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Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History

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A funny and entertaining history of printed books as told through absurd moments in the lives of authors and printers, collected by television’s favorite rare-book expert from HISTORY’s hit series Pawn Stars. Since the Gutenberg Bible first went on sale in 1455, printing has been viewed as one of the highest achievements of human innovation. But the march of progress hasn’t A funny and entertaining history of printed books as told through absurd moments in the lives of authors and printers, collected by television’s favorite rare-book expert from HISTORY’s hit series Pawn Stars. Since the Gutenberg Bible first went on sale in 1455, printing has been viewed as one of the highest achievements of human innovation. But the march of progress hasn’t been smooth; downright bizarre is more like it. Printer’s Error chronicles some of the strangest and most humorous episodes in the history of Western printing, and makes clear that we’ve succeeded despite ourselves. Rare-book expert Rebecca Romney and author J. P. Romney take us from monasteries and museums to auction houses and libraries to introduce curious episodes in the history of print that have had a profound impact on our world. Take, for example, the Gutenberg Bible. While the book is regarded as the first printed work in the Western world, Gutenberg’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on it. Today, Johannes Gutenberg is recognized as the father of Western printing. But for the first few hundred years after the invention of the printing press, no one knew who printed the first book. This long-standing mystery took researchers down a labyrinth of ancient archives and libraries, and unearthed surprising details, such as the fact that Gutenberg’s financier sued him, repossessed his printing equipment, and started his own printing business afterward. Eventually the first printed book was tracked to the library of Cardinal Mazarin in France, and Gutenberg’s forty-two-line Bible was finally credited to him, thus ensuring Gutenberg’s name would be remembered by middle-school students worldwide.


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A funny and entertaining history of printed books as told through absurd moments in the lives of authors and printers, collected by television’s favorite rare-book expert from HISTORY’s hit series Pawn Stars. Since the Gutenberg Bible first went on sale in 1455, printing has been viewed as one of the highest achievements of human innovation. But the march of progress hasn’t A funny and entertaining history of printed books as told through absurd moments in the lives of authors and printers, collected by television’s favorite rare-book expert from HISTORY’s hit series Pawn Stars. Since the Gutenberg Bible first went on sale in 1455, printing has been viewed as one of the highest achievements of human innovation. But the march of progress hasn’t been smooth; downright bizarre is more like it. Printer’s Error chronicles some of the strangest and most humorous episodes in the history of Western printing, and makes clear that we’ve succeeded despite ourselves. Rare-book expert Rebecca Romney and author J. P. Romney take us from monasteries and museums to auction houses and libraries to introduce curious episodes in the history of print that have had a profound impact on our world. Take, for example, the Gutenberg Bible. While the book is regarded as the first printed work in the Western world, Gutenberg’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on it. Today, Johannes Gutenberg is recognized as the father of Western printing. But for the first few hundred years after the invention of the printing press, no one knew who printed the first book. This long-standing mystery took researchers down a labyrinth of ancient archives and libraries, and unearthed surprising details, such as the fact that Gutenberg’s financier sued him, repossessed his printing equipment, and started his own printing business afterward. Eventually the first printed book was tracked to the library of Cardinal Mazarin in France, and Gutenberg’s forty-two-line Bible was finally credited to him, thus ensuring Gutenberg’s name would be remembered by middle-school students worldwide.

