Literary Blunders
by Henry B. Wheatley
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_EVERY reader of_ The Caxtons _will remember the description, in that charming novel, of the gradual growth of Augustine Caxton's great work "The History of Human Error,'' and how, in fact, the existence of that work forms the pivot round which the incidents turn. It was modestly expected to extend to five quarto volumes, but only the first seven sheets were printed by Uncle Jack's Anti-Publishers' Society, "with sundry unfinished plates depicting the various developments of the human skull (that temple of Human Error),'' and the remainder has not been heard of since.

In introducing to the reader a small branch of this inexhaustible subject, I have ventured to make use of Augustine Caxton's title; but I trust that no one will allow himself to imagine that I intend, in the future, to produce the thousand or so volumes which will be required to complete the work.

A satirical friend who has seen the proofs of this little volume says it should be entitled "Jokes Old and New''; but I find that he seldom acknowledges that a joke is new, and I hope, therefore, my readers will transpose the adjectives, and accept the old jokes for the sake of the new ones. I may claim, at least, that the series of answers to examination questions, which Prof. Oliver Lodge has so kindly supplied me with, comes within the later class.

I trust that if some parts of the book are thought to be frivolous, the chapters on lists of errata and misprints may be found to contain some useful literary information.

I have availed myself of the published communications of my friends Professors Hales and Skeat and Dr. Murray on Literary Blunders, and my best thanks are also due to several friends who have helped me with some curious instances, and I would specially mention Sir George Birdwood, K.C.I.E., C.SI.., Mr. Edward Clodd, Mr. R. B. Prosser, and Sir Henry Trueman Wood_.




Distinction between a blunder and a mistake— Long life of a literary blunder —Professor Skeat's "ghost words''— Dr. Murray's "ghost words''—Marriage Service—Absurd etymology— Imaginary persons—Family pride— Fortunate blunders—Misquotations— Bulls from Ireland and elsewhere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1



Goldsmith—French memoir writers— Historians—Napier's bones—Mr. Gladstone— Lord Macaulay—Newspaper writers—Critics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31



"Translators are traitors''—Amusing translations—Translations of names— Cinderella—"Oh that mine adversary had written a book''—Perversions of the true meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47



Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica—Imaginary authors—Faulty classification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63



Early use of errata—Intentional blunders— Authors correct their books—Ineffectual attempts to be immaculate—Misprints never corrected. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78



Misprints not always amusing—A Dictionary of Misprints—Blades's Shakspere and Typography—Upper and lower cases—Stops—Byron—Wicked Bible—Malherbe—Coquilles—Hood's lines—Chaucer—Misplacement of type . . . . . . . . . . . . .100



Cleverness of these blunders— Etymological guesses—English as she is Taught—Scriptural confusions— Musical blunders—History and geography— How to question—Professor Oliver Lodge's specimens of answers to examination papers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157



Exhibition English—French Work on the Societies of the World—Hotel keepers' English—Barcelona Exhibition—Paris Exhibition of 1889—How to learn English— Foreign Guides in so called English —Addition to God save the King— Shenstone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .188

INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .215




THE words "blunder'' and "mistake'' are often treated as synonyms; thus we usually call our own blunders mistakes, and our friends style our mistakes blunders. In truth the class of blunders is a sub- division of the genus mistakes. Many mistakes are very serious in their consequences, but there is almost always some sense of fun connected with a blunder, which is a mistake usually caused by some mental confusion. Lexicographers state that it is an error due to stupidity and carelessness, but blunders are often caused by a too great sharpness and quickness. Sometimes a blunder is no mistake at all, as when a man blunders on the right explanation; thus he arrives at the right goal, but by an unorthodox road. Sir Roger L'Estrange says that "it is one thing to forget a matter of fact, and another to blunder upon the reason of it.''

Some years ago there was an article in the Saturday Review on "the knowledge necessary to make a blunder,'' and this title gives the clue to what a blunder really is. It is caused by a confusion of two or more things, and unless something is known of these things a blunder cannot be made. A perfectly ignorant man has not sufficient knowledge to make a blunder.

An ordinary blunder may die, and do no great harm, but a literary blunder often has an extraordinary life. Of literary blunders probably the philological are the most persistent and the most difficult to kill. In this class may be mentioned (1) Ghost words, as they are called by Professor Skeat—words, that is, which have been registered, but which never really existed; (2) Real words that exist through a mistake; and (3) Absurd etymologies, a large division crammed with delicious blunders.

1. Professor Skeat, in his presidential address to the members of the Philological Society in 1886, gave a most interesting account of some hundred ghost words, or words which have no real existence. Those who wish to follow out this subject must refer to the Philological Transactions, but four specially curious instances may be mentioned here. These four words are "abacot,'' "knise,'' "morse,'' and "polien.'' Abacot is defined by Webster as "the cap of state formerly used by English kings, wrought into the figure of two crowns''; but Dr. Murray, when he was preparing the New English Dictionary, discovered that this was an interloper, and unworthy of a place in the language. It was found to be a mistake for by-cocket, which is the correct word. In spite of this exposure of the impostor, the word was allowed to stand, with a woodcut of an abacot, in an important dictionary published subsequently, although Dr. Murray's remarks were quoted. This shows how difficult it is to kill a word which has once found shelter in our dictionaries. Knise is a charming word which first appeared in a number of the Edinburgh Review in 1808. Fortunately for the fun of the thing, the word occurred in an article on Indian Missions, by Sydney Smith. We read, "The Hindoos have some very strange customs, which it would be desirable to abolish. Some swing on hooks, some run knises through their hands, and widows burn themselves to death.'' The reviewer was attacked for his statement by Mr. John Styles, and he replied in an article on Methodism printed in the Edinburgh in the following year. Sydney Smith wrote: "Mr. Styles is peculiarly severe upon us for not being more shocked at their piercing their limbs with knises . . . it is for us to explain the plan and nature of this terrible and unknown piece of mechanism. A knise, then, is neither more nor less than a false print in the Edinburgh Review for a knife; and from this blunder of the printer has Mr. Styles manufactured this Ddalean instrument of torture called a knise.'' A similar instance occurs in a misprint of a passage of one of Scott's novels, but here there is the further amusing circumstance that the etymology of the false word was settled to the satisfaction of some of the readers. In the majority of editions of The Monastery, chapter x., we read: "Hardened wretch (said Father Eustace), art thou but this instant delivered from death, and dost thou so soon morse thoughts of slaughter?'' This word is nothing but a misprint of nurse; but in Notes and Queries two independent correspondents accounted for the word morse etymologically. One explained it as "to prime,'' as when one primes a musket, from O. Fr. amorce, powder for the touchhole (Cotgrave), and the other by "to bite'' (Lat. mordere), hence "to indulge in biting, stinging or gnawing thoughts of slaughter.'' The latter writes: "That the word as a misprint should have been printed and read by millions for fifty years without being challenged and altered exceeds the bounds of probability.'' Yet when the original MS. of Sir Walter Scott was consulted, it was found that the word was there plainly written nurse.

The Saxon letter for th () has long been a sore puzzle to the uninitiated, and it came to be represented by the letter y. Most of those who think they are writing in a specially archaic manner when they spell "ye'' for "the'' are ignorant of this, and pronounce the article as if it were the pronoun. Dr. Skeat quotes a curious instance of the misreading of the thorn () as p, by which a strange ghost word is evolved. Whitaker, in his edition of Piers Plowman, reads that Christ "polede for man,'' which should be tholede, from tholien, to suffer, as there is no such verb as polien.

Dr. J. A. H. Murray, the learned editor of the Philological Society's New English Dictionary, quotes two amusing instances of ghost words in a communication to Notes and Queries (7th S., vii. 305). He says: "Possessors of Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary will do well to strike out the fictitious entry cietezour, cited from Bellenden's Chronicle in the plural cietezouris, which is merely a misreading of cietezanis (i.e. with Scottish z = = y), cieteyanis or citeyanis, Bellenden's regular word for citizens. One regrets to see this absurd mistake copied from Jamieson (unfortunately without acknowledgment) by the compilers of Cassell's Encyclopdic Dictionary.''

"Some editions of Drayton's Barons Wars, Bk. VI., st. xxxvii., read—

" 'And ciffy Cynthus with a thousand birds,'

which nonsense is solemnly reproduced in Campbell's Specimens of the British Poets, iii. 16. It may save some readers a needless reference to the dictionary to remember that it is a misprint for cliffy, a favourite word of Drayton's.''

