Nobody’s Perfect – Eight Classic Book Mistakes

January 10, 2013

It’s true that nobody’s perfect. But there’s an undeniable guilty pleasure in spotting a typo while reading a book. In early prints, the presence of typos and continuity errors are much more likely. Usually by the second, third, or paperback printing, all the errors have been flushed out. So while you’re editing your own work, take solace in the fact that publishers and authors do make mistakes from time to time. Here we’ve listed a few of our favorites.

The 1631 King James version of the Holy Bible clearly states in Exodus 20:14, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Gulp.

How can Ron and Lavender be in a ‘prominent corner’ of the Common Room when in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the room is described as circular? (To J.K. Rowling’s credit, she was incredibly prolific with the Harry Potter books, and in later copies was reluctant to use editing. Unfortunately, the popularity of the series has resulted in forum after forum of continuity errors in the books.)

In this version of HP Lovecraft’s The Fiction, a passage incorrectly states, “…our vessel was made a legitimate prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all the fairness and consideration due us as navel prisoners.”

In The Story of Dr. Doolittle, among the monkeys and apes waiting in Africa to be cured by the doctor, orang-utans are mentioned. But orang-utans are not native to Africa, and it is highly unlikely that they might have crossed the Indian Ocean all the way from Borneo.

In the first edition of this anthology by many popular writers, there are several typos. In “Bluebeard in Ireland” by John Updike, a sentence incorrectly reads, “I’ll loose my balance.” While later, in “Psyche’s Dark Night” by Francesca Lia Block, a stray period makes its way into a sentence. “… then he was awake and she was telling him he didn’t love her enough. and then, that she didn’t want to see him anymore.”

In the popular Hunger Games trilogy, the first edition, second hardback printing incorrectly states on page 117, “Well, you better learn fast. You’ve got about as much charm as a dead slug,” say Haymitch.”

At the start of Part 6 in Stephen King’s popular book-to-movie adaptation, when the men let Percy out of the closet, they take the tape off his mouth and he starts to rub his lips. The problem being, a few sentences later, Percy is still in the straight jacket.

In Cormac McCarthy’s first print, first edition of The Road, a beach is innocently mistaken for a bench. 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.”

Do you have any of your own favorite continuity errors or typos? Let us know in the comments. 


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