One thing you don’t want to pawn


The Game and Playe of Chesse by William Caxton was one of the first books to be printed from moveable type in English. Printed at Westminster in the 1470s, if you had an original edition, then you would be the owner of a priceless print artefact.

Unfortunately St Bride Foundation doesn’t own an original copy of this book, but it does have the next best thing.

In 1855, in an effort to raise money for a printing charity, Vincent Figgins, the owner of a very successful London based type foundry, decided to produce facsimiles of Caxton’s ‘Chesse’. This necessitated the cutting of punches similar to the original typeface used by Caxton nearly 400 years previous.

No stone was left unturned for the project; the Figgins edition of the book utilised 23 woodcuts, and even the paper was specifically milled to be as close as possible match to Caxton’s original, made nearly 400 years earlier.

Even after all of this, Figgins wasn’t entirely happy with his creation. He wrote: “Could I have had a copy of the original alongside me during my progress, I should have succeeded more to my own satisfaction.”


Figgins’ facsimile would have set you back two guineas, with the luxury edition (bound in calf leather with silver clasps) a mere three guineas. All the profits from the sales went to the Printers’ Almshouses charity.


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