2. In contrast to supposed words that never did exist, are real words that exist through a mistake, such as apron and adder, where the n, which really belongs to the word itself, has been supposed, mistakenly, to belong to the article; thus apron should be napron (Fr. naperon), and adder should be nadder (A.-S. nddre). An amusing confusion has arisen in respect to the Ridings of Yorkshire, of which there are three. The word should be triding, but the t has got lost in the adjective, as West Triding became West Riding. The origin of the word has thus been quite lost sight of, and at the first organisation of the Province of Upper Canada, in 1798, the county of Lincoln was divided into four ridings and the county of York into two. York was afterwards supplied with four.

Sir Henry Bennet, in the reign of Charles II., took his title of Earl of Arlington owing to a blunder. The proper name of the village in Middlesex is Harlington.

A curious misunderstanding in the Marriage Service has given us two words instead of one. We now vow to remain united till death us do part, but the original declaration, as given in the first Prayer Book of Edward VI., was: "I, N., take thee N., to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart [or separate].''

It is not worth while here to register the many words which have taken their present spelling through a mistaken view of their etymology. They are too numerous, and the consideration of them would open up a question quite distinct from the one now under consideration.

3. Absurd etymology was once the rule, because guessing without any knowledge of the historical forms of words was general; and still, in spite of the modern school of philology, which has shown us the right way, much wild guessing continues to be prevalent. It is not, however, often that we can point to such a brilliant instance of blundering etymology as that to be found in Barlow's English Dictionary (1772). The word porcelain is there said to be "derived from pour cent annes, French for a hundred years, it having been imagined that the materials were matured underground for that term of years.''

Richardson, the novelist, suggests an etymology almost equal to this. He writes, "What does correspondence mean? It is a word of Latin origin: a compound word; and the two elements here brought together are respondeo, I answer, and cor, the heart: i.e., I answer feelingly, I reply not so much to the head as to the heart.''

Dr. Ash's English Dictionary, published in 1775, is an exceedingly useful work, as containing many words and forms of words nowhere else registered, but it contains some curious mistakes. The chief and best-known one is the explanation of the word curmudgeon—"from the French cur, unknown, and mechant, a correspondent.'' The only explanation of this absurdly confused etymology is that an ignorant man was employed to copy from Johnson's Dictionary, where the authority was given as "an unknown correspondent,'' and he, supposing these words to be a translation of the French, set them down as such. The two words esoteric and exoteric were not so frequently used in the last century as they are now; so perhaps there may be some excuse for the following entry: "Esoteric (adj. an incorrect spelling) exoteric.'' Dr. Ash could not have been well read in Arthurian literature, or he would not have turned the noble knight Sir Gawaine into a woman, "the sister of King Arthur.'' There is a story of a blunder in Littleton's Latin Dictionary, which further research has proved to be no mistake at all. It is said that when the Doctor was compiling his work, and announced the word concurro to his amanuensis, the scribe, imagining from the sound that the six first letters would give the translation of the verb, said "Concur, sir, I suppose?'' to which the Doctor peevishly replied, "Concur—condog!'' and in the edition of 1678 "condog'' is printed as one interpretation of concurro. Now, an answer to this story is that, however odd a word "condog'' may appear, it will be found in Henry Cockeram's English Dictionarie, first published in 1623. The entry is as follows: "to agree, concurre, cohere, condog, condiscend.''

Mistakes are frequently made in respect of foreign words which retain their original form, especially those which retain their Latin plurals, the feminine singular being often confused with the neuter plural. For instance, there is the word animalcule (plural animalcules), also written animalculum (plural animalcula). Now, the plural animalcula is often supposed to be the feminine singular, and a new plural is at once made—animalcul. This blunder is one constantly being made, while it is only occasionally we see a supposed plural strat in geology from a supposed singular strata, and the supposed singular formulum from a supposed plural formula will probably turn up some day.

In connection with popular etymology, it seems proper to make a passing mention of the sailors' perversion of the Bellerophon into the Billy Ruffian, the Hirondelle into the Iron Devil, and La Bonne Corvette into the Bonny Cravat. Some of the supposed changes in public-house signs, such as Bull and Mouth from "Boulogne mouth,'' and Goat and Compasses from "God encompasseth us,'' are more than doubtful; but the Bacchanals has certainly changed into the Bag o' nails, and the George Canning into the George and Cannon. The words in the language that have been formed from a false analogy are so numerous and have so often been noted that we must not allow them to detain us here longer.

Imaginary persons have been brought into being owing to blundering misreading. For instance, there are many saints in the Roman calendar whose individuality it would not be easy to prove. All know how St. Veronica came into being, and equally well known is the origin of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins. In this case, through the misreading of her name, the unfortunate virgin martyr Undecimilla has dropped out of the calendar.

Less known is the origin of Saint Xynoris, the martyr of Antioch, who is noticed in the Martyrologie Romaine of Baronius. Her name was obtained by a misreading of Chrysostom, who, referring to two martyrs, uses the word s> (couple or pair).

In the City of London there is a church dedicated to St. Vedast, which is situated in Foster Lane, and is often described as St. Vedast, alias Foster. This has puzzled many, and James Paterson, in his Pietas Londinensis (1714), hazarded the opinion that the church was dedicated to "two conjunct saints.'' He writes: "At the first it was called St. Foster's in memory of some founder or ancient benefactor, but afterwards it was dedicated to St. Vedast, Bishop of Arras.'' Newcourt makes a similar mistake in his Repertorium, but Thomas Fuller knew the truth, and in his Church History refers to "St. Vedastus, anglice St. Fosters.'' This is the fact, and the name St. Fauster or Foster is nothing more than a corruption of St. Vedast, all the steps of which we now know. My friend Mr. Danby P. Fry worked this out some years ago, but his difficulty rested with the second syllable of the name Foster; but the links in the chain of evidence have been completed by reference to Mr. H. C. Maxwell Lyte's valuable Report on the Manuscripts of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. The first stage in the corruption took place in France, and the name must have been introduced into this country as Vast. This loss of the middle consonant is in accordance with the constant practice in early French of dropping out the consonant preceding an accented vowel, as reine from regina. The change of Augustine to Austin is an analogous instance. Vast would here be pronounced Vaust, in the same way as the word vase is still sometimes pronounced vause. The interchange of v and f, as in the cases of Vane and Fane and fox and vixen, is too common to need more than a passing notice. We have now arrived at the form St. Faust, and the evidence of the old deeds of St. Paul's explains the rest, showing us that the second syllable has grown out of the possessive case. In one of 8 Edward III. we read of the "King's highway, called Seint Fastes lane.'' Of course this was pronounced St. Fausts, and we at once have the two syllables. The next form is in a deed of May 1360, where it stands as "Seyn Fastreslane.'' We have here, not a final r as in the latest form, but merely an intrusive trill. This follows the rule by which thesaurus became treasure, Hebudas, Hebrides, and culpatus, culprit. After the great Fire of London, the church was re-named St. Vedast (alias Foster)—a form of the name which it had never borne before, except in Latin deeds as Vedastus.[1] More might be said of the corruptions of names in the cases of other saints, but these corruptions are more the cause of blunders in others than blunders in themselves. It is not often that a new saint is evolved with such an English name as Foster.

[1] See an article by the Author in The Athenum, January 3rd, 1885, p. 15; and a paper by the Rev. W. Sparrow Simpson in the Jourral of the British Archological Association (vol. xliii., p. 56).

The existence of the famous St. Vitus has been doubted, and his dance (Chorea Sancti Vit) is supposed to have been originally chorea invita. But the strangest of saints was S. Viar, who is thus accounted for by D'Israeli in his Curiosities of Literature:—

"Mabillon has preserved a curious literary blunder of some pious Spaniards who applied to the Pope for consecrating a day in honour of Saint Viar. His Holiness in the voluminous catalogue of his saints was ignorant of this one. The only proof brought forward for his existence was this inscription:—


An antiquary, however, hindered one more festival in the Catholic calendar by convincing them that these letters were only the remains of an inscription erected for an ancient surveyor of the roads; and he read their saintship thus:—


Foreign travellers in England have usually made sad havoc of the names of places. Hentzner spelt Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn phonetically as Grezin and Linconsin, and so puzzled his editor that he supposed these to be the names of two giants. A similar mistake to this was that of the man who boasted that "not all the British House of Commons, not the whole bench of Bishops, not even Leviticus himself, should prevent him from marrying his deceased wife's sister.'' One of the jokes in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (ch. xxiii.) turns on the use of this same expression "Leviticus himself.''

