Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2014
Early books printed on the Continent, imported into England in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and bearing evidence of English ownership, have attracted growing interest among such book historians as Graham Pollard, Elizabeth Armstrong, Julian Roberts, Lotte Hellinga, Margaret Ford, and others. They have worked on the transitional period from late medieval to early modern as an integral part of the history of the book. Caxton's introduction of printing with movable type into England (c. 1476) stimulated book production there, mostly in English, by his followers, but Ford's seminal article ‘Importation of Printed Books into England and Scotland’, based on her database comprising some 4,300 books, has demonstrated that, despite this, the book trade in England in this period was dominated by imported Continental books. This resulted mainly from two phenomena: (a) ‘The introduction of printing intensified what was already emerging as a cultural division, or what may be viewed as the co-existence of two parallel worlds’, that is to say those who communicated in Latin and those who used the vernacular; (b) ‘The great printing houses of the Continent produced a steady stream of Latin works, from the classics of law, theology and literature (in ever improved versions), to modern works, all aimed at the whole world of learning of the “literati” including those in Britain‘. Most of these texts were imported in temporary bindings or unbound sheets, and bound properly in England, while some were purchased by scholars and recusants who travelled abroad.