14 Typos in First Editions

Chances are at least one of these books has a typo.
Chances are at least one of these books has a typo.

To err is human, and we’ve all done it, especially in the form of a typographical error. But different types of typos can have hugely varying consequences—there’s a big difference between spelling your coworker’s name wrong in an email and committing an error in a book that will be preserved in print for all history to refer to. Typos can be profitable, too, of course—according to legend, the name Google is derived from a misspelling of “googolplex.” But useful or embarrassing, sometimes typos are forever, perhaps even more in the age of the internet. Here are some of publishing’s most memorable blunders.

1. An American Tragedy

Theodore Dreiser's 1925 classic has a handful of small typos, of the “to/too” and “if/it” persuasion, but perhaps the cutest is the place where characters are referred to as “harmoniously abandoning themselves to the rhythm of the music—like two small chips being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea.” One can probably assume he meant “ships,” but there’s always a chance that he was talking about a sea of pico de gallo.

2. The Good Earth

One can tell the first, second, and third printings of Pearl S. Buck’s 1931 novel apart from later printings by a blooper on page 100, line 17, wherein a wall against which people set up their huts is being described. “It stretched out long and grey and very high, and against the base the small mat sheds clung like flees to a dog's back.” Editions of the book that include the misspelling can go for as much as $9500.

3. Cryptonomicon

The original hardcover edition of Neal Stephenson’s 1999 sci-fi thriller famously contained a number of simple typos (“a” instead of “at,” “that” instead of “that’s”). There’s also a switch-up on page 700—the word factitious is used in place of “fictitious.” However, many fans maintain that Stephenson did this deliberately and that the typos comprise a hidden message, per one of the themes of the book—cryptographers attempting to crack World War II-era Axis codes.

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The first book in the beloved Harry Potter series would be treasured by muggles even if it didn’t carry a typo, but a selection of copies are valued at a small fortune for this reason. The mistake is found on page 53, in a list of school supplies that young wizards are expected to bring to Hogwarts: “1 wand” is listed at both the beginning and at the end. That said, the typo did reappear in a few later printings even after it was caught in the second round, so it’s only the true first editions that are worth beaucoup bucks.

5. Tropic of Cancer

It’s almost like Henry Miller wasn’t even trying here—or that his publisher wasn’t even trying to hire a proofreader. His 1961 novel about general debauchery in Paris led to over 60 obscenity lawsuits and features a whole mess of typographical errors, such as “He listend to me incomplete bewilderment” (page 271), and “Even after he has slept with one of these mythical cratures he will still refer to her as a virgin, and almost never by name” (page 91). One might even suspect that Miller wasn’t … altogether sober while he was writing it.

6. “The Wicked Bible"

This 1631 edition of the King James Bible by Robert Baker and Martin Lucas included an accidental new twist on the Seventh Commandment, informing readers that “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This managed to incense both King Charles I and the Archbishop of Canterbury—its publishers were hauled into court and fined £300 for the oversight and they had their printing license revoked. Most of the copies were subsequently burned, and the book picked up the sobriquet “The Wicked Bible” or “The Sinners’ Bible.” Only about 10 copies remain today—one was put up for sale by British auction house Bonhams in 2015.

7. The Road

In the first edition of Cormac McCarthy’s postapocalyptic The Road, page 228 reads, “A moment of panic before he saw him walking along the bench downshore with the pistol hanging in his hand, his head down.” The rest of the paragraph talks about being on the beach, though, so it’s safe to imagine that’s what McCarthy meant. Unless it was a bench down the shore. Presumably a long one that you can walk along?

8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

As with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain took great creative license when he was writing about Huck Finn, and the book is full of things like “spos’n” in place of “supposing” and “gwyne” in place of “going to” to illustrate the Southern dialect the boys speak. But among the intentionally flawed bits of spelling and grammar, there is a legitimate error hidden in first edition of Huck Finn: “I took the bag to where it used to stand, and ripped a hole in the bottom of it with the was.” (It should be “with the saw.”)

9. A Dance With Dragons

The entire Song of Ice and Fire series—the books that the HBO show Game of Thrones is based on—is rife with typos and consistency errors, but Book Five arguably has the most. For instance, on page 854, where Queen Cersei descends a staircase and muses: "’I am beautiful,’ she reminded himself." The word wroth is consistently misused in this book as well—e.g., page 53: "Even in the north men fear the wroth of Tywin Lannister." (Wroth is an adjective, meaning angry—author George R. R. Martin should have used “wrath,” the noun form.)

10. Gravity’s Rainbow

The 1973 novel, Thomas Pynchon’s best-known, contained a handful of typos, including: “Over croissants, strawberry jam, real butter, real coffee, she has him running through the flight profile in terms of wall temperature and Nusselt heart-transfer coefficients ...” It should be “heat-transfer,” of course.

11. The Queen’s Governess

Karen Harper regularly receives major props for accuracy when it comes to historical detail in her popular, mostly Tudor-themed novels, but the same can’t be said for lexical detail. In her 2010 hit The Queen’s Governess, Harper made a small but memorable slip. When heroine Kat Ashley, lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, is awoken in the night by ruffians who demand to see Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth, she remarks: “In the weak light of dawn, I tugged on the gown and sleeves I'd discarded like a wonton last night to fall into John's arms." Okay, to be fair, folks in Tudor England probably didn’t have a lot of experience with Chinese food, but even so, you’re not supposed to unwrap wontons before you eat them (the word she was looking for, of course, was wanton).