30 review for Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Lovett

    I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this forthcoming gem. A delightful romp through the history of printing. I thought I knew a lot about books but I found out all kinds of interesting tidbits and laughed out loud at the same time. Great fun and highly informative and interesting.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. This work of non-fiction shares selected historical tales from the world of publishing. Although printing is viewed as a prime example of human innovation, it has also been at the center of controversy, mishaps, and strange events since it first came on the scene. Authors J.P. and Rebecca Romney highlight just a few of these stories throughout history in this book. Important figures in the history of publishing covered in this I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from HarperCollins. This work of non-fiction shares selected historical tales from the world of publishing. Although printing is viewed as a prime example of human innovation, it has also been at the center of controversy, mishaps, and strange events since it first came on the scene. Authors J.P. and Rebecca Romney highlight just a few of these stories throughout history in this book. Important figures in the history of publishing covered in this book include Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Charles Dickens. This book shared some interesting tidbits from history. For instance, although Shakespeare's name was more commonly spelled "Shakspeare," "Shakspere," or "Shakspe" during his lifetime, the process of printing ultimately led to it taking the form recognized today: "When typesetting Shakespeare's name, specifically in italics, the k and the antiquated long s overlapped. Under the mechanical pressures of thee printing press, the two letters tended to chip or break. In order to resolve this issue, compositors slapped an e between the letters" (116). Another interesting fact: indentured servants got their name from the indentured contracts that were printed in pairs on a single sheet of paper, "then cut down the middle to produce two copies. The middle cut was serrated, thereby creating a unique edge of indentations used to verify that the contract of the apprentice matched the contract of his master" (139-140). As the book's stories progress through time, it was interesting to see the evolution of publishing and writing, from the early lack of recognition of writer as a profession to the struggle of best selling authors to pay their bills because of the lack of copyright laws that meant published authors saw little of the proceeds from their work. I found the writing style in this grating at times. The authors attempt to use an informal, conversational narrative style that I assume is meant to be comical and amusing but I mostly found aggravating. For example, they express their frustration with Gutenberg's illusive connection to his invention by saying, "All this could have been avoided if Gutenberg had just printed his motherfucking name on his motherfucking books. (The authors apologize for using expletives in connection with the Gutenberg Bible. It's a pretty accurate representation of our scholarly frustration, though. Also, if Samuel L. Jackson had been a Gutenberg historian, it's what he would have said) (47). This sort of banter probably translates better on television, but it falls flat in printed form. Additionally, I found the scattered nature of the history frustrating. Rather than a comprehensive history about a single, cohesive topic, the book is a collection of disparate stories from history, with the only common thread being that the stories are all about printing. The authors address this in the conclusion, citing the use of the word "stories" in the subtitle is an intentional choice and argue that this is "a work that attempts to highlight a few events (so very few) from half a millennium of history, and knowing firsthand the ocean of material that could never be included" (283). However, I found the connection between the stories tenuous as best, as each chapter travels through time and distance and focuses on wildly different aspects of writing and publishing. I would have preferred either a more cohesive theme or a more comprehensive, in-depth look at a smaller topic related to publishing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Very good look at some critical moments in the history of print and printing. The authors get a bit too cute at points, and this is a book that probably won't age well due to the humor, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. FYI, the book text ends at page 284. The endnotes run from pages 287-338 and the index from 339-353. Very good look at some critical moments in the history of print and printing. The authors get a bit too cute at points, and this is a book that probably won't age well due to the humor, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. FYI, the book text ends at page 284. The endnotes run from pages 287-338 and the index from 339-353.