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   Chapter 5 LISTS OF ERRATA.

Literary Blunders: A Chapter in the History of Human Error"" By Henry B. Wheatley Characters: 21965

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


THE errata of the early printed books are not numerous, and this fact is easily accounted for when we recollect that these books were superintended in their passage through the press by scholars such as the Alduses, Andreas, Bishop of Aleria, Campanus Perottus, the Stephenses, and others. It is said that the first book with a printed errata is the edition of Juvenal, with notes of Merula, printed by Gabriel Pierre, at Venice, in 1478; previously the mistakes had been corrected by the pen. One of the longest lists of errata on record, which occupies fifteen folio pages, is in the edition of the works of Picus of Mirandula, printed by Knoblauch, at Strasburg, in 1507. A worse case of blundering will be found in a little book of only one

hundred and seventy-two pages, entitled Miss ac Missalis Anatomia, 1561, which contains fifteen pages of errata. The author, feeling that such a gross case of blundering required some excuse or explanation, accounted for the misprints by asserting that the devil drenched the manuscript in the kennel, making it almost illegible, and then obliged the printer to misread it. We may be allowed to believe that the fiend who did all the mischief was the printer's ``devil.''

Cardinal Bellarmin tried hard to get his works printed correctly, but without success, and in 1608 he was forced to publish at Ingolstadt a volume entitled Recognitio librorum omnium Roberti Belarmini, in which he printed eighty-eight pages of errata of his Controversies.

Edward Leigh, in his thin folio volume entitled On Religion and Learning, 1656, was forced to add two closely printed leaves of errata.

Sometimes apparent blunders have been intentionally made; thus, to escape the decree of the Inquisition that the words fatum and fata should not be used in

any work, a certain author printed facta in his book, and added in the errata ``for facta read fata.''

In dealing with our own older literature we find a considerable difference in degree of typographical correctness; thus the old plays of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are often marvels of inaccuracy, and while books of the same date are usually supplied with tables of errata, plays were issued without any such helps to correction. This to some extent is to be accounted for by the fact that many of these plays were surreptitious publications, or, at all events, printed in a hurry, without care. The late Mr. Halliwell Phillipps, in his curious privately printed volume (A Dictionary of Misprints, 1887), writes: ``Such tests were really a thousandfold more necessary in editions of plays, but they are practically non-existent in the latter, the brief one which is prefixed to Dekker's Satiro-Mastix, 1602, being nearly the only example that is to be found in any that appeared during the literary career of the great dramatist.''

In other branches of literature it is

evident that some care was taken to escape misprints, either by the correction of the printer's reader or of the author. Some of the excuses made for misprints in our old books are very amusing. In a little English book of twenty-six leaves printed at Douay in 1582, and entitled A true reporte of the death and martyrdome of M. Campion Jesuite and Preiste, and M. Sherwin and M. Bryan Preistes, at Tiborne the first of December 1581, is this notice at the end:-

``Good reader, pardon all faultes escaped in the printing and beare with the woorkmanship of a strainger.''

Many of Nicholas Breton's tracts were issued surreptitiously, and he protested that many pieces which he had never written were falsely ascribed to him. The Bower of Delights was published without the author's sanction, and the printer (or publisher) Richard Jones made the following address ``to the Gentlemen Readers'' on the blunders which had been made in the book:-

``Pardon mee (good Gentlemen) of my presumption, & protect me, I pray you,

against those Cavellers and findfaults, that never like of any thing that they see printed, though it be never so well compiled. And where you happen to find fault, impute it to bee committed by the Printers negligence, then (otherwise) by any ignorance in the author: and especially in A 3, about the middest of the page, for LIME OR LEAD I pray you read LINE OR LEAD. So shall your poore Printer haue just cause hereafter to be more carefull, and acknowledge himselfe most bounden (at all times) to do your service to the utmost of his power. ``Yours R. J., PRINTER.''

A little scientific book, entitled The Making and use of the Geometricall Instrument called a Sector . . . by Thomas Hood, 1598, has a list of errata headed Faultes escaped, with this note of the author or printer:-

``Gentle reader, I pray you excuse these faults, because I finde by experience, that it is an harder matter to print these mathematicall books trew, then bookes of other discourse.''

Arthur Hopton's Baculum Geodticum sive Viaticum or the Geodeticall Staffe (1610), contains the following quaint lines at the head of the list of errata:-

``The Printer to the Reader.

``For errours past or faults that scaped be,

Let this collection give content to thee:

A worke of art, the grounds to us unknowne,

May cause us erre, thoughe all our skill be showne.

