Caxton leaf a splendid thing

Our lunchtime walking for softies group took a detour to the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). We went to have a good look at the Caxton ‘leaf’ that was all around the media last week.

A page from a book printed on William Caxton‘s printing press from as early as 1445 has been found, apparently by accident, among Reading University’s special collections and is on display until 31 May.

The leaf is housed in a rather beautiful oaken walled library ante-room, with mellow dust in the shafts of sunlight and diamond like lead-light glass. The honeyed medieval page itself is so neat and compact that it doesn’t look anything like an over half a millennium old thing. One can only marvel at the technology used to create it – such a bold and confident type.

My advice is to find a quiet time alone in this room and just feel the history and the moment. It has an echo from the explosive time when Caxton and other pioneers virtually created the modern world, eventually making ideas and learning available for all.

We then had a marvellous nostalgic look at the Ladybird books and the rest of this incredible museum. If there is a better museum in Wessex then I would be surprised to hear where. Our walking group were delighted with the leaf and the whole museum in this enlightened corner. You really should go.

The medieval Caxton leaf will be on show until 31 May 2017 during usual opening hours and Mondays.

The Museum of English Rural Life
Redlands Road

Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.


  1. The Museum of English Rural Life
  2. Caxton leaf – BBC
  3. University of Reading special collections service
  4. William Caxton