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Scene: Conference room at HarperCollins Dramatis Personae: 1) Author (flip-flops, cutoff shorts, tee-shirt with pictures of dancing unicorns) 2) Agent (paisley kaftan, love beads, oversize circular sunglasses, floppy hat) 3) Publisher’s Representative: (professional hair, tasteful accessories, weary expression from having dealt with too many authors and agents) Rep: I have read your book proposal, and it is – interesting. Ms. Romney, where is your co-author, J.P. Romney? Author: Oh, that’s my cat. Scene: Conference room at HarperCollins Dramatis Personae: 1) Author (flip-flops, cutoff shorts, tee-shirt with pictures of dancing unicorns) 2) Agent (paisley kaftan, love beads, oversize circular sunglasses, floppy hat) 3) Publisher’s Representative: (professional hair, tasteful accessories, weary expression from having dealt with too many authors and agents) Rep: I have read your book proposal, and it is – interesting. Ms. Romney, where is your co-author, J.P. Romney? Author: Oh, that’s my cat. Or my husband. Or something. Whatever. Rep: I see. And why do you want to write an “irreverent” history of book publishing? Author: Because it will be RAD! It will be so AWESOME. Those readers will be ROFL. We’ll show them that book publishing can be COOL! Rep: (Pause) Book publishing will never be cool. People who buy books about books are not the kind of people who giggle over cultural references to Beyoncé or iPhones. People who find those things funny don’t read books at all. And do you really want to make a joke about a woman with the unfortunate name of Fanny Blood? Author: (giggles uncontrollably) Rep: (Glances at Agent, who is looking down, not meeting her eyes.) And you, you’re onboard with this? You think it will sell? Agent (shifting uncomfortably): I, I guess so. Sure, it’s a different approach, but she really has her heart set on it. Author: FOOKIN-A!!! Agent: The parts you’re referring to don’t occur that often – well okay, they actually do, but there is still a lot of good history and interesting characters in the book. Most readers won’t complain about it. Rep: (heavy sigh, reflecting that she is waiting on an offer for a better job, and will probably be gone before this book sees the light of day) Okay, we’ll give it a try. Sometimes off the wall approaches work. Author: (gets up and starts dancing) Yes, YES! It will be great, it will be HIP. Everyone will be talking about it. Rep: Stop. Please, just stop. (fade to black) To be honest, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. The first words of the introduction are, in capital letters, “This is an irreverent history,” and there were times when the gonzo style actually made me smile. Still, it is such an odd approach. Based on the title I had assumed it would be a book of anecdotes, such as the Wicked Bible from 1631 and other famous incidents of insertions, omissions, and typos. It is actually better than that, and much more interesting. Most of the chapters aren’t about errors at all, but significant incidents in the history of books, including William Tyndale’s epic battle with Thomas More over the printing of a Bible in English; Mercator’s maps; how Shakespeare became The Bard; William Blake, Benjamin Franklin, and more. In each chapter the authors provide historical details which bring the incidents to life. For instance, the main objections to Tyndale’s Bible were over how he translated three words from the original Greek: congregation, elder, and love. In each case his choices, while defensible from historical and linguistic traditions, undermined the Catholic church’s mandate for leadership of the Christian world. Earning the undying enmity of Thomas More, he was branded a heretic and hunted until finally being betrayed and burned at the stake. His translation would nevertheless come to underpin the King James Bible. Why do we spell Shakespeare with an e between the k and the s? It is not in any of his six known authentic signatures. It was inserted by printers. When printing his name, especially in italics, the k and the elongated s in use at that time could come into contact, and when the press was screwed down the metal type could chip or break. Inserting an e between the letters added space and solved that problem, and now, if you try to write his name without it your spell checker will cast rude aspersions on your literacy. How did Gerardus Mercator become the most famous mapmaker in the world, and create the Mercator projection still sometimes used today? How did William Blake change printing forever, and why do we do him a disservice when we read his words outside their original print settings? How did Ben Franklin go from being a poor beleaguered apprentice to the dominant printer in New England, franchising print shops as far away as the Caribbean, and becoming wealthy enough to retire at 42? These are all interesting stories. The authors’ weird sense of humor does not detract from them, but then, it doesn’t really add much either. There were times when I wondered if they were hopped up on methamphetamines, or at least too much black coffee. Futue te ipsum? Really? No, I’m not going to translate it, and yes, it means just what you think. So, I enjoyed this book. I picked it up as an impulse purchase, and, excluding notes and index, it is only about 250 pages, so it is a quick read. There is good history in it, and it has my recommendation, but the authors’ friends really should consider an intervention.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nita Kohli