When points and letters, doe containe the sence,

The wise may halt, yet doe no great offence.

Then pardon here, such faults that do befall,

The next edition makes amends for all.''

Thomas Heywood, the voluminous dramatist, added to his Apology for Actors (1612) an interesting address to the printer of his tract, which, besides drawing attention to the printer's dislike of his errors being called attention to in a table of errata, is singularly valuable for its reference to Shakespeare's annoyance at Jaggard's treatment of him by attributing to his pen Heywood's poems from Great Britain's Troy.

``To my approved good Friend, ``MR. NICHOLAS OKES. ``The infinite faults escaped in my

booke of Britaines Troy by the negligence of the printer, as the misquotations, mistaking the sillables, misplacing halfe lines, coining of strange and never heard of words, these being without number, when I would have taken a particular account of the errata, the printer answered me, hee would not publish his owne disworkemanship, but rather let his owne fault lye upon the necke of the author. And being fearefull that others of his quality had beene of the same nature and condition, and finding you, on the contrary, so carefull and industrious, so serious and laborious to doe the author all the rights of the presse, I could not choose but gratulate your honest indeavours with this short remembrance. Here, likewise, I must necessarily insert a manifest injury done me in that worke, by taking the two epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris, and printing them in a lesse volume under the name of another, which may put the world in opinion I might steale them from him, and hee, to doe himselfe right, hath since published them in his owne name; but as I must ac

knowledge my lines not worthy his patronage under whom he hath publisht them, so the author, I know, much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name. These and the like dishonesties I knowe you to bee cleere of; and I could wish but to bee the happy author of so worthy a worke as I could willingly commit to your care and workmanship. ``Yours ever, THOMAS HEYWOOD.''

In the eighteenth century printers and authors had become hardened in their sins, and seldom made excuses for the errors of the press, but in the seventeenth century explanations were frequent.

Silvanus Morgan, in his Horologiographia

Optica. Dialling Universall and

Particular, Speculative and Practicall,

London 1652, comes before his readers

with these remarks on the errata:-

``Reader I having writ this some years since, while I was a childe in Art, and by this appear to be little more, for want of a review hath these faults, which I desire thee to mend with thy pen, and if there

be any errour in art, as in chap. 17 which is only true at the time of the Equinoctiall, take that for an oversight, and where thou findest equilibra read equilibrio, and in the dedication (in some copies) read Robert Bateman for Thomas, and side for signe and know that Optima prima cadunt, pessimus ve manent.''

The list of errata in Joseph Glanvill's Essays on several important subjects in Philosophy and Religion (1676) is prefixed by this note:-

``The Reader is desired to take notice of the following Errours of the Press, some of which are so near in sound, to the words of the author, that they may easily be mistaken for his.''

The next two books to be mentioned were published in the same year-1679. The noble author referred to in the first is that Roger Palmer who had the dishonour of being the husband of Charles II.'s notorious mistress, the Countess of Castlemaine. Fortunately for the Earl she no longer bore his name, as she was created Duchess of Cleveland in 1670. Professor De Morgan was inclined to doubt Lord

Castlemaine's authorship, but the following remarks by Joseph Moxon seem to prove that the peer did produce a rough draft of some kind:-

``Postscript concerning the Erratas and the Geographical part of this Globe,'' prefixed to The English Globe . . . by the Earl of Castlemaine:-

``The Erratas of the Press being many, I shall not set them down in a distinct Catalogue as usually, least the sight of them should more displease, than the particulars advantage, especially since they are not so material or intricate, but that any man may (I hope) easily mend them in the reading. I confess I have bin in a manner the occasion of them, by taking from the noble author a very foul copy, when he desir'd me to stay till a fair one were written over, so that truly 'tis no wonder, if workmen should in these cases not only sometimes leave out, but adde also, by taking one line for another, or not observing with exactness what words have bin wholly obliterated or dasht out.''

John Playford, the music publisher and author, makes some remarks on the

subject of misprints in the preface to his Vade Mecum, or the Necessary Companion (1679), which are worth quotation here:-

``My profession obliging me to be conversant with mathematical Books (the printing whereof and musick, has been my chiefest employment), I have observ'd two things many times the cause why Books of this nature appear abroad not so correct as they should be; either 1 Because they are too much hastened from the Press, and not time enough allowed for the strict and deliberate examination of them; which in all books ought to be done, especially in these, for as much as one false figure in a Mathematical book, may prove a greater fault than a whole word mistake in books of another kind. Or, 2 Bec

ause Persons take Tables upon trust without trying them, and with them transcribe their errors, if not increase them. Both these I have carefully avoided, so that I have reason to believe (and think I may say it without vanity) there never was Tables more exactly printed than in this Book, especially those for money and

annuities, for not trusting to my first calculation of them, I new calculated every Table when it was in print, by the first printed sheet, and when I had so done I strictly compared it with my first calculation.''

