Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Bad books

This month in Special Collections we focus on the production and printing of ‘the book’, and in particular the errors which are often in evidence. Indeed, the history of the early printed book (1450-1850) is one riddled with errors and imperfection. Rather than hiding them away, the book world alighted upon such errors as a means of discourse and collaboration between reader and writer, and ensured a fluidity of the editorial process. Errors were inevitable, and this gave rise to the insertion of errata lists or errata slips into a book after printing.
Ex.: Veterum epistolarvm Hibernicarvm sylloge / James Ussher. Dublin : Officinâ Typographicâ Societatis Bibliopolarum, 1632

The acknowledgement of instances of imperfection hints at both the fallibility of the printing/ editorial process and at attempts to improve it.
A young Isaac Newton (1642-1727) combed through the leaves of this tome on Archimedean mathematics at the request of its editor Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) and produced a lengthy list of errors:
Ex: Archimedis opera. Londini : Excudebat Guil. Godbid, vœneunt apud Rob. Scott, in vico Little Britain, 1675.

If you would like to view the exhibition or consult any of the items mentioned, please contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Research Building at specialcollections@nuigalway.ie.
The spotlight exhibition can also be viewed in its entirety on the digital display wall in the Hardiman Foyer during the month of November.

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