William Caxton's prologue to Eneydos

In the latter half of 1490, English printer William Caxton prepared a folio for Prince Arthur, son of King Henry VII, containing a translation from French of Le Liure des Eneydes (1483), itself a translation from Latin of Virgil's Æneids. It was preceeded by the following prose.

After dyuerse werkes made translated and achieued, hauing noo werke in hande, I, sittying in my studye where as laye many dyuerse pauntflettis and bookys, happened that to my hande came a lytyl booke in frenshe, whiche booke is named Eneydos made in latyn by that noble poete and grete clerke Vyrgyle.

And whan I had aduysed me in this sayd boke, I delybered and concluded to translate it in-to englysshe, And forthwyth toke a penne and ynke, and wrote a leefe or twyne whyche I ouersawe agayn to corecte it. And whan I sawe the fayr and straunge termes therin, I doubted that it sholde not please some gentylmen whiche late blamed me, syeing that in my translacyons I had ouer curyous termes whiche coude not be vnderstande of comyn people and desired me to vse olde and homely termes in my translacyons. And fayn wolde I satysfye euery man; and so to doo, toke an olde boke and redde therin and certaynly the englysshe was so rude and brood that I coude not wele understand it … And certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from whiche was vsed and spoken when I was borne … And that comyn englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from another. In so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn marchauntes were in a shippe in Tamyse, for to haue sayled ouer the see into Selande, and for lacke of wynde thei taryed atte Forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them; And one of theym named Sheffelde, a mercer, cam in-to an hows and axed for mete; and specyally he axyed after eggys; and the goode wyf answerde, that she coude speke no frenshe, And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde haue hadde ‘egges’ and she vunderstode hym not. And theene at laste another sayd that he wolde haue ‘eyren’ then the good wyf sayd that she vnderstod hym wel. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, ‘egges’ or ‘eyren’?

Cetainly it is harde to palyse euery man by cause of dyuersite and chaunge of langage. And som honest and great clerkes haue ben wyth me, and desired me to wryte the moste curyous termes that I coude fynde. And thus between playn, rude and curyous, I stande abasshed, but in my judgemente the comyn termes that be dayli vsed, ben lyghter to be vnderstonde than the old and auncyent englysshe. And for as moche as this present Booke is not for a rude vplondyssh man to laboure therein ne rede it, but onely for a clerke and a noble gentylman that feleth and vnderstondeth in faytes of armes, in loue, and in noble chyualrye, therefor in a meane bytwene bothe I haue reduced and translated this sayd booke in to our englysshe, not ouer rude ne curyous, but in suche termes as shall be vnderstanden, by goddys grace, accordynge to my copye.

— William Caxton, 1490