De Morgan registers the nineteenth edition of this book, dated 1756, in his Arithmetical Books, and he did not apparently know that it was originally published so early as 1679.

In Morton's Natural History of Northamptonshire (1712), is a list headed ``Some Errata of the press to be corrected''; and at the end of the list is the following amusing note: ``There is no cut of the Hen of the lesser Py'd Brambling in Tab. 13 tho' 'tis referred to in p. 423 which omission was owing to an accident and is really not very material, the hen of that bird differing but little from the cock which is represented in that Table under fig. 3.''

There is a very prevalent notion that authors did not correct the proofs of their books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but there is sufficient evidence

that this is altogether a mistake. Professor De Morgan, with his usual sagacity, alludes to this point in his Arithmetical Books (1847): ``A great many circumstances induce me to think that the general fashion of correcting the press by the author came in with the seventeenth century or thereabouts.'' And he instances this note on the title-page of Richard Witt's Arithmetical Questions (1613): ``Examined also and corrected at the Presse by the author himselfe.''

The late Dr. Brinsley Nicholson raised this question in Notes and Queries in 1889, and by his research it is possible to antedate the practice by nearly forty years. For several of the following quotations I am indebted to that invaluable periodical. In Scot's Hop-Garden (1574) we find the following excuse:-

``Forasmuch as M. Scot could not be present at the printing of this his booke, whereby I might have used his advice in the correction of the same, and especiallie of the Figures and Portratures conteyned therein, whereof he delivered unto me such notes as I

being unskilfull in the matter could not so thoroughly conceyve, nor so perfectly expresse as . . . the authour or you.''

In The Droomme of Doomes Day. By

George Gascoigne (1576) is:-

``An Aduertisement of the Prynter to the Reader.

``Understand (gentle Reader) that whiles this worke was in the presse it pleased God to visit the translatour thereof with sicknesse. So that being unable himselfe to attend the dayly proofes, he apoynted a seruaunt of his to ouersee the same. Who being not so well acquainted with the matter as his maister was, there haue passed some faultes much contrary unto both our meanings and desires. The which I have therefore collected into this Table. Desiring every Reader that wyll vouchsafe to peruse this booke, that he will firste correct those faultes and then judge accordingly.''

A particularly interesting note on this point precedes the list of errata in Stanyhurst's Translation of Virgil's neid (1582),

which was printed at Leyden. Mr. F. C. Birkbeck Terry, who pointed this out in Notes and Queries, quoted from Arber's reprint, p. 157:-

``John Pates Printer to thee Corteous Reader, I am too craue thy pacience and paynes (good reader) in bearing wyth such faultes as haue escapte in printing: and in correcting as wel such as are layd downe heere too thy view, as all oother whereat thou shalt hap too stumble in perusing this treatise. Thee nooueltye of imprinting English in theese partes and thee absence of the author from perusing soome proofes could not choose but breede errours.''

Certainly Scot, Gascoigne, and Stanyhurst did not correct the proofs, but it would not have been necessary to make an excuse if the practice was not a pretty general one among authors.

Bishop Babington's Exposition of the Lord's Prayer (1588) contains an excuse for the author's inability to correct the press:-

``If thou findest any other faultes either in words or distinctions troubling a perfect sence (Gentle Reader) helpe them by thine

owne judgement and excuse the presse by the Authors absence, who best was acquainted to reade his owne hande.''

In the Bobleian Library is preserved the printer's copy of Book V. of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity (1597), with Whitgift's signature and corrections in Hooker's handwriting. On one of the pages is the following note by the printer:-

``Good Mr. Hooker, I pray you be so good as to send us the next leaf that followeth this, for I know not by what mischance this of ours is lost, which standeth uppon the finishing of the book.''[7]

[7] Notes and Queries, 7th Series, viii. 73.

Another proof of the general practice will be found in N. Breton's The Wit of Wit (1599):-

``What faultes are escaped in the printing, finde by discretion, and excuse the Author by other worke that let him from attendance to the Presse; non h che non s. N. B. Gent.''

At the end of Nash's dedication ``To his Readers,'' Lenten Stuffe (1599), is this

interesting statement: ``Apply it for me for I am called away to correct the faults of the press, that escaped in my absence from the printing house.''

