Thou Shalt Not Forget the Not
January 9, 2016 12:52 PM   Subscribe

The Risky Business of Bible Translation. Last month, a highly unusual Bible sold at auction for a whopping $47,311. From its exterior, the book looks rather unassuming: It lacks a general title. It contains only two colors of ink — black and red. Its pages are jagged and frayed, as if cut with a hacksaw. Yet deep inside this 1631 copy of the King James Version, nestled in the Ten Commandments, lies what is widely considered to be the worst typographical error ever made in a Bible.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, who’d been disgraced and criticized as a result of the typo, was furious, and delivered what is surely one of the earliest and most passionate rants about grammar in history:

'I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.'"
posted by storybored (62 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Remember Sabbath, and to keep it wholly"
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:57 PM on January 9, 2016


The Archbishop of Canterbury, who’d been disgraced and criticized as a result of the typo, was furious, and delivered what is surely one of the earliest and most passionate rants about grammar in history:

“I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.”
What we and the Reverend Primate should take away from this is not a "kids today" rant but rather that even the most closely reproduced and minutely scrutinized print job might still wind up with an error.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:00 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


And that header pic made me shout-laugh. That is just too perfect a "typo".
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Wicked Bible crops up in Good Omens, as Aziraphale is a collector of bibles with similar errors, and it mentions a few others, some real and some not. I was most disappointed to find out that the "Buggere Alle Thys Bible" doesn't actually exist
posted by Vortisaur at 1:01 PM on January 9, 2016 [23 favorites]


WELL IF YOU SAY SO ♪ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:02 PM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is great.
posted by limeonaire at 1:05 PM on January 9, 2016


Nearly a year passed before the Bishop of London discovered the typo and brought it to the attention of the king.

Not even a five minute edit window could have saved him.
posted by TedW at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Although, sadly, the Buggre All This Bible is not real, an eponymous cologne is.

I wonder what believers in the King James Only Movement would make of all this.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


So you're telling me this now? After 21+ years of faithful monogamous marriage?
posted by double block and bleed at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blessed are the cheesemakers...
posted by Thorzdad at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ah, and reading TFA, the professional sabotage theory has been floated. Which seems likely. I mean it's not some tedious list of begats or dietary prescriptions; it's the ten effin commandments.

I wonder if the saboteurs had a brainstorm sesh on this one. "Thou shalt not trill? No, too believable. Honor thy father and butter? No ... OH! I got it! Smythe, hand me them pliers."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thou shalt not Krull
posted by rhizome at 1:18 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything .. oh fuck, it goes on, but please love me and don't love anyone else, m'kay? Or smiting."
posted by Dumsnill at 1:24 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I have a very cunning plan."
posted by Flashman at 1:25 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


There are a ton of these and some of them are just fantastic. My favorite is "The Blasphemous Comma," which takes a passage that was supposed to be "And there were also two others, malefactors" (referring to the thieves crucified with Jesus) and renders it as "And there were also two other malefactors."
posted by ostro at 1:26 PM on January 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


“It was the best of times it was the blurst of times...”
posted by Fizz at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's just taking "love thy neighbor as thyself" to its logical conclusion.
posted by delfin at 1:39 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


“It was the best of times it was the blurst of times..."

And so it was that a small English town convicted a thousand chain-smoking monkeys of heresy.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Lions Bible", from 1804: 1 Kings 8:19 reads "thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions", rather than "loins".

"Owl Bible", from 1944: "Owl" replaces "own", making 1 Peter 3:5 read, "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their owl husbands."

OWL HUSBANDS
posted by BungaDunga at 2:07 PM on January 9, 2016 [64 favorites]


The husbands of their owls or their husbands who are owls?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:13 PM on January 9, 2016


Owl husbands don't need your labels, man.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 2:38 PM on January 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


The husbands of their owls or their husbands who are owls?

Well that depends a bit on what denomination you are. Owls are divided into two families: the true owls or typical owls, Strigidae; and the barn-owls, Tytonidae. Both believe in communion but there are slight differences owing to a long-standing schism.

Strigidaests allow the baptism of owlets, youth, and full-grown owls. But Tytonidaeists perform baptism only to confessing owlets who regurgitate with a sanctioned Bishop owl present.
posted by Fizz at 2:41 PM on January 9, 2016 [42 favorites]


> What we and the Reverend Primate should take away from this is not a "kids today" rant but rather that even the most closely reproduced and minutely scrutinized print job might still wind up with an error.

