About the blog

Welcome to Wynken de Worde: books, early modern culture, post-modern readings!

This blog shares thoughts specifically about books and early modern culture as well as speculations more generally about the history of books, reading, and printing.

For those of you just joining: my pace is closer to that of the slow-blog movement than to twittering. But I do post and I hope you'll find plenty to think about here!

Why is it called Wynken de Worde?

Wynken de Worde was one of the earliest printers in England. Although William Caxton was the first, de Worde was the one who transformed printing into a profession. I've been meaning for ages to write a post about de Worde, but have never quite gotten around to it. To tide you over, I give you this tidbit: Although it's tempting to think of "Worde" as referring to his profession, it is a reference to where he is from, a town in Alsace named Woerth.

Well that takes care of his last name, but what's up with the spelling of the first?

Good eye. I spell his name in this blog Wynken, but you will more typically see it spelled Wynkyn, and that's how it's spelled on the printer's device that I use as my avatar. You might be wondering why I did this, but there's really no good answer. I just did. You can choose to think of it as being very early modern of me, what with that whole flexible-spelling thing.

Speaking of that device, why does it have a big W C instead of a W W?

Ah, good question. De Worde started work as a printer as an apprentice to William Caxton. When Caxton died, de Worde inherited his press and type and he began to use Caxton's printer's device, modifying it to include his name under Caxton's initials.

Well, why would he do that? And what the heck is the point of a device anyway?

Now you're just getting me off track. I'll answer the former question, but not the latter: Caxton was a known quantity to early printed book buyers; by clearly associating himself with Caxton, de Worde was connection himself to that history and taste.