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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XIII. The Introduction of Printing into England and the Early Work of the Press

§ 10. William de Machlinia

The first London press, started in 1480 by John Lettou under the patronage of William Wilcock, a wealthy draper, produced only two Latin books, a commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle by Antonius Andreae and an exposition on the Psalms by Thomas Wallensis. When, later, Lettou printed in partnership with William de Machlinia, they issued nothing but law-books, and it was not until about 1483, when Machlinia was at work by himself, that books in English were printed in London. One of the earliest was the Revelation of St. Nicholas to a monk of Evesham. It was composed in 1196; but the author is unknown. In an abridged form, it is found in Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum under the year 1196. It is a curious religious allegory, treating of the pilgrimage of a soul from death through purgatory and paradise to heaven. The monk, conducted by St. Nicholas, is taken from place to place in purgatory, where he meets and converses with persons of various ranks, who relate their stories and their suffering. From purgatory he advances slowly to paradise, and finally reaches the gates of heaven; after which he awakes.

The later press of Machlinia issued few English books. Among them came a reprint of The Chronicles of England and three editions of a Treatise of the Pestilence, a translation of the Regimen contra pestilentiam of Benedict Canutus, bishop of Westeraes, in Sweden. These can certainly be dated about 1485, in which year London was visited by the plague. One other interesting book was issued by Machlinia, entitled Speculum Christiani. It is a curious medley of theological matter in Latin, interspersed with pieces of religious poetry in English. The authorship has been ascribed to a certain John Watton, but the book, without the English verse, was also printed abroad. The verse, though spoken of by Warton as poor, is, occasionally, quite good; and the hymn to the Virgin, reprinted in Herbert’s Typographical Antiquities is a simple and charming piece of writing, reminiscent of an earlier period. The second part of the book consists, mainly, of an exposition on the Lord’s prayer, while the third contains selections taken from the works of St. Isidore.