No, no, what we should take away from this is both a "kids today" rant and that even the most closely reproduced and minutely scrutinized print job might still wind up with an error. True story: when I worked as a proofreader several decades ago, I carried around with me a Xerox of a whole bunch of typos in books that had been proofread to within an inch of their lives (Bibles, Oxford Classical Texts, dictionaries, and the like) so I could whip it out and show it to some asshole who was frothing about how not one error should be allowed to get through. (This was followed by my exposition about how sure, we could guarantee 100% accuracy... as long as they would give us as long as necessary for each job, say an hour per page. Good times!)
posted by languagehat at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


Heck, Mary being a young woman is "a scary change". Never mind that she gave birth to the son of God, it's all about whether or not she had sex that makes it scary. Women! Gotta make sure they know their place even when a god is at hand. Or especially, apparently. Was God a virgin? Jesus? We'll never know. But Mary! phew, that's gotta be spelled out for everyone otherwise it's scary.
posted by fraula at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you can't afford the $47,311, you can buy a copy of the Buggre Alle This Bible for $26.
posted by officer_fred at 3:04 PM on January 9, 2016


From an episode of Red Dwarf:

The Hoppists were primarily concerned with a particular verse from the New Testament. St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13 had been misprinted in a certain edition of the Bible. In their version, the verse read "And now these three remain: Faith, Hop and Charity. But the greatest of these is Hop".

The Hoppists took this literally and insisted that their followers spent every seventh day hopping. They would hop to church, hop through the service and then hop home again.

posted by A Robot Ninja at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


My all-time favorite from several years ago is The Portrait of Dorian Gray. On the front cover of an Oxford World's Classics edition. *headdesk*
posted by thomas j wise at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


> "...being in subjection to their owl husbands."

Damn Spell-Chucker! This wand is made of Peckerwood. Return it to Ollivander's immediately.
posted by cleroy at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2016


OWL HUSBANDS

is the name of my new twee haunto-folk band.
posted by acb at 4:28 PM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Saying that Tyndale "was burned at the stake, in part for his faulty Bible translations" is badly misstating the facts. Tyndale was killed on the express orders of Henry VIII, (IRONY ALERT - Henry was attempting to prove what a good Catholic he was) because the church did not approve of any translations into "common" tongues. Luther had such the first blow by producing a German bible and the church was desperately trying to maintain control.

Tyndale we somewhat fortunate, he was hanged before being burned at the stake, so he didn't suffer as badly as he might have.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2016


...he was hanged before being burned at the stake...

Was one of the other commandments printed as "Thou shalt kill."?
posted by LeLiLo at 5:08 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yea, though there be typos even in this most sacred of documents, I shall Trust in the Lord, and ever maintain my faith in the Hokey Spirit.
posted by sfenders at 5:12 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


PRINTER: What's this then?
TRANSLATOR: What?
PRINTER: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Sun.
TRANSLATOR: I wondered about that too. But later on he says "I am the light of the world" so it checks out.
PRINTER: Fine. *yells* SHIP IT!
posted by delfin at 5:19 PM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Nearly a year passed before the Bishop of London discovered the typo and brought it to the attention of the king.

Apparently, not many of these bishops were frequent bible readers.
posted by eriko at 5:19 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jesus leapt.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


"PRINTER: Fine. *yells* SHIP IT!"

(Walter Cronkite voice)

"And there you have it, a minor printing error led scholars to believe Amenhotep the Fourth was the the real baby Jesus...screw this Bill Paley, get back into the time Machine, I want my jet pack"
posted by clavdivs at 5:37 PM on January 9, 2016


"The Risky Business Of Netflix Bible Translation."
posted by Bob Regular at 5:38 PM on January 9, 2016


This wouldn't have happened if they had written their Bible in a safe language like Rust.
posted by indubitable at 6:02 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


At least 5 of these copies are buried away in museums and libraries across the U.S. and England (New York, Alabama, Texas, London, and Cambridge) and are rarely made available to the public.

Flames, flames, flames on the side of my face! So by your accounting, books in academic special collections libraries where any researcher can get access to them are "buried" and books that are auctioned off to anybody with $50K are "available to the public"?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:26 PM on January 9, 2016 [35 favorites]


The Hoppists were primarily concerned with a particular verse from the New Testament. St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13 had been misprinted in a certain edition of the Bible. In their version, the verse read "And now these three remain: Faith, Hop and Charity. But the greatest of these is Hop".

Sounds reasonable....

The Hoppists took this literally and insisted that their followers spent every seventh day hopping. They would hop to church, hop through the service and then hop home again.

HERETICS!
posted by MikeKD at 6:43 PM on January 9, 2016


Not only do you get to commit adultery, but you get to do it with a long S.
posted by anothermug at 6:57 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


THE OWL HUSBANDS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM
posted by desjardins at 7:23 PM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


That's my kind of bibel!
posted by Golem XIV at 7:58 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not only do you get to commit adultery, but you get to do it with a long S.