The picturesque writer who draws a well-filled-in picture from insufficient data is peculiarly liable to fall into blunders, and when he does fall it is not surprising that less imaginative writers should chuckle over his fall. A few years ago an American editor is said to have received the telegram "Oxford Music Hall burned to the ground.'' There was not much information here, and he was ignorant of the fact that this building was in London and in Oxford Street, but he was equal to the occasion. He elaborated a remarkable account of the destruction by fire of the principal music hall of academic Oxford. He told how it was situated in the midst of historic colleges which had miraculously escaped destruction by the flames. These flames, fanned into a fury by a favourable wind, lit up the academic spires and groves as they ran along the rich cornices, lapped the gorgeous pillars, shrivelled up the roof and grasped the mighty walls of the ancient building in their destructive embraces.

In 1882 an announcement was made in a weekly paper that some prehistoric remains had been found near the Church of San Francisco, Florence. The note was reproduced in an evening paper and in an antiquarian monthly with words in both cases implying that the locality of the find was San Francisco, California. It is a common mistake of those who have heard of Grolier bindings to suppose that the eminent book collector was a binder; but this is nothing to that of the workman who told the writer of this that he had found out the secret of making the famous Henri II. or Oiron ware. "In fact,'' he added, "I could make it as well as Henry Deux himself.'' The idea of the king of France working in the potteries is exceedingly fine.

Family pride is sometimes the cause of exceedingly foolish blunders. The following amusing passage in Anderson's Genealogical History of the House of Yvery (1742) illustrates a form of pride ridiculed by Lord Chesterfield when he set up on his walls the portraits of Adam de Stanhope and Eve de Stanhope. The having a stutterer in the family will appear to most readers to be a strange cause of pride. The author writes: "It was usual in ancient times with the greatest families, and is by all genealogists allowed to be a mighty evidence of dignity, to use certain nicknames which the French call sobriquets . . . such as 'the Lame' or 'the Black.'. . . The house of Yvery, not deficient in any mark or proof of greatness and antiquity, abounds at different periods in instances of this nature. Roger, a younger son of William Youel de Perceval, was surnamed Balbus or the Stutterer.''

Sometimes a blunder has turned out fortunate in its consequences; and a striking instance of this is recorded in the history of Prussia. Frederic I. charged his ambassador Bartholdi with the mission of procuring from the Emperor of Germany an acknowledgment of the regal dignity which he had just assumed. It is said that instructions written in cypher were sent to him, with particular directions that he should not apply on this subject to Father Wolff, the Emperor's confessor. The person who copied these instructions, however, happened to omit the word not in the copy in cypher. Bartholdi was surprised at the order, but obeyed it and made the matter known to Wolff; who, in the greatest astonishment, declared that although he had always been hostile to the measure, he could not resist this proof of the Elector's confidence, which had made a deep impression upon him. It was thought that the mediation of the confessor had much to do with the accomplishment of the Elector's wishes.

Misquotations form a branch of literary blunders which may be mentioned here.

The text "He may run that readeth it'' (Hab. ii. 2) is almost invariably quoted as "He who runs may read''; and the Divine condemnation "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread' (Gen. iii. 19) is usually quoted as "sweat of thy brow.''

The manner in which Dr. Johnson selected the quotations for his Dictionary is well known, and as a general rule these are tolerably accurate; but under the thirteenth heading of the verb to sit will be found a curious perversion of a text of Scripture. There we read, "Asses are ye that sit in judgement— Judges,'' but of course there is no such passage in the Bible. The correct reading of the tenth verse of the fifth chapter is: "Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.''

From misquotations it is an easy step to pass to mispronunciations. These are mostly too common to be amusing, but sometimes the blunderers manage to hit upon something which is rather comic. Thus an ignorant reader coming upon a reference to an angle of forty-five degrees was puzzled, and astonished his hearers by giving it out as angel of forty-five degrees. This blunderer, however, was outdone by the speaker who described a distinguished personage "as a very indefatgable young man,'' adding, "but even he must succmb'' (suck 'um) at last.

As has already been said, blunders are often made by those who are what we usually call "too clever by half.'' Surely it was a blunder to change the time- honoured name of King's Bench to Queen's Bench. A queen is a female king, and she reigns as a king; the absurdity of the change of sex in the description is more clearly seen when we find in a Prayer-book published soon after the Queen's accession Her Majesty described as "our Queen and Governess.''

Editors of classical authors are often laughed at for their emendations, but sometimes unjustly. When we consider the crop of blunders that have gathered about the texts of celebrated books, we shall be grateful for the labours of brilliant scholars who have cleared these away and made obscure passages intelligible.

One of the most remarkable emendations ever made by an editor is that of Theobald in Mrs. Quickly's description of Falstaff's deathbed (King Henry V., act ii., sc. 4). The original is unintelligible: "his nose was as sharp as a pen and a table of greene fields.'' A friend suggested that it should read " 'a talked,'' and Theobald then suggested " 'a babbled,'' a reading which has found its way into all texts, and is never likely to be ousted from its place. Collier's MS. corrector turned the sentence into "as a pen on a table of green frieze.'' Very few who quote this passage from Shakespeare have any notion of how much they owe to Theobald.

Sometimes blunders are intentionally made—malapropisms which are understood by the speaker's intimates, but often astonish strangers—such as the expressions "the sinecure of every eye,'' "as white as the drivelling snow.''[2] Of intentional mistakes, the best known are those which have been called cross readings, in which the reader is supposed to read across the page instead of down the column of a newspaper, with such results as the following:—

[2] See Spectator, December 24th, 1887, for specimens of family lingo.

"A new Bank was lately opened at Northampton— no money returned.''

"The Speaker's public dinners will commence next week—admittance, 3/- to see the animals fed.''

As blunders are a class of mistakes, so "bulls'' are a sub-class of blunders. No satisfactory explanation of the word has been given, although it appears to be intimately connected with the word blunder. Equally the thing itself has not been very accurately defined.

The author of A New Booke of Mistakes, 1637, which treats of "Quips, Taunts, Retorts, Flowts, Frumps, Mockes, Gibes, Jestes, etc.,'' says in his address to the Reader, "There are moreover other simple mistakes in speech which pass under the name of Bulls, but if any man shall demand of mee why they be so called, I must put them off with this woman's reason, they are so because they bee so.'' All the author can affirm is that they have no connection with the inns and playhouses of his time styled the Black Bulls and the Red Bulls. Coleridge's definition is the best: "A bull consists in a mental juxtaposition of incongruous ideas with the sensation but without the sense of connection.''[3]

[3] Southey's Omniana, vol. i., p. 220.

Bulls are usually associated with the Irish, but most other nations are quite capable of making them, and Swift is said to have intended to write an essay on English bulls and blunders. Sir Thomas Trevor, a Baron of the Exchequer 1625-49, when presiding at the Bury Assizes, had a cause about wintering of cattle before him. He thought the charge immoderate, and said, "Why, friend, this is most unreasonable; I wonder thou art not ashamed, for I myself have known a beast wintered one whole summer for a noble.'' The man at once, with ready wit, cried, "That was a bull, my lord.'' Whereat the company was highly amused.[4]

[4] Thoms, Anecdotes and Traditions, 1839, p 79

One of the best-known bulls is that inscribed on the obelisk near Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland. In this inscription a very clumsy attempt is made to distinguish between natural tracks and made roads:—

"Had you seen these roads before they were made, You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.''

The bulletins of Pope Clement XIV.'s last illness, which were announced at the Vatican, culminated in a very fair bull. The notices commenced with "His Holiness is very ill,'' and ended with "His Infallibility is delirious.''

Negro bulls have frequently been reported, but the health once proposed by a worthy black is perhaps as good an instance as could be cited. He pledged "De Gobernor ob our State! He come in wid much opposition; he go out wid none at all.''

