With Nancy J. Farrier
As an author, I understand how typos slip through edits into a book or an article. No matter how hard you try to find them, they sneak into your text and get missed. Even famous books have this problem. I thought it would be fun to look at some famous typos throughout history.
Folger Shakespeare Library
Digital Image Collection
Sometimes, the typo is not the fault of the author. When Shakespeare wrote his play, Cymbeline, he named his character Innogen. This is a pretty name, but when the pages appeared in print, the font chosen made the two nn’s hard to distinguish. Thus, Innogen, was read as Imogen. Imogen became a very popular name and most people never realized that wasn’t the original name in the play.
1870—We all know how healthy spinach is supposed to be. Remember the Popeye cartoons and Popeye eating spinach and getting very strong due to all the iron in the vegetable? It turns out that a chemist in 1870 made a little typo. He misplaced the decimal point in the amount of iron in spinach. The number 3.5 grams suddenly became 35 grams, an extraordinary amount of iron. The mistake was not caught until 1939 and by then the myth about spinach’s health benefit had spread far and wide. And, Popeye helped spread that falsehood. Even today, there is the belief that spinach is very high in iron. Spinach is good for you, but not that good.
King Features Syndicate
1934—Webster’s New International Dictionary. Yep, a typo in Webster’s. In 1934, an editor misread a note about using D or d as an abbreviation for density. The editor inserted the new word—Dord—in the dictionary between “dorcopsis” and doré.” Dord was given the meaning of “density” and left in the dictionary for years before being removed.
1930—James Joyce was in the habit of dictating his novels, at least in part, to his friend and fellow author, Samuel Beckett. When they were working on Finnegan’s Wake, someone came to the door and knocked. Joyce answered the door and invited the person in. When he said, “Come in,” Beckett wrote that down as part of the manuscript. Joyce later realized the mistake but thought it funny and left the greeting in the book.
There have been some interesting Bible typos in history. 1562—Mark 5:9 was printed in a Bible as, “Blessed are the placemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” This should read peacemakers instead of placemakers.
In 1653, a Bible was printed with this passage in I Corinthians which left out the word “not.” It read, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” The passage should read—“shall not inherit.”
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
The best-known mistake in the Bible occurred in 1631 when a Bible carried the commandment, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This was supposed to be The King James Bible, but because of the omission of the word, “not,” it was termed “The Wicked Bible.” The copies of the Bible were destroyed except for 11 copies and the printer was given a stiff fine. One of these Bibles is part of a collection in the New York Public Library.
Making typos or mistakes like these is very easy, and they are hard to catch. As an author I know how I expect to see a certain word and don't realize the error in front of me. Of course, some of these are funny and others are more serious. I do hope you enjoyed reading about these typos. Have you ever found a typo in a letter you've written or a post you've put on social media. Some of those are pretty funny. I'd love to hear your comments.
Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.