    I loved it and enjoyed this book a lot! A must read for everyone who loves books, history and humour.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A wonderful, light hearted popular history about the invention and effects of the printing press. It includes the mysterious life of Gutenberg, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens,and many, many other titans. Very interesting stuff. Possibly the best history book I've read this year! I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A wonderful, light hearted popular history about the invention and effects of the printing press. It includes the mysterious life of Gutenberg, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens,and many, many other titans. Very interesting stuff. Possibly the best history book I've read this year!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zandt McCue

    How do you talk about history, the history of books nonetheless, and make it sound interesting? If your answer was to get someone that is considered the antique book expert with the most pop-culture appeal and pair them with...someone else who wrote a young adult novel once...then you'd come to the conclusion of husband and wife duo Rebecca Romney and her lesser-known husband J.P. Not to discredit J.P. of course. The reason I was so interested in this book was that when Googling Rebecca I had se How do you talk about history, the history of books nonetheless, and make it sound interesting? If your answer was to get someone that is considered the antique book expert with the most pop-culture appeal and pair them with...someone else who wrote a young adult novel once...then you'd come to the conclusion of husband and wife duo Rebecca Romney and her lesser-known husband J.P. Not to discredit J.P. of course. The reason I was so interested in this book was that when Googling Rebecca I had seen that she had written something and as she's witty and fascinating on screen I thought this would be astounding. It is. Although I do have an issue with the lack of information I could dig up on the book itself. It wasn't until I had it in my hands that I realized J.P. was even involved with it. Everything I'd seen online mentioned Rebecca wrote a book. Nothing more. Once I started to look up who J.P. was and followed the trail I found more references to him in relation to Printer's Error. This may seem unimportant to you but it does make a world of a difference. Books written by multiple authors that are one piece and not separate shorter stories lead me to question which author wrote which bit. Some writing styles can flow together seamlessly. Other times you can pick up who wrote what relatively easily. Good Omens is an obvious example where I can tell what Terry Pratchett wrote and what Neil Gaiman came up with. That also has to do with how that specific book was written. I did manage to find one reference, either an article or a question that was asked of Rebecca on a social network. I cannot remember which offhand. She stated that the book was worked on equally with both of them penning the chapters. J.P. would write the biographical information and she would handle the technical aspects. Truthfully, I feel as if the bulk of the book was written by J.P. based on what I've seen from Rebecca both in how she acts on T.V. as well as how she speaks on Social Media. The focus on her may be a good way to sell the book and as a husband and wife team, she easily could have guided the whole thing BUT from how it is written there is a clear .... immaturity. This is not a boring book. It is a book filled with historical information but filled with present-day references. It doesn't sound like you are in a lecture as much as in a coffee shop listening to a guy with a man-bun rattling off trivia while holding bubble tea in one hand and an FYE bag full of Funko Pop figures in the other. A lot of people have voiced their disdain for the language of this book. Look, I am a 32-year-old male brought up in the digital age. I have a cruel sense of humor and I bathe in immaturity. I was fine with all of it. It made the book more appealing to me. I'm completely willing to read a book that is serious and full of historical fact after historical fact. That wouldn't put me off. I was admittedly surprised when the jokes started to appear and the lightheartedness of the conversation took over. It was much appreciated though. "All this could have been avoided if Gutenberg had just printed his motherfucking name on his motherfucking books." The people discussed within the 12 chapters are Gutenberg, Johannes Trithemius, Thomas More, Shakespeare, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charles Dickens, Mercator, Benjamin Franklin. and more. The above quote comes from the Gutenberg section which was largely about how nobody originally credited him for the invention of the printing press. This is the type of dialogue you will come across and I understand if people are put off by profanity and yes, the book tends to skew towards a younger audience who would understand the side comments the authors' throw-in. If I have my facts correct, Trithemius is a monk who spoke out against the printing press in favor of handwritten manuscripts and it is in one of his own printed works, because he is a man of contradictions, that he points out Gutenberg as the original inventor. Gutenberg, if you couldn't tell, didn't exactly flaunt his work. It took a much longer time to find out that he published a specific version of the bible and which exact version that was. The book covers a select number of topics and is a very short read. Nevertheless, I am embarrassed to say that it took me two weeks to read what amounts to under 300 pages of the actual book with the rest being notes, an index, and acknowledgments. And this comes as I found it quite enjoyable. I cannot explain what happened but I did make it through to the end. Unharmed, and a little bit wiser. Some of the stories I already knew from other things I've seen such as the tale of Charles Dickens visiting America, hating it, and complaining about not getting compensated fairly because Americans liked to pirate foreign books. Newsflash: Nothing has changed. Just this morning I was talking with an author about his book sales and not two minutes later discovered his recently published novel on one of the many sites that the internet will never be rid of. Back to the book, Benjamin Franklin's chapter on how he made all of his money and started a massive printing empire in America was also common knowledge to me. In the very beginning, there's a great story about a forger named Marino Massimo De Caro who himself was a rare book dealer. He managed to fake a copy of Galileo's work and sell it for a large amount of money AFTER scholars looked over it and confirmed the book was genuine. It took a Professor from the University of Georgia to realize later on that portions of this book did not add up. The scholars had to admit their fault to much embarrassment and De Caro was arrested. It's a high stake, thrilling, and comical intro to a book that would venture into religious topics shortly after. Anything religious tends to divert my attention elsewhere. Luckily, even those stories are worthwhile and I'd even say fun. William Blake's section was the weirdest. From things like God staring at him through a window when he was a boy to angels sitting in trees to communicating with his deceased brother and figuring out how to perfect Relief Etching and Engraving. He also claimed to be able to see the ghost of a flea and drew it as a 6-foot demon carrying a bowl of blood. What? Yes. These are the odd types of things I've found out in this book. It is a good starting point for someone who really wants to learn about the history of books, printing, and some of the important aspects of the printed world. From it's invention to how it is advertised and became the household commodity we know it as today. We learn about how literature ties in and clashes with religion. We follow people persecuted and imprisoned for printing the wrong things and spreading the wrong information. We learn technical details about bookbinding and how the printing of maps changed rapidly as more details about or world became known. There is something in this for everyone. The sad part for me is now I have to hunt down other resources to learn more about the history of literature and printing as it is a topic I am interested in and I know most of what I'll find won't be as carefree as this. I hope at some point there is a followup. More Irrelevant Stories from Book History sounds like a great title.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    This book dives into several interesting and not well-known facets of the history of book publishing with an emphasis on the printing press through history. Each chapter takes a thorough look at a particular aspect, examining the hidden background behind what many readers take for granted. They are delivered in chronological order, thus details about Gutenberg’s press lead us off, eventually ending with an examination into how marketing in the 1920s and 30s completely changed the way book buyers This book dives into several interesting and not well-known facets of the history of book publishing with an emphasis on the printing press through history. Each chapter takes a thorough look at a particular aspect, examining the hidden background behind what many readers take for granted. They are delivered in chronological order, thus details about Gutenberg’s press lead us off, eventually ending with an examination into how marketing in the 1920s and 30s completely changed the way book buyers behaved. In between are some fascinating features on Ben Franklin and his publishing empire, book thefts, Charles Dickens' attempts to establish international copyright laws, the real story behind Shakespeare’s altered plays (and the spelling of his name), and so forth. The authors write with authority backed by plenty of research as evidenced by over 60 pages of detailed bibliography. But they also take pains to insert a fair bit of modern humor into each paragraph. Mostly, this is welcome, but it is occasionally off-putting, especially when I disagreed with their opinions on what makes a “good” book. Clearly, the authors appreciate the high-value classics and enjoy tossing around examples from James Joyce or William Blake at the expense of modern best sellers or genre fiction. For me, that added an unwelcome air of snootiness that occasionally spoiled the broth. But only occasionally. Most of the subjects were well done and interesting and I certainly learned quite a bit about the history of book printing, publishing, marketing, etc. As the authors admit, they only touch on a few of the potential subjects so it would seem a second such book might soon appear.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patrick.G.P

