Worde, Wynkyn de (DNB00)

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WORDE, WYNKYN de (d. 1534?), printer and stationer, came originally, as his name denotes, from the town of Worth in Alsace. His real name was Jan van Wynkyn (‘de Worde’ being merely a place name), and in the sacrist's rolls of Westminster Abbey from 1491 to 1500 he figures as Johannes Wynkyn. While still a young man he came over to England and served as an apprentice in the printing office of William Caxton. Probably he accompanied Caxton from Bruges in 1476. Before 1480 he married his wife Elizabeth, an Englishwoman; she appears on the rent-roll of Westminster Abbey on 4 Nov. of that year as holding a tenement in Westminster of the dean and chapter, Wynkyn being incapacitated as an alien from holding real estate (Athenæum, 1899 i. 371, 1900 i. 177).

When Caxton died in 1491 Wynkyn succeeded to his materials, and continued to carry on business at Caxton's house in Westminster. In the first two years he did little, printing, so far as is known, only five books, and using for them the founts of type which had belonged to Caxton. At the end of 1493 in his edition of Mirk's ‘Liber Festivalis’ he introduced a new type, and from that time onward his business increased in importance. Unlike Caxton, he does not appear to have taken any interest in the literary side of his work, and we cannot point to a single book among the many hundreds which he issued as being translated or edited by himself. On the other hand, he seems to have been very successful as a business man, and the output of his press was far larger than that of any printer before 1600. Between 1493 and 1500 Wynkyn issued at least 110 different works, and since the existence of more than half of these is known only from single copies or even fragments, the real number must be considerably larger. A few of the books printed during this period are worthy of notice. In 1493 was issued the third edition of the ‘Golden Legend,’ and in the following year the ‘Speculum Vitæ Christi,’ of which one perfect copy is known. In 1495 appeared the ‘Vitas Patrum’ ‘whiche hath been translated out of Frenche into Englisshe by Wylliam Caxton of Westmynstre, late deed, and fynysshed at the laste daye of his lyff.’ About 1496 Wynkyn issued Trevisa's translation of the ‘De proprietatibus rerum,’ by Bartholomæus Anglicus [see Glanville, Bartholomew de], and in 1498 the second edition of the ‘Morte d'Arthur,’ the fourth edition of the ‘Golden Legend,’ and the third edition of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ besides numerous smaller books. Finding his own presses unable to cope with the increasing demand for books, Wynkyn began about this time to give out some of his work to other printers, and we find Julian Notary [q. v.], who had printed a book for him in London in 1497, moving out to King Street, Westminster, in 1498, and there printing for him an edition of the ‘Sarum Missal.’

At the end of 1500 Wynkyn gave up Caxton's house at Westminster and removed to Fleet Street, where he occupied two houses close to St. Bride's Church, one being his dwelling-house and the other his printing office. This move was probably made in order that he might be nearer the centre of trade in London, and better able to compete with his rival, Richard Pynson [q. v.], who lived almost opposite on the other side of Fleet Street, near St. Dunstan's Church. Wynkyn before moving got rid of a considerable portion of his printing material, both type and wood-blocks. Much was probably melted down and recast, but many of the woodcuts are found later in books printed by Julian Notary, and other woodcuts and even type make their appearance in such distant places as Oxford and York.

No doubt most of 1501 was spent in preparing the new printing office, for at present we know of only one book printed in that year, while in the year following there are at least twelve. Wynkyn clearly saw that the way to succeed was not to produce large folios for the rich, but small and popular books of all classes for the general public, so that the main produce of his press from this time forward consisted in small service-books, such as the ‘Horæ ad usum Sarum,’ religious treatises like the ‘Ordinary of Christian Men,’ or ‘Fisher on the Penytenciall Psalms,’ small school books and grammars, and popular tales like ‘Olyver of Castile’ or the ‘Four Sons of Aymon.’

The succession and coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 naturally caused a large influx of sightseers into London, and Wynkyn doubtless found a ready market, for we know of at least twenty-four dated books issued in that year, besides a number which, though undated, were clearly printed at the time. In 1509 began also the close connection between Wynkyn and the stationers and printers of York, for in that year Hugo Goes, the first printer in York whose work has come down to us, printed his first book, an edition of the ‘Directorium,’ in a type obtained from De Worde, and the latter also printed an edition of the ‘Manual’ for the York stationers Gatchet and Ferrebonc. The pressure of business in 1509 seems also to have been responsible for causing Wynkyn to open a shop in St. Paul's Churchyard, the recognised locality for booksellers. We find in the colophons of some books of this year a notice that they were to be sold by Wynkyn de Worde either at the ‘Sun’ in Fleet Street or at the sign ‘Divæ Marie Pietatis’ in St. Paul's Churchyard.

About this time Wynkyn appears to have had in his employment Henry Watson, Robert Copland [q. v.], and John Gough (fl. 1528–1556) [q. v.], the latter leaving in 1526 to start a business of his own. The two former, besides helping to print, are responsible for most of the translations from the French issued from the press at the ‘Sun.’

From 1501 to the close of his career Wynkyn printed over six hundred books, of which complete copies or fragments have come down to our time, and this probably does not represent more than one half of his work. A considerable number of books, however, which bear his name, were apparently printed for him by other printers; a few indeed have varying imprints, some with Wynkyn's name and others with the name of the real printer.

Wynkyn died at the end of 1534 or beginning of 1535. His will was made in 1534, and was proved on 19 Jan. 1535 by his executors, James Gaver and John Byddell. No mention whatever is made of any relatives. The Elizabeth de Worde who died at Westminster in 1498 was doubtless Wynkyn's wife, and the Julian de Worde who died at the same place in 1500 was possibly his son. Wynkyn made bequests to a number of persons either in his employment as apprentices or who worked for him. He was buried in the church of St. Bride in Fleet Street, before the high altar of St. Katherine, and left to the church a large bequest for religious purposes. No portrait of him is known; that usually given in books on printing being taken from a drawing by W. Faithorne, copied from a portrait of Joachim Ringelberg of Antwerp.

His two executors seem both to have carried on business after his death in his old premises at the Sun in Fleet Street, and for some years before his death Byddell carried on business at his other shop in Paul's Churchyard. Gaver, who was originally a bookbinder, and probably one of a numerous family of the name exercising their craft in the Low Countries, printed one book at the Sun in 1539.

[Ames's Typogr. Antiq. ed. Herbert, pp. 117–237; Bibliographical Soc.'s Hand-lists of English Printers, pts. i.–iii.; The Sandars Lectures, Cambridge, for 1899; Mr. Edward Scott's letters to the Athenæum, 10 and 25 Mar. 1899, and 10 Feb. 1900.]

E. G. D.