Richard Brathwaite, when publishing his Strappado for the Divell (1615), made an excuse for not having seen all the proofs. The whole note is well worthy of reproduction:-

``Upon the Errata.

``Gentlemen (humanum est errare), to confirme which position, this my booke (as many other are) hath his share of errors; so as I run ad prlum tanquam ad prlium, in typos quasi in scippos; but my comfort is if I be strappadoed by the multiplicite of my errors, it is but answerable to my title: so as I may seem to diuine by my style, what I was to indure by the presse. Yet know judicious disposed gentlemen, that the intricacie of the copie, and the absence of the author from many important proofes were occasion of these errors, which defects (if they bee supplied by your generous convenience and curtuous disposition) I doe vowe to

satisfie your affectionate care with a more serious surueigh in my next impression. . . . For other errors as the misplacing of commaes, colons, and periods (which as they are in euerie page obvious, so many times they invert the sence), I referre to your discretion (judicious gentle-men) whose lenity may sooner supply them, then all my industry can portray them.''

In The Mastive, or Young Whelpe of the Olde Dogge, Epigrams and Satyres (1615), an anonymous work of Henry Peacham, we read:-

``The faultes escaped in the Printing (or any other omission) are to be excused by reason of the authors absence from the Presse, who thereto should have given more due instructions.''

Dr. Brinsley Nicholson brought forward two very interesting passages on the correcting of proofs from old plays. The first, which looks very like an allusion to the custom, is from the 1601 edition of Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour (act. ii., sc. 3), where Lorenzo, junior, says, ``My father had the proving of your

copy, some houre before I saw it.'' The second is from Fletcher's The Nice Valour (1624 or 1625), act. iv., sc. 1. Lapet says to his servant (the clown Goloshio), ``So bring me the last proof, this is corrected''; and Goloshio having gone and returned, the following ensues:-

Lap. What says my Printer now?

Clown. Here's your last Proof, Sir.

You shall have perfect Books now in a twinkling.[8]

[8]2 Notes and Queries, 7th Series, viii. 253.

The following address, which contains a curious excuse of Dr. Daniel Featley for not having corrected the proofs of his book The Romish Fisher Caught in his own Net (1624), is very much to the point:-

``I entreat the courteous reader to understand that the greater part of the book was printed in the time of the great frost; when by reason that the Thames was shut up, I could not conveniently procure the proofs to be brought unto mee, before they were wrought off; whereupon it fell out that many very grosse escapes passed the press, and (which was

the worst fault of all) the third part is left unpaged.''

As a later example we may cite from Sir Peter Leycester's Historical Antiquities (1673), where we find this note: ``Reader, By reason of the author's absence, several faults have escaped the press: those which are the most material thou art desir'd to amend, and to pardon them all.''

Printed mistakes are usually considered by the sufferers matters of somewhat serious importance; and we picture to ourselves an author stalking up and down his room and tearing his hair when he first discovers them; but Benserade, the French poet, was able to make a joke of the subject. This is the rondeau which he placed at the end of his version of Les Metamorphoses d'Ovide:-

``Pour moi, parmi des fautes innombrables,

Je n'en connais que deux considrables,

Et dont je fais ma dclaration,

C'est l'entreprise et l'excution;

A mon avis fautes irrparables

Dans ce volume.''

According to the Scaligerana, Cardan's treatise De Subtilitate, printed by Vascosan

in 1557, does not contain a single misprint; but, on the whole, it may be very seriously doubted whether an immaculate edition of any work ever issued from the press. The story is well known of the serious attempt made by the celebrated Glasgow printers Foulis to free their edition of Horace from any chance of error. They caused the proof-sheets after revision to be hung up at the gate of the University, with the offer of a reward to any one who discovered a misprint. In spite of all this care there are, according to Dibdin, six uncorrected errors in this edition.

According to Isaac Disraeli, the goal of freedom from blunders was nearly reached by Dom Joze Souza, with the assistance of Didot in 1817, when he published his magnificent edition of As Lusiadas of Camoens. However, an uncorrected error was discovered in some copies, occasioned by the misplacing of one of the letters in the word Lusitano. A like case occurred a few years ago at an eminent London printer's. A certain book was about to be printed, and instructions were issued that special care was to be

taken with the printing. It was read over by the chief reader, and all seemed to have gone well, when a mistake was discovered upon the title-page.

It may be mentioned here, with respect to tables of errata, that they are frequently neglected in subsequent books. There are many books in which the same blunders have been repeated in various editions, although they had been pointed out in an early issue.

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