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FORASMUCH as it hath been the practice heretofore for the Printer to address an Epistle to the Reader, before his entering on the perusal of the more important matter of the author; and seeing that no good reason hath been assigned for neglecting this useful practice, unless albeit the printers of these days be unable to arrange so many of their thoughts in words proper to be set forth to the public; or, whether authors are now so learned of themselves, as not to need our recommendatory laudations; or whether there may not be any thing good enough in the books of modern days to require this trouble from their printers ;-whether all or any of these considerations have led to the neglect of the practice, we take it not upon us to say. But permission having been given, in the present instance, by the Editor of this monthly compendium of useful and entertaining literature, we gladly avail ourselves of the opportunity of saying a few words to our indulgent readers.
Courteous Reader,-You may have happened to know, or if not, be pleased to be informed, that the greater part of the knowledge disseminated in the world for these last three hundred years, has been chiefly owing to the agency of the Press, and the industry of Printers; that if it had not been for this great invention, the manuscripts of the learned might have for ever slumbered in their closets, useless to all but themselves, and the moths which fed upon them; and you would have been deprived of the delectable information and amusement which even books of the lowest class afford in such unli mited variety. As authors were, moreover, but few in those manuscript days, compared to what they are now, it is but a fair inference, that of the immense number who have since appeared, the greater part have owed their existence and their fame to the exertions of their printers. This being the case, we hope that authors in future will allow, and printers never fail to claim, their prescriptive right of writing at least one page in every work that comes forth through their means to the world.
Indulgent Reader,-In perusing the work of our hands for the last twelve months, though we trust it is fairly printed, on good paper, with a clear type, and as well as circumstances permit, yet undoubtedly thou must have observed, if thou readest very critically, some few errors in our workmanship, which, like all other works of human creatures, (as we have no pretensions to infallibility,) bears the marks of imperfection. All that we can do in these circumstances, is to acknowledge our faults, throw ourselves on thy indulgence, and endeavour to amend them in future; and it would perhaps be good for the world, if all others who commit faults were induced to follow our example. We may add, though by no means with any intention of excusing our own conduct, that it were well if the errors of those in far higher stations than ours could be as easily corrected, or that an ex post facto erratum could neutralize measures which, even from the highest authority, have sometimes every other tendency than to add to the happiness of the human race.
But Printers have the additional excuse for the errors they commit of the frequent deficiency of the manuscripts put into their hands, which, in many cases, are scarcely legible; and it is for authors who send such manuscripts to Press, to consider what a loss this must be
to the industrious men who set up the types from them, and how many additional chances of error they thus run the risk of making, which can only be corrected by a list of errata. Not unfrequently it happens, likewise, that the errors of authors themselves, displayed in wonderful variety indeed, and mixed up with the venial typographical errors of the Printer, are pointed out, with ill-judged appearances of accuracy, to readers, who, the greater part of them, but for this list, would perhaps have discovered nothing wrong, and, in some few instances, it may be, from their not perusing the book in which the errors occur. We have often been blamed for making nonsense by pointing passages wrong, which all the forms of stops, from a comma to an admiration three times repeated, would not have made sense; and the unsuccessful sale of a work has often been laid to our door, because, as mechanics, we did not produce a book which the public were inclined to read. We have not seldom been blamed (we say blamed) for extracting wit and humour from the dullest of all discussions, by the accidental omission or transposition of a single letter ;-have, with more justice, been accused of transporting a modern writer to the dark ages, by the insertion of a wrong figure in a date ;—and we must acknowledge that we have sometimes erred in the opposite extreme, by making an author be quoted centuries in advance, who, in all probability, would see his work completely extinct before the termination of his own life.
These, and a thousand other errors, both of omission and commission, we acknowledge to have been guilty of in the practice of our profession, and have nearly as often made public compensation in the form of Errata. But as, in a periodical work like the present, it is not necessary to notice the omission of every letter that may have dropped out of a word, or the substitution of one for another, in the haste with which our monthly budget of information is put to press, we shall only remark a few which have been pointed out to us by critical readers, who are perhaps more intent in finding out errors in our printing than faults in their own conduct, though the latter may, in many cases, be the more prominent of the two.
One correspondent is very angry with us for having designated his dear friend as a fiend. We were very sorry for the accidental dropping out of the letter which caused the mistake, and we received his note in full time enough to mark the error in the next number; but, upon consideration, we thought it more advisable to let the word stand as it was, than publish an erratum which might have had a tendency to lessen the moral duty of friendship, by holding it up as a cognate with the word which denotes an evil spirit. We appeal to the gentleman himself if he would have wished to see the correction recorded in our pages for fiend read friend.
Another correspondent blames us for having inadvertently printed Polite Commissioners for Police Commissioners, and we plead guilty to the charge; though we by no means intended to throw out a reflection on the gentlemen who filled this meritorious office previous to the appointment of those very polite commissioners who have reduced the tax from 1s. 6d. to 1s. per pound: and we would willingly have noticed the error, but from the idea that the erratum-for Polite Commissioners read Police Commissioners-might have been construed as marking our disapprobation of the mode in which they conducted their investigations.
