availability of foreign printed books, and the scarcity of English printers at this time combined to make competition a present but not overbearing factor in production. De Worde collaborated with younger members of the trade as well as with foreign printers, and his inexpen­sive books contributed substantially to the spread of literacy in early-sixteenth-century England.
J. Moran, Wynkyn de Worde: Father of Fleet Street, 2nd ed., 1976.
Richard J. Ring

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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