    Printer’s Error sets out to show us some interesting, forgotten moments in book history, from Gutenberg’s origins to pseudo-professional forgeries. There are some really interesting subjects in here, such as the life of William Blake and the story behind the Doves font being destroyed and retrieved years later. But the prose and style in which Printer’s Error is written are obnoxious and painful to read, as it seems that the Romney’s were desperately trying to be hip and modern in their use of l Printer’s Error sets out to show us some interesting, forgotten moments in book history, from Gutenberg’s origins to pseudo-professional forgeries. There are some really interesting subjects in here, such as the life of William Blake and the story behind the Doves font being destroyed and retrieved years later. But the prose and style in which Printer’s Error is written are obnoxious and painful to read, as it seems that the Romney’s were desperately trying to be hip and modern in their use of language and descriptions. If I’m interested in reading about the printing press of the 1700s why would you compare a rare manuscript with an iPhone 6? Why would you include Simpsons references? This makes me feel like an idiot while reading an otherwise fascination account of history. Here are some of the more stupid moments from the last chapter Blifter: “The Industrial Age brought the world a flood of books. Yay! But that wasn’t actually a good thing. No! At least not yet. Um…Ambivalence?” And maybe the worst example from Chapter 4: "For the subject of cartographical debut, Mercator hedged his bets and started with the one place that had been mapped in the West more than any other: Europe. Just kidding it was Palestine. Because the Bible.” The book has too many of these moments to even bother posting any more examples, more often than not it reads like a pair of 14-year-old girls did their version of printing history. Absolutely terrible, the only thing I got out of this was a couple of fascinating subjects that I will pursue in other books.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Adams

    Alright, I haven't finished this book in its entirety, and it is kind of clunky. However, I find myself talking about this book all of the time. Great bathroom reading, and fun for lovers of biblio-trivia. Alright, I haven't finished this book in its entirety, and it is kind of clunky. However, I find myself talking about this book all of the time. Great bathroom reading, and fun for lovers of biblio-trivia.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Theodore Cohen