Still, in spite of the fact that all nations fall into these blunders, and that, as it has been said of some, Hibernicis ipsis Hibernior, it is to Ireland that we look for the finest examples of bulls, and we do not usually look in vain.

It is in a Belfast paper that may be read the account of a murder, the result of which is described thus: "They fired two shots at him; the first shot killed him, but the second was not fatal.'' Connoisseurs in bulls will probably say that this is only a blunder. Perhaps the following will please them better: "A man was run down by a passenger train and killed; he was injured in a similar way a year ago.''

Here are three good bulls, which fulfil all the conditions we expect in this branch of wit. We know what the writer means, although he does not exactly say it. This passage is from the report of an Irish Benevolent Society: "Notwithstanding the large amount paid for medicine and medical attendance, very few deaths occurred during the year.'' A country editor's correspondent wrote: "Will you please to insert this obituary notice? I make bold to ask it, because I know the deceased had a great many friends who would be glad to hear of his death.'' The third is quoted in the Greville Memoirs: "He abjured the errors of the Romish Church, and embraced those of the Protestant.''

It is said that the Irish Statute Book opens characteristically with, "An Act that the King's officers may travel by sea from one place to another within the land of Ireland''; but one of the main objects of the Essay on Irish Bulls, by Maria Edgeworth and her father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was to show that the title of their work was incorrect. They find the original of Paddy Blake's echo in Bacon's works: "I remember well that when I went to the echo at Port Charenton, there was an old Parisian that took it to be the work of spirits, and of good spirits; 'for,' said he, 'call Satan, and the echo will not deliver back the devil's name, but will say, "Va-t'en.'' ' '' Mr. Hill Burton found the original of Sir Boyle Roche's bull of the bird which was in two places at once in a letter of a Scotsman—Robertson of Rowan. Steele said that all was the effect of climate, and that, if an Englishman were born in Ireland, he would make as many bulls. Mistakes of an equally absurd character may be found in English Acts of Parliament, such as this: "The new gaol to be built from the materials of the old one, and the prisoners to remain in the latter till the former is ready''; or the disposition of the prisoner's punishment of transportation for seven years— "half to go to the king, and the other half to the informer.'' Peter Harrison, an annotator on the Pentateuch, observed of Moses' two tables of stone that they were made of shittim wood. This is not unlike the title said to have been used for a useful little work—"Every man his own Washer- woman.'' Horace Walpole said that the best of all bulls was that of the man who, complaining of his nurse, said, "I hate that woman, for she changed me at nurse.'' But surely this one quoted by Mr. Hill Burton is far superior to Horace Walpole's; in fact, one of the best ever conceived. Result of a duel—"The one party received a slight wound in the breast; the other fired in the air—and so the matter terminated.''

After this the description of the wrongs of Ireland has a somewhat artificial look: "Her cup of misery has been overflowing, and is not yet full.''



MACAULAY, in his life of Goldsmith in the Encyclopdia Britannica, relates that that author, in the History of England, tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire, and that the mistake was not corrected when the book was reprinted. He further affirms that Goldsmith was nearly hoaxed into putting into the History of Greece an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. This, however, is scarcely a fair charge, for the backs of most of us need to be broad enough to bear the actual blunders we have made throughout life without having to bear those which we almost made.

Goldsmith was a very remarkable instance of a man who undertook to write books on subjects of which he knew nothing. Thus, Johnson said that if he could tell a horse from a cow that was the extent of his knowledge of zoology; and yet the History of Animated Nature can still be read with pleasure from the charm of the author's style.

Some authors are so careless in the construction of their works as to contradict in one part what they have already stated in another. In the year 1828 an amusing work was published on the clubs of London, which contained a chapter on Fighting Fitzgerald, of whom the author writes: "That Mr. Fitzgerald (unlike his countrymen generally) was totally devoid of generosity, no one who ever knew him will doubt.'' In another chapter on the same person the author flatly contradicts his own judgment: "In summing up the catalogue of his vices, however, we ought not to shut our eyes upon his virtues; of the latter, he certainly possessed that one for which his countrymen have always been so famous, generosity.'' The scissors- and-paste compilers are peculiarly liable to such errors as these; and a writer in the Quarterly Review proved the Mmoires de Louis XVIII. (published in 1832) to be a mendacious compilation from the Mmoires de Bachaumont by giving examples of the compiler's blundering. One of these muddles is well worth quoting, and it occurs in the following passage: "Seven bishops—of Puy, Gallard de Terraube; of Langres, La Luzerne; of Rhodez, Seignelay-Colbert; of Gast, Le Tria; of Blois, Laussiere Themines; of Nancy, Fontanges; of Alais, Beausset; of Nevers, Seguiran.'' Had the compiler taken the trouble to count his own list, he would have seen that he had given eight names instead of seven, and so have suspected that something was wrong; but he was not paid to think. The fact is that there is no such place as Gast, and there was no such person as Le Tria. The Bishop of Rhodez was Seignelay-Colbert de Castle Hill, a descendant of the Scotch family of Cuthbert of Castle Hill, in Inverness-shire; and Bachaumont misled his successor by writing Gast Le Hill for Castle Hill. The introduction of a stop and a little more misspelling resulted in the blunder as we now find it.

Authors and editors are very apt to take things for granted, and they thus fall into errors which might have been escaped if they had made inquiries. Pope, in a note on Measure for Measure, informs us that the story was taken from Cinthio's novel Dec. 8 Nov. 5, thus contracting the words decade and novel. Warburton, in his edition of Shakespeare, was misled by these contractions, and fills them up as December 8 and November 5. Many blunders are merely clerical errors of the authors, who are led into them by a curious association of ideas; thus, in the Lives of the Londonderrys, Sir Archibald Alison, when describing the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in St. Paul's, speaks of one of the pall-bearers as Sir Peregrine Pickle, instead of Sir Peregrine Maitland. Dickens, in Bleak House, calls Harold Skimpole Leonard throughout an entire number, but returns to the old name in a subsequent one.

Few authors require to be more on their guard against mistakes than historians, especially as they are peculiarly liable to fall into them. What shall we think of the authority of a school book when we find the statement that Louis Napoleon was Consul in 1853 before he became Emperor of the French?

We must now pass from a book of small value to an important work on the history of England; but it will be necessary first to make a few explanatory remarks. Our readers know that English kings for several centuries claimed the power of curing scrofula, or king's evil; but they may not be so well acquainted with the fact that the French sovereigns were believed to enjoy the same miraculous power. Such, however, was the case; and tradition reported that a phial filled with holy oil was sent down from heaven to be used for the anointing of the kings at their coronation. We can illustrate this by an anecdote of Napoleon. Lafayette and the first Consul had a conversation one day on the government of the United States. Bonaparte did not agree with Lafayette's views, and the latter told him that "he was desirous of having the little phial broke over his head.'' This sainte ampulle, or holy vessel, was an important object in the ceremony, and the virtue of the oil was to confer the power of cure upon the anointed king. This the historian could not have known, or he would not have written: "The French were confident in themselves, in their fortunes; in the special gifts by which they held the stars.'' If this were all the information that was given us, we should be left in a perfect state of bewilderment while trying to understand how the French could hold the stars, or, if they were able to hold them, what good it would do them; but the historian adds a note which, although it contains some new blunders, gives the clue to an explanation of an otherwise inexplicable passage. It is as follows: "The Cardinal of Lorraine showed Sir William Pickering the precious ointment of St. Ampull, wherewith the King of France was sacred, which he said was sent from heaven above a thousand years ago, and since by miracle preserved, through whose virtue also the king held les estroilles.'' From this we might imagine that the holy Ampulla was a person; but the clue to the whole confusion is to be found in the last word of the sentence. As the French language does not contain any such word as estroilles, there can be no doubt that it stands for old French escroilles, or the king's evil. The change of a few letters has here made the mighty difference between the power of curing scrofula and the gift of holding the stars.

In some copies of John Britton's Descriptive Sketches of Tunbridge Wells (1832) the following extraordinary passage will be found: "Judge Jefferies, a man who has rendered his name infamous in the annals of history by the cruelty and injustice he manifested in presiding at the trial of King Charles I.'' The book was no sooner issued than the author became aware of his astonishing chronological blunder, and he did all in his power to set the matter right; but a mistake in print can never be entirely obliterated. However much trouble may be taken to suppress a book, some copies will be sure to escape, and, becoming valuable by the attempted suppression, attract all the more attention.

