By Dainan Skeem
Published Online, 2006
Introduction: Having been an English major, I already knew a little of whom William Caxton was; his role as the first English printer cannot be overlooked. However, not having had a chance to study him in-depth, I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to do so. I feel pleased with the decision I made, for through the research of the paper, I have discovered that Caxton was more than “the first English printer,” but also a translator and a linguist. It was through his efforts that the English language came out of obscurity and into everyday use. Without Caxton, the process would have taken longer or may have gone in a direction totally different than what it is today.
A language that does not change is a language that is dead. Latin was once a thriving language, spoken by thousands of people all over the European continent. However, when the use of the language declined and few people spoke it (usually only scholars and religious figures), it ceased to morph and became a dead language. Through Caxton’s efforts, English developed from a vulgar language to a common man’s language, emerging into the limelight to never be obscured again, nor to become a dead language.
Many of the texts used in colleges throughout the world are in English, a language that has become international. Millions of books are printed in English in England, the United States, Canada, Australia, and many other countries. Caxton’s efforts to print books in the English language can be seen as a breath of life for books in general and in the old practice of collecting them in libraries.