Pynson, Richard (DNB00)

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PYNSON, RICHARD (d. 1530), printer in London, was a Norman by birth, as we learn from his patent of naturalisation of 26 July 1513 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. i. No. 4373). He is generally stated to have come to England during the life-time of Caxton, and to have learnt the art of printing from him as one of his apprentices; but, though he speaks of Caxton as ‘my worshipful master,’ there is little probability that he was ever in his employment. From his method of working it is clear that he learnt the art in Normandy, probably in the office of Guillaume le Talleur; and when William de Machlinia [q. v.], the principal printer of law books in London, gave up business about 1490, Pynson came over to succeed him, a position for which he was peculiarly fitted from his knowledge of Norman French. At first he employed the press of Le Talleur to print such books as he needed; but some time between 1490 and 1493 he began to print on his own account, issuing a Latin grammar and an illustrated edition of Chaucer's ‘Canterbury Tales.’ In 1493 he published Parker's ‘Dialogue of Dives and Pauper,’ his first dated book [see Parker, Henry, d. 1470], and in the colophon states that he was living ‘at the Temple-barre of London,’ though he shortly alters this to ‘dwelling without the Temple-barre.’ There he continued until the beginning of the sixteenth century, when he moved to the sign of the George in Fleet Street, continuing at that address until his death.

During the fifteenth century, though Pynson did not issue so many volumes as his rival, Wynkyn de Worde, his books are of a higher standard and better execution. In 1496 he issued an edition of ‘Terence,’ the first classic printed in London, and in 1500 the ‘Boke of Cookery’ and the ‘Morton Missal,’ the latter being the most beautiful volume printed up to that time in England. On the accession of Henry VIII to the throne Pynson seems to have been appointed printer to the king, and from this time onwards there are numerous entries in the state papers relating to him, which show that he was in receipt of an annuity. In 1509 he issued the ‘Sermo fratris Hieronymi de Ferraria’ and Barclay's translation of the ‘Ship of Fools,’ both containing Roman type, which had not before this time been used in England. In the latter book also we find the printer's coat-of-arms, probably but lately granted. Herbert describes it as follows: ‘Parted gyronny, of eight points three cinquefoils on a fess engrailed, between three eagles displayed.’ Though the birds are said to be eagles, they are more probably finches, a punning allusion to the name Pynson, the Norman word for a finch.

During his career he printed over three hundred different books, and, as king's printer, issued Henry's works against Luther. His will is dated 18 Nov. 1529, and was proved on 18 Feb. 1530, so that he would seem to have died at the beginning of the latter year. His daughter Margaret, widow of Stephen Ward, is named as the executrix, his son Richard having but lately died. At the time of his death Pynson was at work on an edition of Palsgrave's ‘Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse,’ which was finished by John Hawkins in 1530 [see Palsgrave]. Pynson was succeeded in business at the sign of the George in Fleet Street by Robert Redman [q. v.], who had for some time previously been his rather unscrupulous rival.

[Ames's Typogr. Antiq. ed. Herbert, i. 238 et seq.; Duff's Early Printed Books, pp. 165 et seq.; Ellis's Orig. Letters, 3rd ser. ii. 210.]

E. G. D.