When you work in publishing, you live in a state of constant anxiety that you might be responsible for letting a really nasty typo into the wild. I used to proofread telephone directories (oh the glamour) and can still recall the cold, knifing fear that ran through me when it appeared that we’d included the wrong mobile phone number in a paid advertisement for an erotic masseur. The masseur was OK about it, but the owner of the mobile phone, who was not an erotic masseur and had no interest in changing careers in that direction, threatened to sue.
Fortunately, the error was not mine, and I was able to obtain not only the correct phone number but also, subsequently and consequently, the pleasures of a highly relaxing massage.
I doubt the same soothing ministrations were available to English printer Robert Barker when he left out a fairly crucial appearance of the word ‘not’ in the 1631 edition of the King James Bible. Crucial because the ‘not’ was part of the Seventh Commandment in Exodus 20:14, which normally reads ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ — but in Barker’s edition became a commandment of a much more liberating nature.
Barker’s bible became known as the ‘Wicked Bible’. (Wicked as in devilish, not as in ‘Gnarly dude, thanks for the God-sanctioned sex-action’.) Barker wasn’t sued, but he was fined — something like £300, which pretty much destroyed him.
He did, however, manage to squeeze in several weeks of Bible-approved fornicatin’ before a replacement edition was printed.