Typos in Books

Typographical errors, commonly referred to as typos, are the bane of every writer, editor, and publisher. No matter how many times a manuscript is proofread and spellchecked, the pesky typo taunts the best of proofreaders. Throughout the centuries, the typo has haunted writers and publishers, a lasting symbol of man’s inherent fallibility. In most cases, typos are rather innocuous, some are even wickedly funny (revealing a Freudian slip); however some lead to great embarrassment or worse — costly reprints. For book collectors it is a precise way of identifying first editions. Here are some notable typos in famous books.

The King James Bible (1611)
The word “she” is missing an “s” in Ruth 3:15 — “and he went into the city.” This edition of the bible is known as the He Bible.

The King James Bible (1631)
The word “not” was mistakenly left out of the 7th commandment — “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Although most people — especially the clergy — were horrified, politicians were absolutely thrilled. This edition of the bible, published by Robert Baker and Martin Lucas, was referred to as The Wicked Bible or the Sinner’s Bible — still, the most popular bible in Washington D.C.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (1922)
On page 103 the word “position” was printed as “sposition.”

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck (1931)
On page 100 the word “fleas” was printed as “flees.”

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1934, 2nd ed)
A slip that read “D or d, cont./density” instructed the typesetter to add the word “density” as one of the words that could be abbreviated with “D” or “d.” Instead the typesetter mistakenly added a completely fake word (known as a ghost word) into the dictionary: “Dord” defined as a synonym for density. The mistaken word was not detected for 6 years.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming (1955)
On page 10 the word “shoot” was printed as “shoo.”

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1961)
The word “idiot” was printed as “idots.”

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1988)
The word “than” was printed as “that” — “then I’m dumber that an eight-year old.”

The Pasta Bible (2010, Australian version)
A recipe for tagliatelle called for “pepper” while the printed version called for “salt and freshly ground black people.” Needless to say, 7,000 books were destroyed and the book was reprinted with the proper ingredient.

For further reading: The Dord, The Diglot, and an Avocado or Two by Anu Garg, Plume (2007)


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