Scott makes David Ramsay, in the Fortunes of Nigel (chapter ii.), swear "by the bones of the immortal Napier.'' It would perhaps be rank heresy to suppose that Sir Walter did not know that "Napier's bones'' were an apparatus for purposes of calculation, but he certainly puts the expression in such an ambiguous form that many of his readers are likely to suppose that the actual bones of Napier's body were intended.

Some of the most curious of blunders are those made by learned men who without thought set down something which at another time they would recognise as a mistake. The following passage from Mr. Gladstone's Gleanings of Past Years (vol. i., p. 26), in which the author confuses Daniel with Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, has been pointed out: "The fierce light that beats upon a throne is sometimes like the heat of that furnace in which only Daniel could walk unscathed, too fierce for those whose place it is to stand in its vicinity.'' Who would expect to find Macaulay blundering on a subject he knew so well as the story of the Faerie Queene! and yet this is what he wrote in a review of Southey's edition of the Pilgrim's Progress: "Nay, even Spenser himself, though assuredly one of the greatest poets that ever lived, could not succeed in the attempt to make allegory interesting. . . . One unpardonable fault, the fault of tediousness, pervades the whole of the Fairy Queen. We become sick of Cardinal Virtues and Deadly Sins, and long for the society of plain men and women. Of the persons who read the first Canto, not one in ten reaches the end of the first book, and not one in a hundred perseveres to the end of the poem. Very few and very weary are those who are in at the death of the Blatant Beast.''[5] Macaulay knew well enough that the Blatant Beast did not die in the poem as Spenser left it.

[5] Edinburgh Review, vol. liv. (1831), p. 452.

The newspaper writers are great sinners, and what with the frequent ignorance and haste of the authors and the carelessness of the printers a complete farrago of nonsense is sometimes concocted between them. A proper name is seldom given correctly in a daily paper, and it is a frequently heard remark that no notice of an event is published in which an error in the names or qualifications of the actors in it "is not detected by those acquainted with the circumstances.'' The contributor of the following bit of information to the Week's News (Nov. 18th, 1871) must have had a very vague notion of what a monosyllable is, or he would not have written, "The author of Dorothy, De Cressy, etc., has another novel nearly ready for the press, which, with the writer's partiality for monosyllabic titles, is named Thomasina.'' He is perhaps the same person who remarked on the late Mr. Robertson's fondness for monosyllables as titles for his plays, and after instancing Caste, Ours, and School, ended his list with Society. We can, however, fly at higher game than this, for some twenty years ago a writer in the Times fell into the mistake of describing the entrance of one of the German states into the Zollverein in terms that proved him to be labouring under the misconception that the great Customs- Union was a new organisation. Another source of error in the papers is the hurry with which bits of news are printed before they have been authenticated. Each editor wishes to get the start of his neighbour, and the consequence is that they are frequently deceived. In a number of the Literary Gazette for 1837 there is a paragraph headed "Sir Michael Faraday,'' in which the great philosopher is congratulated upon the title which had been conferred upon him. Another source of blundering is the attempt to answer an opponent before his argument is thoroughly understood. A few years ago a gentleman made a note in the Notes and Queries to the effect that a certain custom was at least 1400 years old, and was probably introduced into England in the fifth century. Soon afterwards another gentleman wrote to the same journal, "Assuredly this custom was general before A.D. 1400''; but how he obtained that date out of the previous communication no one can tell.

The Times made a strange blunder in describing a gallery of pictures: "Mr. Robertson's group of 'Susannah and the Elders,' with the name of Pordenone, contains some passages of glowing colour which must be set off against a good deal of clumsy drawing in the central figure of the chaste maiden.'' As bad as this was the confusion in the mind of the critic of the New Gallery, who spoke of Mr Hall's Paolo and Francesca as that masterly study and production of the old Adam phase of human nature which Milton hit off so sublimely in the Inferno.

A writer in the Notes and Queries confused Beersheba with Bathsheba, and conferred on the woman the name of the place.

It has often been remarked that a thorough knowledge of the English Bible is an education of itself, and a correspondence in the Times in August 1888 shows the value of a knowledge of the Liturgy of the Church of England. In a leading article occurred the passage, "We have no doubt whatever that Scotch judges and juries will administer indifferent justice.'' A correspondent in Glasgow, who supposed indifferent to mean inferior, wrote to complain at the insinuation that a Scotch jury would not do its duty. The editor of the Times had little difficulty in answering this by referring to the prayer for the Church militant, where are the words, "Grant unto her [the Queen's] whole Council and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently minister justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of Thy true religion, and virtue.''

The compiler of an Anthology made the following remarks in his preface: "In making a selection of this kind one sails between Scylla and Charybdis—the hackneyed and the strange. I have done my best to steer clear of both these rocks.'' A leader-writer in a morning paper a few months ago made the same blunder when he wrote: "As a matter of fact, Mr. Gladstone was bound to bump against either Scylla or Charybdis.'' It has generally been supposed that Scylla only was a rock.

A most extraordinary blunder was made in Scientific American eight or ten years ago. An engraving of a handsome Chelsea china vase was presented with the following description: "In England no regular hard porcelain is made, but a soft porcelain of great beauty is produced from kaolin, phosphate of lime, and calcined silica. The principal works are situated at Chelsea. The export of these English porcelains is considerable, and it is a curious fact that they are largely imported into China, where they are highly esteemed. Our engraving shows a richly ornamented vase in soft porcelain from the works at Chelsea.'' It could scarcely have been premised that any one would be so ignorant as to suppose that Chelsea china was still manufactured, and this paragraph is a good illustration of the evils of journalists writing on subjects about which they know nothing.

Critics who are supposed to be immaculate often blunder when sitting in judgment on the sins of authors. They are frequently puzzled by reprints, and led into error by the disinclination of publishers to give particulars in the preface as to a book which was written many years before its republication. A few years ago was issued a reprint of the translation of the Arabian Nights, by Jonathan Scott, LL.D., which was first published in 1811. A reviewer having the book before him overlooked this important fact, and straightway proceeded to "slate'' Dr. Scott for his supposed work of supererogation in making a new translation when Lane's held the field, the fact really being that Scott's translation preceded Lane's by nearly thirty years.

Another critic, having to review a reprint of Galt's Lives of Players, complained that Mr. Galt had not brought his book down to the date of publication, being ignorant of the fact that John Galt died as long ago as 1839. The reviewer of Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare committed the worst blunder of all when he wrote that those persons who did not know their Shakespeare might read Mr. Lamb's paraphrase if they liked, but for his part he did not see the use of such works. The man who had never heard of Charles Lamb and his Tales must have very much mistaken his vocation when he set up as a literary critic.

These are all genuine cases, but the story of Lord Campbell and his criticism of Romeo and Juliet is almost too good to be true. It is said that when the future Lord Chancellor first came to London he went to the editor of the Morning Chronicle for some work. The editor sent him to the theatre. "Plain John'' Campbell had no idea he was witnessing a play of Shakespeare, and he therefore set to work to sketch the plot of Romeo and Juliet, and to give the author a little wholesome advice. He recommended a curtailment in parts so as to render it more suitable to the taste of a cultivated audience. We can quite understand that if a story like this was once set into circulation it was not likely to be allowed to die by the many who were glad to have a laugh at the rising barrister.



THE blunders of translators are so common that they have been made to point a moral in popular proverbs. According to an Italian saying translators are traitors ("I traduttori sono traditori''); and books are said to be done into English, traduced in French, and overset in Dutch. Colton, the author of Lacon, mentions a half-starved German at Cambridge named Render, who had been long enough in England to forget German, but not long enough to learn English. This worthy, in spite of his deficiencies, was a voluminous translator of his native literature, and it became a proverbial saying among his intimates respecting a bad translation that it was Rendered into English.

The Comte de Tressan translated the words "capo basso'' (low headland) in a passage from Ariosto by "Cap de Capo Basso,'' on account of which translation the wits insisted upon calling him "Comte de Capo Basso.''

Robert Hall mentions a comical stumble made by one of the translators of Plato, who construed through the Latin and not direct from the Greek. In the Latin version hirundo stood as hirdo, and the translator, overlooking the mark of contraction, declared to the astonished world on the authority of Plato that the horse- leech instead of the swallow was the harbinger of spring. Hoole, the translator of Tasso and Ariosto, was as confused in his natural history when he rendered "I colubri Viscontei'' or Viscontian snakes, the crest of the Visconti family, as "the Calabrian Viscounts.''

