twitter google plus linkedin facebook

Answer 50. The Duke of Wellington was said to have told Harriette Wilson to ‘publish and be damned’, but the story is probably apocryphal.

In fact, the Duke threatened legal action if she mentioned him in her memoirs. Harriette went ahead anyway, and nothing came of it. Nowadays, she would just sell her story to the Sun.

To cash in on her notoriety, Harriette’s publisher also sold prints of a naked woman alleged to show The Redemption of Coventry by the Countess Godiva. Respectable newspapers were outraged:

‘This most disgusting and indecent painting has been, and now is, exhibited by the reptile who purchased it, at his bagnio in the Opera Colonnade. and we need not tell our readers that the sole object in effecting the purchase has been to entice young men of fashion to see it, and by tampering their appetites with a lustful style, to induce them to purchase, at an exorbitant price, the engravings taken from it.’


CaxtonWestAbbeySomewhere along this side of Westminster Abbey, in a building long since demolished, an enterprising Englishman set up the country’s first printing press in 1476. It was an immediate sensation. As he explained, of a book printed earlier in Bruges:

‘It is not wreton with penne and ynke as other bokes ben, to thende that every man may have them attones [at once], ffor all the books of this storye named the recule of the historyes of troyes thus empryntid as ye here see were begonne in oon day, and also fynysshid in oon day.’

The publisher had chosen his premises carefully. Between the Abbey, the Chapter House in the background (one of the places where Parliament met) and the King’s Whitehall palace behind the camera, he was bound to get some important custom for his new books.

He published them in  English, rather than Latin, producing easily accessible works on chess and fishing for a wide audience. One of his earliest successes was The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, probably published in 1478.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 51. Who introduced the printing press to England?

Tennis and the Masai Cover









‘Wickedly funny’ – Daily Mail
‘Funniest book of the year’ – Daily Telegraph
No 3 best-seller, Amazon humorous fiction