Life and career
From General Prologue page of the Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
(the same image was reused to illustrate Knight's Tale in an edition printed by Richard Pynson in London, 1492)
Pynson was born in 1448 in Normandy, France, and may have been a glover and/or a pouchmaker before he turned to printing. It is possible that he is identical with one Richard Pynson who was enrolled as a student in Paris in 1464.
He is also mentioned as being a bookbinder, although he probably did not bind the books himself. It has been suggested that Pynson at one time worked as an assistant to William Caxton – whom he called "my worshipful master" in the introduction to his Canterbury Tales, 1492 – but this is now considered highly unlikely.
Pynson began his printing career as early as 1492, the year in which he printed Alexander Grammaticus's Doctrinale, his first dated book. He had probably learned his trade from
Guillaume Le Talleur, a printer in Rouen, whom he charged with printing at least two books in the early 1490s. It is likely that he took over William de Machlinia's premises after de Machlinia's death; it is also possible that Julian Notary in turn took over Pynson's vacated place in 1501.
During the first years, he worked in St Clement Danes just outside Temple Bar, but he moved inside Temple Bar in 1501, possibly because of xenophobic riots, but perhaps simply "[...] to be closer to the book trade, most of the leading men having their shops in the neighbourhood of St Paul's Cathedral."
Pynson became King's Printer to Henry VII (and subsequently to Henry VIII) in 1506, an office that carried not only great prestige but also an annuity of two pounds, later raised to four pounds. Since this was a prestigious lifetime position, it is not surprising that he was naturalised in 1513.