As strange as this is the Frenchman's notion of the presence of guns in the canons' seats: "L'Archevque de Cantorbery avait fait placer des canons dans les stalles de la cathdrale.'' He quite overlooked the word chanoines, which he should have used. This use of a word similarly spelt is a constant source of trouble to the translator: for instance, a French translator of Scott's Bride of Lammermuir left the first word of the title untranslated, with the result that he made it the Bridle of Lammermuir, "La Bride de Lammermuir.''

Thevenot in his travels refers to the fables of Damn et Calilve, meaning the Hitopodesa, or Pilpay's Fables. His translator calls them the fables of the damned Calilve. This is on a par with De Quincey's specimen of a French Abb's Greek. Having to paraphrase the Greek words "<gr 'Hrodotos kai iaxwn>'' (Herodotus even while Ionicizing), the Frenchman rendered them "Herodote et aussi Jazon,'' thus creating a new author, one Jazon. In the Present State of Peru, a compilation from the Mercurio Peruano, P. Geronymo Roman de la Higuera is transformed into "Father Geronymo, a Romance of La Higuera.''

In Robertson's History of Scotland the following passage is quoted from Melville's Account of John Knox: "He was so active and vigorous a preacher that he was like to ding the pulpit into blads and fly out of it.'' M. Campenon, the translator of Robertson into French, turns this into the startling statement that he broke his pulpit and leaped into the midst of his auditors. A good companion to this curious "fact'' may be found in the extraordinary trope used by a translator of Busbequius, who says "his misfortunes had reduced him to the top of all miseries.''

We all know how Victor Hugo transformed the Firth of Forth into the First of the Fourth, and then insisted that he was right; but this great novelist was in the habit of soaring far above the realm of fact, and in a work he brought out as an offering to the memory of Shakespeare he showed that his imagination carried him far away from historical facts. The author complains in this book that the muse of history cares more for the rulers than for the ruled, and, telling only what is pleasant, ignores the truth when it is unpalatable to kings. After an outburst of bombast he says that no history of England tells us that Charles II. murdered his brother the Duke of Gloucester. We should be surprised if any did do so, as that young man died of small-pox. Hugo, being totally ignorant of English history, seems to have confused the son of Charles I. with an earlier Duke of Gloucester (Richard III.), and turned the assassin into the victim. After these blunders Dr. Baly's mention of the cannibals of Nova Scotia instead of New Caledonia in his translation of Mller's Elements of Physiology seems tame.

One snare that translators are constantly falling into is the use of English words which are like the foreign ones, but nevertheless are not equivalent terms, and translations that have taken their place in literature often suffer from this cause; thus Cicero's Offices should have been translated Duties, and Marmontel never intended to write what we understand by Moral Tales, but rather tales of manners or of fashionable life. The translators of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible render the French ancien, ancient, and write of "Mr. Huet, the ancient Bishop of Avranch.'' Theodore Parker, in translating a work by De Wette, makes the blunder of converting the German word Wlsch, a foreigner (in the book an equivalent for Italian), into Welsh.

Some men translate works in order to learn a language during the process, and they necessarily make blunders. It must have been one of these ignoramuses who translated tellurische magnetismus (terrestrial magnetism) as the magnetical qualities of Tellurium, and by his blunder caused an eminent chemist to test tellurium in order to find these magnetical qualities. There was more excuse for the French translator of one of Sir Walter Scott's novels who rendered a welsh rabbit (or rarebit, as it is sometimes spelt) into un lapin du pays de Galles. Walpole states that the Duchess of Bolton used to divert George I. by affecting to make blunders, and once when she had been to see Cibber's play of Love's Last Shift she called it La dernire chemise de l'amour. A like translation of Congreve's Mourning Bride is given in good faith in the first edition of Peignot's Manuel du Bibliophile, 1800, where it is described as L'pouse de Matin; and the translation which Walpole attributes to the Duchess of Bolton the French say was made by a Frenchman named La Place.

The title of the old farce Hit or Miss was turned into Frapp ou Mademoiselle, and the Independent Whig into La Perruque Indpendante.

In a late number of the Literary World the editor, after alluding to the French translator of Sir Walter Scott who turned "a sticket minister'' into "le ministre assassin,'' gives from the Bibliothque Universelle the extraordinary translation of the title of Mr. Barrie's comedy, Walker, London, as Londres qui se promne.

Old translators have played such tricks with proper names as to make them often unintelligible; thus we find La Rochefoucauld figuring as Ruchfucove; and in an old treatise on the mystery of Freemasonry by John Leland, Pythagoras is described as Peter Gower the Grecian. This of course is an Anglicisation of the French Pythagore (pronounced like Peter Gore). Our versions of Eastern names are so different from the originals that when the two are placed together there appears to be no likeness between them, and the different positions which they take up in the alphabet cause the bibliographer an infinity of trouble. Thus the original of Xerxes is Khshayarsha (the revered king), and Averrhoes is Ibn Roshd (son of Roshd). The latter's full name is Abul Walid Mohammed ben Ahmed ben Mohammed. Artaxerxes is in old Persian Artakhshatra, or the Fire Protector, and Darius means the Possessor. Although all these names—Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius—have a royal significance, they were personal names, and not titles like Pharaoh.

It is often difficult to believe that translators can have taken the trouble to read their own work, or they surely would not let pass some of the blunders we meet with. In a translation of Lamartine's Girondins some courtly people are described as figuring "under the vaults'' of the Tuileries instead of beneath the arched galleries (sous ses voutes). This, however, is nothing to a blunder to be found in the Secret Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV. and of the Regency (1824). The following passage from the original work, "Deux en sont morts et on dit publiquement qu'ils ont t empoisonns,'' is rendered in the English translation to the confusion of common sense as "Two of them died with her, and said publicly that they had been poisoned.''

This is not unlike the bull of the young soldier who, writing home in praise of the Indian climate, said, "But a lot of young fellows come out here, and they drink and they eat, and they eat and they drink, and they die; and then they write home to their friends saying it was the climate that did it.''

Some authors have found that there is peril in too free a translation, thus Dotet was condemned on Feb. 14th, 1543, for translating a passage in Plato's Dialogues as "After death you will be nothing at all.'' Surely he who translated Dieu dfend l'adultre as God defends adultery more justly deserved punishment! Guthrie, the geographical writer, who translated a French book of travels, unfortunately mistook neuvime (ninth) for neuvelle or neuve, and therefore made an allusion to the twenty-sixth day of the new moon.

Moore quotes in his Diary (Dec. 30th, 1818) a most amusing blunder of a translator who knew nothing of the technical name for a breakwater. He translated the line in Goldsmith's Deserted Village,

"As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away,


"Comme la mer dtruit les travaux de la taupe.''

D'Israeli records two comical translations from English into French. "Ainsi douleur, va-t'en "for woe begone is almost too good; and the man who mistook the expression "the officer was broke'' as meaning broke on a wheel and translated it by rou made a very serious matter of what was possibly but a small fault.

In the translation of The Conscript by Erckmann-Chatrian, the old botcher is turned into the old butcher.

Sometimes in attempting to correct a supposed blunder of another we fall into a very real one of our own. Thus a few years ago, before we knew so much about folk-lore as we do now, we should very probably have pointed out that Cinderella's glass slipper owed its existence to a misprint. Fur was formerly so rare and so highly prized that its use was restricted by sumptuary laws to kings, princes, and persons holding honourable offices. In these laws sable is called vair, and it has been asserted that Perrault marked the dignity conferred upon Cinderella by the fairy's gift of a slipper of vair, a privilege confined to the highest rank of princesses. It is further stated that by an error of the printer vair was changed into verre. Now, however, we find in the various versions which have been collected of this favourite tale that, however much the incidents may differ, the slipper is almost invariably made of some rigid material, and in the earliest forms the unkind sisters cut their feet to make them fit the slipper. This unpleasant incident was omitted by Perrault, but he kept the rigid material and made the glass slipper famous.