Is that a medial s in your pants, or are you just glad to ſee me?
posted by zippy at 8:18 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Owldultery?
posted by Existential Dread at 8:20 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


languagehat:...my exposition about how sure, we could guarantee 100% accuracy... as long as they would give us as long as necessary for each job, say an hour per page. Good times!

I'm annoyed that I no longer have that hardback copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage (2nd edition) with the upside-down binding.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:30 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why do I never live in the neighborhoods where there is actually a neighbor's spouse I would actually WANT to covet?
posted by Samizdata at 8:30 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


acb: OWL HUSBANDS

is the name of my new twee haunto-folk band.


If it was kind of a funk thing, you could do:

BAND: Who? Who?

LEAD SINGER: Ooh! Now hit me!

BAND: Who? Who?

LEAD SINGER: Give it to me!

BAND: Who? Who?

LEAD SINGER: Y'all say:

BAND: Who? Who?"

LEAD SINGER: [tips mic towards crowd]: Y'all say!

CROWD: Who? Who?

BAND + LEAD SINGER: OWL HUSBANDS!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:44 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Please allow me to introduce myself

Who? Who?

I'm a man of wealth and taste

Who? Who?
posted by eriko at 10:28 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Thou fhalt not fteale.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:11 AM on January 10, 2016


PRINTER: We're out of 'nots'.
PUBLISHER: What? Knots?
PRINTER: No, 'nots', as in 'thou shalt not... yadda yadda yadda'.
PUBLISHER: Bloody hell. How the hell does this happen? How do you run out of a word?
PRINTER: It's this bloody bible! Everything's forbidden! Can't do this, can't do that!
PUBLISHER: Okay okay... look maybe just leave the word out then. Use up all the nots you have then leave them out when you have to.
PRINTER: Leave it out? That reverses the entire meaning of the sentence!
PUBLISHER: Sure, right, right... so, what you do instead is leave the 'not' out, but put 'lol j/k' at the end of the sentence.
PRINTER: 'lol j/k'? What the hell does that even mean?
PUBLISHER: It's publishing jargon. It means the same as '/s' or 'HAMBURGER'.
PRINTER: ...
PUBLISHER: Trust me.
posted by um at 4:33 AM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Flames, flames, flames on the side of my face!

But Horace, aren't all library special collections basically laid out like the warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark, designed to keep precious books far away from the grubby hands of the unwashed public, and staffed by monkish librarians armed with cardigans, white gloves and Disapproving Stares?
posted by firechicago at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


monkish librarians armed with cardigans, white gloves and Disapproving Stares

No one wears white gloves to handle rare books anymore; but librarians always have a clean pair in case they are summoned to tea with the Queen before she sends them on a secret mission.
posted by Hypatia at 5:11 AM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


monkish librarians armed with cardigans, white gloves and Disapproving Stares

You are thinking of "savage librarians armed with teeth, claws, and sanity-eroding Classification Auras. This isn't Nightvale.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:42 AM on January 10, 2016


Nearly a year passed before the Bishop of London discovered the typo and brought it to the attention of the king.

Apparently, not many of these bishops were frequent bible readers.


To be fair, it was in the Ten Commandments. One would hope that a bishop would not have to review that section frequently.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:07 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


subjection to their owl husbands.

It's when the owl husbands are commanded to commit adultery that the real fun starts . . .
posted by flug at 8:05 AM on January 10, 2016


From the editor of the Bishop's handbook: Not celibate, celebrate.
posted by mule98J at 10:05 AM on January 10, 2016


The Owl Bible typo is absolutely incredible.
posted by iffthen at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2016


Since World War II, only 5 copies have been sold, ranging in price from $240 (1979) to $89,500 (2010).
I'm VERY keen to learn about the lucky buyer (and the unlucky seller ) of that $240 copy
posted by malpractice at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2016


"i bring not peace but a fnord."
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2016


But Horace, aren't all library special collections basically laid out like the warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark, designed to keep precious books far away from the grubby hands of the unwashed public, and staffed by monkish librarians armed with cardigans, white gloves and Disapproving Stares?

I mean… yeah, basically, now that you mention it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:53 PM on January 10, 2016


I prefer to imagine wee, impish demons and devils cavorting across lines of type tossing out words and commas and smudging ink with their wee demonic fingers. or as Barry Champlain said in "Talk Radio" - "Sticks and stones can break your bones but words cause permanent damage"
posted by Mr.Pointy at 6:49 AM on January 12, 2016


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