12. Plague Ship

There’s a weird one in Clive Cussler’s joint novel with Jack Du Brul, where a character finds himself in an overturned ATV: “He goosed the throttle and worked the wheel, using the four-wheeler’s power rather than moist his strength to right the six-hundred-pound vehicle.” Sort of makes sense—in an emergency, you have to reserve all your juices for later.

13. Freedom

It was lauded as “the book of the century” after being released in the U.S. in 2010, but when Freedom, Jonathan Franzen’s follow-up to 2001’s The Corrections, was published in the UK, an early, unproofed version of the manuscript was mistakenly used, resulting in a final print that was absolutely riddled with typesetting errors. The misprints in the British version numbered in the hundreds. HarperCollins ended up recalling thousands of copies of the novel and let fans exchange their tainted books for new, corrected copies, going as far as to set up a “Freedom recall hotline.” Maybe Franzen should have saved the title “The Corrections” for this book instead.

14. Twilight

The first edition of Twilight was full of typos. Most of the blemishes are of the “whose/who’s” and “though/through” variety, but there are a few funny ones, including “I ate breakfast cheerily, watching the dust moats stirring in the sunlight that streamed in the back window.”

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From Campaign Slogans to Social Movements, New Book Explores the Role Buttons Have Played Throughout History

Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon
Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

From their early days on the campaign trail during the 1896 presidential race to their current role as a way of showing support for social causes like the LGBTQIA+ pride movement, pinback buttons have remained one of the most popular ways for people to express their values and beliefs for well over a century. And now, button experts Christen Carter, founder of Chicago’s Busy Beaver Button Company and the Button Museum, and Ted Hake, owner of Hake’s Auctions, have put their extensive knowledge of the subject into the new book Button Power: 125 Years of Saying It With Buttons ($25), a cultural journey showcasing 1500 of the most important and unique pinbacks throughout American history.

“Buttons seem like really a niche thing, but they really are very general,” Carter tells Mental Floss. “They cover so much history, and the history goes deep and wide.”

For the book, Hake and Carter—who both began collecting buttons during their respective childhoods—cover how buttons have been used to communicate messages during their 125-year history, from pinbacks featuring landmark political slogans and anti-war sentiments to others that simply proclaim a person's love of Dallas.

“[Buttons] are little windows on the world, and you can pick an avenue and head down to your heart's content,” Hake tells Mental Floss.

Some of the 20th century's most important moments had a button to go along with them.Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

One of Hake's favorite buttons in the book doesn't feature a political or social statement—it's just a picture of a buffalo with the words “Eat Me at Bremen, Kans. June 9, 1935” emblazoned across it. But it wasn't just the design that really caught his attention; it was also its backstory.

The button's origins lie within the town of Bremen, Kansas, which, in June 1935, was celebrating both its 50th anniversary and the dedication of a marker for the defunct Oregon Trail, according to Kansas Historical Quarterly. Two weeks before the celebration, 500 townspeople gathered in Bremen to watch a buffalo get slaughtered, which was then shipped to the neighboring town’s ice house for preservation. When the big day finally arrived, the buffalo was shipped back to become the centerpiece of a community-wide feast. The button was made to spread the word for the unique event.

“Here he is on this button, inviting the good folks of Bremen to enjoy him,” Hake says. “So it is a little bit surreal, to tell you the truth.” During his research, Hake recovered this niche historical event that could’ve otherwise been easily lost to history. “At the end of the day, they capped it off with supper, a band concert, and they gave away a baby buffalo calf,” he says.

Buttons have been used to express both support and opposition to the United States's involvement in wars. Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

While pinback button technology has not changed drastically in the past 125 years, Hake and Carter still consider their golden era to be from 1896 to 1921. “The colors are just unusual and beautiful,” Carter says. “They were able to get fine details that, [even] with digital printing, we can’t do.” Carter also enjoys how buttons were used as a communication device during the punk movement, saying, “They're important identifiers to a counter-culture movement, and they were not afraid to piss people off.”

Though the book covers buttons featuring celebrities, bands, and brands, many of the most popular ones come from the political arena and sports. Hake’s Auction just set the record for the most expensive pinback sold on September 23, 2020, with a 1916 Boston Red Sox World Series button that went for $62,980. “What makes it great is that every team member is on the button and up at 11 o’clock is one Babe Ruth. He was in his second year and was a pitcher back in those days,” Hake explains.

Even though there are buttons like the Babe Ruth ones that sell for thousands of dollars, it's still an accessible hobby for everyone. “You can start your button collection with just $10 and already have a good start. It is a good thing to collect if you don’t have much money or much space,” Carter explains.

The power of the political button eventually became fertile ground for satire in the '70s.Princeton Architectural Press/Amazon

Looking forward to the next 125 years, Carter hopes that buttons can become more eco-friendly by eliminating steel use and replacing it with recycled materials. “They haven’t changed that much in the last 125 years. They are pretty timeless in that way, and they are inexpensive, so whatever keeps them as inexpensive as possible as resources change in the next 100 years, they will probably change."

You can order Button Power: 125 Years of Saying It With Buttons on Amazon or on the Princeton Architectural Press website.

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