Sunday, April 18, 2010

Literal of the week

Election? Volcanic ash? These matters interest me not. (Oh, okay the election is getting kinda interesting now). But this is more my sort of thing.

An Australian publisher has had to pulp and reprint a cook-book after one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" instead of black pepper.

Anyone who has ever edited anything will recognise that sinking feeling when an obvious, silly and embarrassing error makes its way into print - there is a natural tendency when reading something to see what ought to be there rather than what is actually there and it can never be entirely eradicated. (And there seems to be an iron law of nature than any attempt to highlight or laugh at spelling or grammatical errors made by others means your own post will contain at least one howler).

In any case, I like to thing this sense of "there but for the grace of God go I" is why cock ups of this nature are so enjoyable when somebody else makes them. It also explains why the splendid Regret the Error website, which points out the worst press cock-ups, is especially popular amongst production journalists.

Nor is this cookbook by any means the worst example of this sort of error. In the 17th version of the Bible was published in which the "not" was missing from the "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" part of the 10 Commandments; inevitably it became known as the Adulterer's Bible or the Wicked Bible. Reassuringly for students of human nature the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to this with the age-old lament that standards were slipping and this could never have happened back in the day.

I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the beste, but now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.

One would like to think that copies of this Wicked Bible were carefully guarded and used by societies like the Hell Fire Clubs and the like a couple of generations later. The few surviving copies are certainly highly desireable collectors' items today. One doubts the cookbook will ever have quite the same value; but those who have a copy would be well advised to hang on to it.

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