William Caxton's Recuyell translation up 36% on estimate

William Caxton's translation of The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, the first book ever printed in the English language, sold for £1m ($1.7m) at Sotheby's London on July 15.

The lot crossed the block in the English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations auction - achieving an increase of 35.5% on an £800,000 ($1.3m) estimate.

Caxton Sotheby's
Caxton's translation was the first book ever printed in the English language


Dating to around 1473-1474, the work was originally written by Raoul Lefevre (an author affiliated with the court of Burgundy) and is primarily an updated version of the story of the Trojan wars.

Caxton, like most of the British court at the time, was much enamoured of the culture of Burgundy and knew that translations of texts would prove popular among the fashionable aristocracy.

He had minimal experience as a translator, having made his living as a merchant, a detail he relates in the book's prologue: "in the wrytyng of the same my penne is worn, myn hande wery & not stedfast myn eyen dimed with overmoche lokyng on the whit paper".

He would go on to set up England's first ever printing press in 1476.

Elsewhere, a 16th century English translation of Erasmus' Encheridion made £242,500 ($415,645) against a £70,000 ($119,980) estimate - up 246.4%.

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