©National Archives

Caxton printed indulgence, 1476 This is the earliest document known to have been printed in England. It is a Latin 'indulgence' - a pardon issued by the Church - given by John, Abbot of Abingdon, to Henry Lanley of London and Katherine his wife. The indulgence was printed on 13 December 1476 by William Caxton, the English Prototypographer (the first person to introduce printing into a country).

Caxton had spent many years abroad as a diplomat and merchant. He became interested in the new technology of printing which Johannes Gutenberg had introduced into Germany in the early 1450s and printed his first book in Bruges in 1476.

After returning to England, he set up his printing shop in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. Before his death in 1491, he was to print nearly eighty other books (comprising over 18,000 pages) including famous poems by Chaucer and Malory.

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