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IN PRODUCING a new edition of the King James Bible in 1631, the King’s Printer, Robert Barker, made a slight mistake: Its seventh commandment came out “Thou shalt commit adultery.”
His omission of “not” in this injunction cost Barker a fine of £300. This was considerable cash in those days, and it’s noted that Barker spent the rest of his life in debtors’ prison.
Said the Archbishop of Canterbury, “I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing. But now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.”
According to my source on this, the July 5, 2012 number of the London Review of Books, most copies of what has come to be known as the Wicked, Adulterous or Sinners’ Bible were promptly burned. A few survive, valued all the more because of these unlearned correctors.
Correctors were a cross between what we’d call proofreaders and fact checkers. Highly skilled and respected, a corrector might well have been versed in Latin and Greek as well as English. Even there, however, pitfalls existed. One Latin work suffered—or certainly got juiced up—when the word pocri (suitors) was set as porci (pigs).
There’s a good Road & Track story concerning the art of proofreading. In the days before computerized publishing, R&T manuscripts were sent off to a shop and transformed into print galleys that got proofread there before being returned to the magazine.
Occasionally—and much to editorial chagrin—there’d be a question penciled in the margin, “Don’t you mean Ferrari 625?” or some such. And, it would turn out the proofreader was right.
Here, in 20th century California, resided an authentic “corrector.”
What’s more, we later learned, the fellow had this proofreading gig in semi-retirement. He was Pete Molson, Editor of R&T, 1957-1959. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012