A more serious charge has been brought against us by a third individual, which, for aught we know, might have laid us under the suspicion of offence against the highest authorities in the kingdom, and procured His Majesty's Advocate for our correspondent. It is no less than for having transformed treasonable practices into reasonable prac tices, by the casual omission of the letter t. The little difference between treason and reason,—a single letter, which accident might break, as it has unfortunately done in this case, shows how cautious one ought to be in hastily attributing motives to another, which were perhaps never entertained. For our own part, our known loyalty and attachment to the best of governments, holding, moreover, the useful office of one of the extraordinary constables of our native city, would make most of our readers pause before they suspected us of any design to lower their reverence for the British constitution; but, to please our worthy correspondent, we have no objection to add the necessary erratum—for reasonable practices be so good as read treasonable practices.
A similar typographical slip has occurred in printing stale policy for state policy, which, though neither noticed by the editor, nor remarked by any of our readers, we beg, for conscience sake, to correct, as we never venture on giving an opinion on matters which our pastors inculcate as being so much above common comprehension, and are too good subjects to allow even our errors to mislead those whom our miscellany monthly instructs:-for stale policy, in the Parliamentary debates, read state policy.
Another error which caused us some alarm, was the inadvertently printing military farce in place of military force in our account of a late district review of the troops. We can conscientiously acquit ourselves, however, of any design to lower the reputation of the conquerors of Bonaparte; and humbly beg pardon of all the warriors present on that occasion, from the field-marshal to the drum-boy, for the unintentional mistake.
We also beg to put it on record, that when we printed debased in place of debated, in reference to an important question lately before the House of Lords, we had no intention to cast any reflection on the proceedings of that Most Honourable House; and that, though in one instance Acts of Parliament happened to be misprinted Arts of Parliament, we were guiltless of all allusion to the alleged practices of either one party or the other in influencing the voters in these assemblies. The word printed courtier, in Mr Denman's speech, should likewise be read courier,-for the terms, though nearly allied, as it would seem, are not yet agreed upon by grammarians as being perfectly synonymous.
Another charge brought against us, viz. for having printed infernal administration in place of internal administration of burgh funds, we by no means wish to excuse; and should have attended to the emendation the moment it was pointed out to us, by the correction in the next number-for infernal administration read internal administration --had we not been afraid of giving offence to many respectable officebearers in the royal burghs, whom we are proud to number among our most constant readers, and who might justly have taken it into their heads, that we meant to exercise our wit at their expence, and add to the clamour which at present prevails against these worthy administrators of the civic funds.
The author who accuses us of satirizing him in the review of his book, by calling it a godly octavo in place of a goodly octavo, will please accept our apology for the omission of the offensive letter. We must have mislaid our spectacles, when we read the proof sheet which contains the displeasing word, for we were quite aware, that very few godly octavos are to be expected from the Press, in this age of infidelity and wavering of opinions.
To the heritors of the county of Fife we owe an apology, for having titled the account of their assemblage in our Index by the term Fife Meeting, which an anonymous correspondent has chosen to understand as if it were a meeting of fifers, in place of a regular and legal meeting of county gentlemen;-and the young lady, who is so angry with us for having married her in 1720 in place of 1820, will please be informed, that we shall have more care in this particular in future, should it ever be her good fortune to have a second husband.
We beg to apologise to the witness, whom our compositors made sweat before the High Court of Justiciary in place of swear; to the writer of the loving verses to Laura, for having transformed his angel into an angle; and to the author of a very meritorious essay, for having made him conclude his lucubration with the words, all is variety! instead of the emphatic phrase-all is vanity!
The angry inhabitant of the Gorbals may rest assured, that we had no intention of depreciating the property in that quarter of Glasgow, by printing, as our compositors confessedly did, contagious houses for contiguous houses, and would undoubtedly have corrected the misprint on receipt of his letter; but, like many other mistakes of printers, the emendation would only have been an aggravation of the original offence.
When we printed fine-men for fire-men,-classic love for classic lore, --wind for wine, we beg to say, that they were merely current and common errors of the Press, and are by no means to be attributed to our wilful neglect. If we have transformed the origin of things, in a very profound dissertation, into the organ of things, we hope the unintentional mistake is not material. The author of the Ode to Chloe may be assured, that we had no malice against the object of his choice, by printing female vice for female voice,-or against himself in turning his beautiful simile into ridicule, by substituting nose for rose; and those very respectable individuals, who have the charge of the bodies of his Majesty's lieges in the prisons north of the Tweed, will please be convinced, that we had no intention of raising a laugh at their expence, by printing turkeys for turnkeys.
Finally, Gentle Reader, having thus done our endeavour to prevent the errors we have committed from being hurtful to ourselves or others, we take leave of thee for the present, trusting that thou wilt excuse, or correct with thy pen, any other mistakes which we may not have adverted to in our List of Errata. And we venture to indulge the hope, that all our readers, who may unintentionally have made aberrations from the path of duty, whether their faults have proceeded from the impetuosity of youth,-the confidence of manhood, or the imbecility of age, will (after our example) endeavour to amend them, as far as in their power, by a conscientious Errata, before the last page of the book of human life be finally closed, and their errors be regis tered, where the possibility of correction occurs no more.