First printed book in English sold for over £1 million

The book was published in 1474.

A 540-year-old book, known as the first to be printed in the English language, has sold at an auction for more than £1 million (N276 million).

The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye is a version of a French book written around 1463.
It was translated over a three-year period by William Caxton, who pioneered the printing press in England.

He published his version around 1474, at a time when most books were printed in Latin, in either Ghent or Bruges, Belgium.

The story is an epic romance which portrays the heroes of Greek mythology as chivalric figures, according to Sotheby’s, which auctioned it. It was produced as a gift for the Duke of Burgundy’s new wife Margaret, the sister of the English King, Edward IV.

The guide price going into the auction was £600,000 (N165 million) for a volume that is one of only 18 surviving copies.

But a bidding war between three rivals pushed the auction up to a hammer price of £900,000 (N249 million), with the buyer paying £1,082,500 (N299 million) after the Sotheby’s added its commission.

Sotheby’s books specialist, Gabriel Heaton, said the work marked a watershed moment in literary history when the father of English printing, William Caxton, embarked on the radical commercial decision to print the first book in English.

“Produced at a time when printing in the vernacular was still in its infancy, and when there was a relatively small domestic readership, this was a risky enterprise,” he added.

The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye was the first book Caxton printed, and its production appeared to take its toll on a man who was a leading figure in the 15th Century English mercantile community.

In the book’s epilogue, Caxton said: “In the writing of the same, my pen is worn, mine hand weary and not steadfast, mine eyes dimmed with overmuch looking on the white paper.”


Coronavirus factsheet


PT Mag Campaign AD

All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.

Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.


TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW! Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application