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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

§ 5. The Golden Legend

The Golden Legend, Caxton’s most important translation, was finished, if not printed, in 1483. In his second prologue, the printer tells us that, after beginning his translation, the magnitude of his task and the probable great expense of printing had made him “halfe desperate to have accomplissd it,” had not the earl of Arundel come forward as a patron. With this assistance, the book was, at last, finished. In its compilation, Caxton used three versions, one French, one Latin and one English. The French original can be clearly identified with an early printed edition without date or place, for Caxton has fallen into several pitfalls on account of the misprints which occur in it; for example, in the life of St. Stephen, the words femmes veuves have been printed Saine venue, which the translator renders “hole comen” in spite of the words making no sense.

In 1484, four more books translated by himself were printed by Caxton: Caton, The Book of the Knight of the Tower, Aesop’s Fables and The Order of Chivalry. The Book of the Knight of the Tower is a translation of the work written, in 1371, by Geoffroi de la Tour Landry, for the instruction of his daughters, a medley compiled from the Bible, Gesta Romanorum and the chronicles of various countries. The next year saw the issue of three books, The Life of Charles the Great, The History of Paris and Vienne and, most important of all, Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. The Life of Charles the Great was translated from an anonymous French version compiled at the request of Henry Bolomyer, canon of Lausanne, the Paris and Vienne from the French version made by Pierre de la Seppade of Marseilles early in the fifteenth century. Both these books are now known only from single copies.