The Revisers of the Old Testament translation have shown us that the famous verse in Job, "Oh that mine adversary had written a book,'' is wrong; but it will never drop out of our language and literature. The Revised Version is certainly much more in accordance with our ideas of the time when the book was written, a period when authors could not have been very common:—

"Oh that I had one to hear me! (Lo, here is my signature, let the Almighty answer me;) And that I had the indictment which mine adversary hath written! Surely I would carry it upon my shoulder; I would bind it unto me as a crown.''

Silk Buckingham drew attention to the fact that some translations of the Bible had been undertaken by persons ignorant of the idioms of the language into which they were translating, and he gave an instance from an Arabic translation where the text "Judge not, that ye be not judged'' was rendered "Be not just to others, lest others should be just to you.''

The French have tried ingeniously to explain the difficulty contained in St. Matthew xix. 24, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,'' by affirming that the translators mistook the supposed word milos>, a rope, for mhlos>, a camel.

The humours of translation are numerous, but perhaps the most eccentric example is to be found in Stanyhurst's rendering of Virgil, published in 1583. It is full of cant words, and reads like the work of a madman. This is a fair specimen of the work:—

"Theese thre were upbotching, not shapte, but partlye wel onward, A clapping fierbolt (such as oft, with rownce robel-hobble, Jove to the ground clattreth) but yeet not finished holye.''

M. Guyot, translating some Latin epigrams under the title of Fleurs, Morales, et pigrammatiques, uses the singular forms Monsieur Zole and Mademoiselle Lycoris. The same author, when translating the letters of Cicero (1666), turns Pomponius into M. de Pomponne.

Pitt's friend, Pepper Arden, Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and Lord Alvanley, was rather hot-tempered, and his name was considered somewhat appropriate, but to make it still more so his friends translated it into "Mons. Poivre Ardent.''

This reminds one of the Frenchman who toasted Dr. Johnson, not as Mr. Rambler, but as Mr. Vagabond.

Tom Moore notices some amusing mis- translations in his Diary. Major Cartwright, who was called the Father of Reform (although a wit suggested that Mother of Reform would have been a more appropriate title), supposed that the Brevia Parliamentaria of Prynne stood for "short parliaments.'' Lord Lansdowne told Moore that he was with Lord Holland when the letter containing this precious bit of erudition arrived. Another story of Lord Lansdowne's is equally good. His French servant announced Dr. Mansell, the Master of Trinity, when he called, as "Matre des Crmonies de la Trinit.''

Moore also relates that an account having appeared in the London papers of a row at the Stock Exchange, where some strangers were hustled, it appeared in the Paris papers in this form: "Mons. Stock Exchange tait chauff,'' etc.

There is something to be said in favour of the humorous translation of Magna est veritas et prevalabit—"Great is truth, it will prevail a bit,'' for it is probably truer than the original. He who construed Csar's mode of passing into Gaul summa diligentia, "on the top of the diligence,'' must have been of an imaginative turn of mind. Probably the time will soon come when this will need explanation, for a public will arise which knows not the dilatory "diligence.''

The translator of Inter Calicem supremaque labra as Betwixt Dover and Calais gave as his reason that Dover was Angli suprema labra.

Although not a blunder nor apparently a joke, we may conclude this chapter with a reference to Shakespeare's remarkable translation of Finis Coronat opus. Helena remarks in All's well that Ends well (act iv., sc. 4):— "All's well that ends well: still the fine's the crown.''

In the Second Part of King Henry VI. (act v., sc. 2) old Lord Clifford, just before he dies, is made to use the French translation of the proverb:—

"La fin couronne les uvres.''

In the first Folio we read:—

"La fin corrone les eumenes.''



THERE is no class that requires to be dealt with more leniently than do bibliographers, for pitfalls are before and behind them. It is impossible for any one man to see all the books he describes in a general bibliography; and, in consequence of the necessity of trusting to second-hand information, he is often led imperceptibly into gross error. Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica is a most useful and valuable work, but, as may be expected from so comprehensive a compilation, many mistakes have crept into it: for instance, under the head of Philip Beroaldus, we find the following title of a work: "A short view of the Persian Monarchy, published at the end of Daniel's Works.'' The mystery of the last part of the title is cleared up when we find that it should properly be read, "and of Daniel's Weekes,'' it being a work on prophecy. The librarian of the old Marylebone Institution, knowing as little of Latin as the monk did of Hebrew when he described a book as having the beginning where the end should be, catalogued an edition of sop's Fables as "sopiarum's Phdri Fabulorum.''

Two blunders that a bibliographer is very apt to fall into are the rolling of different authors of the same name into one, and the creation of an author who never existed. The first kind we may illustrate by mentioning the dismay of the worthy Bishop Jebb, when he found himself identified in Watt's Bibliotheca with his uncle, the Unitarian writer. Of the second kind we might point out the names of men whose lives have been written and yet who never existed. In the Zoological Biography of Agassiz, published by the Ray Society, there is an imaginary author, by name J. K. Broch, whose work, Entomologische Briefe, was published in 1823. This pamphlet is really anonymous, and was written by one who signed himself J. K. Broch, is merely an explanation in the catalogue from which the entry was taken that it was a brochure. Moreri created an author, whom he styled Dorus Basilicus, out of the title of James I.'s ron basilikn>, and Bishop Walton supposed the title of the great Arabic Dictionary, the Kamoos or Ocean, to be the name of an author whom he quotes as "Camus.'' In the article on Stenography in Rees's Cyclopdia there are two most amusing blunders. John Nicolai published a Treatise on the Signs of the Ancients at the beginning of the last century, and the writer of the article, having seen it stated that a certain fact was to be found in Nicolai, jumped to the conclusion that it was the name of a place, and wrote, "It was at Nicolai that this method of writing was first introduced to the Greeks by Xenophon himself.'' Tn another part of the same article the oldest method of shorthand extant, entitled "Ars Scribendi Characteris,'' is said to have been printed about the year 1412—that is, long before printing was invented. In the Biographie Universelle there is a life of one Nicholas Donis, by Baron Walckenaer, which is a blundering alteration of the real name of a Benedictine monk called Dominus Nicholas. This, however, is not the only time that a title has been taken for a name. An eminent bookseller is said to have received a letter signed George Winton, proposing a life of Pitt; but, as he did not know the name, he paid no attention to the letter, and was much astonished when he was afterwards told that his correspondent was no less a person than George Pretyman Tomline, Bishop of Winchester. This is akin to the mistake of the Scotch doctor attending on the Princess Charlotte during her illness, who said that "ane Jean Saroom'' had been continually calling, but, not knowing the fellow, he had taken no notice of him. Thus the Bishop of Salisbury was sent away by one totally ignorant of his dignity. A similar blunder was made by a bibliographer, for in Hotten's Handbook to the Topography and Family History of England and Wales will be found an entry of an "Assize Sermon by Bishop Wigorn, in the Cathedral at Worcester, 1690.'' This was really Bishop Stillingfleet. There is a reverse case of a catalogue made by a worthy bookseller of the name of William London, which was long supposed to be the work of Dr. William Juxon, the Bishop of London at the time of publication. The entry in the Biographie Moderne of "Brigham le jeune ou Brigham Young'' furnishes a fine instance of a writer succumbing to the ever-present temptation to be too clever by half. A somewhat similar blunder is that of the late Mr. Dircks. The first reprint of the Marquis of Worcester's Century of Inventions was issued by Thomas Payne, the highly respected bookseller of the Mews Gate, in 1746; but in Worcesteriana (1866) Mr. Dircks positively asserts that the notorious Tom Paine was the publisher of it, thus ignoring the different spelling of the two names.

In a French book on the invention of printing, the sentence "Le berceau de l'imprimerie'' was misread by a German, who turned Le Berceau into a man{.??} D'Israeli tells us that Mantissa, the title of the Appendix to Johnstone's History of Plants, was taken for the name of an author by D'Aquin, the French king's physician. The author of the Curiosities of Literature also relates that an Italian misread the description Enrichi de deux listes on the title-page of a French book of travels, and, taking it for the author's name, alluded to the opinions of Mons. Enrichi De Deux Listes; but really this seems almost too good to be true.

