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Intentional Typos to Boost My Ego?

April 9th, 2007 · No Comments

In the Preface to the Bibliography of American Literature(BAL) compiled by Jacob Blanck, he says:

“I am told that Chinese printers have a tradition which obliges them to introduce into their work a sprinkling of intentional errors; the reason for this curious action is to provide the careful reader with that sense of superiority which follows discovery of another man’s typographical lapse. We all know that strange pleasure; and while I would not rob you of such harmless delight it is nevertheless my sincere hope that no one will leave this Bibliography of American Literature with a violent attack of superiority complex.”

Wow! I wonder if this is another incident of someone using the “Chinese” as a vehicle for their imagination, like the old Chinese curse thingy.

However, it is interesting. I have always taken perverse pleasure in underlining mistakes in the books I read, as well as observing typesetting errors, like a top margin that varies in height from left to right. That a printer would intentionally introduce typos to make me feel smarter was beyond me!

I learnt that in the olden days, dictonaries, maps and authors used to intentionally misspell things, or even typeset some letters upside down to catch pirates. Copyright piracy, that is.