If we searched bibliographical literature we should find a fair crop of authors who never existed; for when once a blunder of this kind is set going, it seems to bear a charmed life. Mr. Daydon Jackson mentions some amusing instances of imaginary authors made out of title-pages in his Guide to the Literature of Botany. An anonymous work of A. Massalongo, entitled Graduale Passagio delle Crittogame alle Fanerogame (1876), has been entered in a German bibliography as written by G. Passagio. In an English list Kelaart's Flora Calpensis: Reminiscences of Gibraltar (1846) appears as the work of a lady— Christian name, Flora; surname, Calpensis. In 1837 a Botanical-Lexicon was published by an author who described himself as "The Rev. Patrick Keith, Clerk, F.L.S.'' This somewhat pedantic form deceived a foreign cataloguer, who took Clerk for the surname, and contracted "Patrick Keith'' into the initials P.K. More inexcusable was the blunder of an American who, in describing J. E. H. Gordon's work on Electricity, changed the author's degree into the initials of a collaborator, one Cantab. The joint authors were stated to be J. E. H. Gordon and B. A. Cantab.

A very amusing, but a quite excusable error, was made by Allibone in his Dictionary of English Literature, under the heading of Isaac D'Israeli. He notices new editions of that author's works revised by the Right Hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course Isaac's son Benjamin, afterwards Prime Minister and Earl of Beaconsfield; but unfortunately there were two Chancellors in 1858, and Allibone chooses the wrong one, printing, as useful information to the reader, that the reviser was Sir George Cornewall Lewis. An instance of the danger of inconsiderate explanation will be found in a little book by a German lady, Fanny Lewald, entitled England and Schottland. The authoress, when in London, visited the theatre in order to see a play founded on Cooper's novel The Wept of Wish-ton Wish; and being unable to understand the title, she calls it the "Will of the Whiston Wisp,'' which she tells us means an ignis fatuus.

A writer in a German paper was led into an amusing blunder by an English review a few years ago. The reviewer, having occasion to draw a distinction between George and Robert Cruikshank, spoke of the former as the real Simon Pure. The German, not understanding the allusion, gravely told his readers that George Cruikshank was a pseudonym, the author's real name being Simon Pure. This seems almost too good to be equalled, but a countryman of our own has blundered nearly as grossly. William Taylor, in his Historic Survey of German Poetry (1830), prints the following absurd statement: "Godfred of Berlichingen is one of the earliest imitations of the Shakspeare tragedy which the German school has produced. It was admirably translated into English in 1799 at Edinburg by William Scott, advocate, no doubt the same person who, under the poetical but assumed name of Walter, has since become the most extensively popular of the British writers.'' The cause of this mistake we cannot explain, but the reason for it is to be found in the fact which has lately been announced that a few copies of the translation, with the misprint of William for Walter in the title, were issued before the error was discovered.

Jacob Boehm, the theosophist, wrote some Reflections on a theological treatise by one Isaiah Stiefel,[6] the title of which puzzled one of his modern French biographers. The word Stiefel in German means a boot, and the Frenchman therefore gave the title of Boehm's tract as "Reflexions sur les Bottes d'Isaie.''

[6] "Bedencken ber Esai Stiefels Buchlein: von dreyerley Zustandt des Menschen unnd dessen newen Geburt.'' 1639.

It is scarcely fair to make capital out of the blunders of booksellers' catalogues, which are often printed in a great hurry, and cannot possibly possess the advantage of correction which a book does. But one or two examples may be given without any censure being intended on the booksellers.

In a French catalogue the works of the famous philosopher Robert Boyle appeared under the following singular French form: BOY (le), Chymista scepticus vel dubia et paradoxa chymico-physica, &c.

"Mr. Tul. Cicero's Epistles'' looks strange, but the mistake is but small. The very natural blunder respecting the title of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound actually did occur; and, what is more, it was expected by Theodore Hook. This is an accurate copy of the description in the catalogue of a year or two back:—

"Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.

—— another copy, in whole calf.'' and these are Hook's lines:—

"Shelley styles his new poem 'Prometheus Unbound,' And 'tis like to remain so while time circles round; For surely an age would be spent in the finding A reader so weak as to pay for the binding.''

When books are classified in a catalogue the compiler must be peculiarly on his guard if he has the titles only and not the books before him. Sometimes instances of incorrect classification show gross ignorance, as in the instance quoted in the Athenum lately. Here we have a crop of blunders: "Title, Commentarii De Bello Gallico in usum Scholarum Liber Tirbius. Author, Mr. C. J. Caesoris. Subject, Religion.'' Still better is the auctioneer's entry of P. V. Maroni's The Opera. Authors, however, are usually so fond of fanciful ear-catching titles, that every excuse must be made for the cataloguer, who mistakes their meaning, and takes them in their literal signification. Who can reprove too severely the classifier who placed Swinburne's Under the Microscope in his class of Optical Instruments, or treated Ruskin's Notes on the Construction of Sheetfolds as a work on agricultural appliances? A late instance of an amusing misclassification is reported from Germany. In the Orientalische Bibliographie, Mr. Rider Haggard's wonderful story King Solomon's Mines is entered as a contribution to "Alttestamentliche Litteratur.''

The elaborate work by Careme, Le Patissier Pittoresque (1842), which contains designs for confectioners, deceived the bookseller from its plates of pavilions, temples, etc., into supposing it to be a book on architecture, and he accordingly placed it under that heading in his catalogue.

Mr. Daydon Jackson gives several instances of false classification in his Guide to the Literature of Botany, and remarks that some authors contrive titles seemingly of set purpose to entrap the unwary. He instances a fine example in the case of Bishop Alexander Ewing's Feamainn Earraghaidhiell: Argyllshire Seaweeds (Glasgow, 1872. 8vo). To enhance the delusion, the coloured wrapper is ornamented with some of the common marine alg, but the inside of the volume consists solely of pastoral addresses. Another example will be found in Flowers from the South, from the Hortus Siccus of an Old Collector. By W. H. Hyett, F.R.S. Instead of a popular work on the Mediterranean flora by a scientific man, as might reasonably be expected, this is a volume of translations from the Italian and Latin poets. It is scarcely fair to blame the compiler of the Bibliotheca Historio-Naturalis for having ranked both these works among scientific treatises. The English cataloguer who treated as a botanical book Dr. Garnett's selection from Coventry Patmore's poems, entitled Florilegium Amantis, could claim less excuse for his blunder than the German had. These misleading titles are no new invention, and the great bibliographer Haller was deceived into including the title of James Howell's Dendrologia, or Dodona's Grove (1640), in his Bibliotheca Botanica. Professor Otis H. Robinson contributed a very interesting paper on the "Titles of Books'' to the Special Report on Public Libraries in the United States of America (1876), in which he deals very fully with this difficulty of misleading titles, and some of his preliminary remarks are very much to the point. He writes:—

"No act of a man's life requires more practical common sense than the naming of his book. If he would make a grocer's sign or an invoice of a cellar of goods or a city directory, he uses no metaphors; his pen does not hesitate for the plainest word. He must make himself understood by common men. But if he makes a book the case is different. It must have the charm of a pleasing title. If there is nothing new within, the back at least must be novel and taking. He tortures his imagination for something which will predispose the reader in its favour. Mr. Parker writes a series of biographical sketches, and calls it Morning Stars of the New World. Somebody prepares seven religious essays, binds them up in a book, and calls it Seven Stormy Sundays. Mr. H. T. Tuckerman makes a book of essays on various subjects, and calls it The Optimist; and then devotes several pages of preface to an argument, lexicon in hand, proving that the applicability of the term optimist is 'obvious.' An editor, at intervals of leisure, indulges his true poetic taste for the pleasure of his friends, or the entertainment of an occasional audience. Then his book appears, entitled not Miscellaneous Poems, but Asleep in the Sanctum, by A. A. Hopkins. Sometimes, not satisfied with one enigma, another is added. Here we have The Great Iron Wheel; or, Republicanism Backwards and Christianity Reversed, by J. R. Graves. These titles are neither new nor scarce, nor limited to any particular class of books. Every case, almost every shelf, in every library contain such. They are as old as the art of book-making. David's lamentation over Saul and Jonathan was called The Bow. A single word in the poem probably suggested the name. Three of the orations of schines were styled The Graces, and his letters The Muses.''

The list of bibliographical blunders might be indefinitely extended, but the subject is somewhat technical, and the above few instances will give a sufficient indication of the pitfalls which lie in the way of the bibliographer—a worker who needs universal knowledge if he is to wend his way safely through the snares in his path.



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 acknowledge 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 Because 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]

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