    I always perked up when Rebecca Romney appeared on Pawn Stars, so it was with great enthusiasm that I looked forward to reading this book. Alas, it was a disappointment. If it were not for the abundance of superb information regarding the many historical figures discussed, I would have lowered my score to 2 Stars, that's how poorly written it was. The problem, basically, is that the authors, for whatever reason, thought the injection of humor, puns, and the like was necessary to make the subject I always perked up when Rebecca Romney appeared on Pawn Stars, so it was with great enthusiasm that I looked forward to reading this book. Alas, it was a disappointment. If it were not for the abundance of superb information regarding the many historical figures discussed, I would have lowered my score to 2 Stars, that's how poorly written it was. The problem, basically, is that the authors, for whatever reason, thought the injection of humor, puns, and the like was necessary to make the subject matter and their presentation palatable to the reader. Instead, what they did was turn this volume into an opaque jungle of verbiage through which their poor readers must trudge, page after page, constantly being distracted at every turn (every step?) by some "cute" comment or observation. After a while, one loses completely the thread of what is being said, and if truly interested, is forced to back up and reread whole passages a second (or third) time to extract the essence of the presentation. In the end, everything is a jumble and you're left, basically, with the view from 40,000 feet. The facts are there for those interested in a specific subject. But the work required on the part of the reader is huge, and in the end, the entire experience leaves you wishing they had hired a good editor to whittle everything down to its essence.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aisling

    Laugh out loud funny....I know weird, right? I had no idea this book would be so incredibly entertaining. I expected it to be educational and about an interesting topic. I did not expect to learn things about William Blake (this was my area of Eng Lit--my major for crying out loud!) or literally all the others who were profiled in this book. I am not familiar with the t.v. show the authors guest appear on but I am highly impressed with the research that went into this book. I read large bits of t Laugh out loud funny....I know weird, right? I had no idea this book would be so incredibly entertaining. I expected it to be educational and about an interesting topic. I did not expect to learn things about William Blake (this was my area of Eng Lit--my major for crying out loud!) or literally all the others who were profiled in this book. I am not familiar with the t.v. show the authors guest appear on but I am highly impressed with the research that went into this book. I read large bits of this book out loud to family members and already have a list of people who will be borrowing the book. If you love books, or history, or humor you must read this book. A truly engaging mix of humor and well researched history. So happy I won this through Goodreads; this is my honest review. A must-read!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Hunt

    4.5 stars, maybe even 5...this was a delightful little find of a book! I grabbed it because the title was entertaining but wasn't sure if it would end up being a little boring. It was so not boring! The writers presented several (10 maybe?) chapters about various bits of book/writing/printing history and they did it in such a fun, funny, and interesting way. Definitely kept me (and my daughter) very entertained while learning a lot, as well. Topics include Charles Dickens and American copyright 4.5 stars, maybe even 5...this was a delightful little find of a book! I grabbed it because the title was entertaining but wasn't sure if it would end up being a little boring. It was so not boring! The writers presented several (10 maybe?) chapters about various bits of book/writing/printing history and they did it in such a fun, funny, and interesting way. Definitely kept me (and my daughter) very entertained while learning a lot, as well. Topics include Charles Dickens and American copyright laws, development of the printing press, rare book fraud, Ben Franklin, a fascinating story about a font (almost) lost to the ages, Gutenberg and Tyndale Bibles, and much more! Loved it!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence J

    1000 pages too short.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Printer's Error is pretty much exactly what it says on the cover, a series of interesting anecdotes about the printing business. The stories go from Gutenberg to mass market booksales in the 1920s, and are about legacies of rare books today and the weirdness of the publishing business. The figures alternate between the mainstream, Gutenberg and his nemesis the anti-printing monk Johannes Trithemius, Benjamin Franklin's creation of an American publishing empire, and advertising genius Edward Bern Printer's Error is pretty much exactly what it says on the cover, a series of interesting anecdotes about the printing business. The stories go from Gutenberg to mass market booksales in the 1920s, and are about legacies of rare books today and the weirdness of the publishing business. The figures alternate between the mainstream, Gutenberg and his nemesis the anti-printing monk Johannes Trithemius, Benjamin Franklin's creation of an American publishing empire, and advertising genius Edward Bernays, who made books cool to own. And some figures are more marginal-genius poet, engraver, and mystic William Blake, or T. J. Cobden-Sanderson of the 'Beautiful Books' movement, and his destruction of the famous 'Dove font'. The stories are interesting, but the writing style is atrocious. I don't watch Pawn Stars, so I don't know how much of this is Romney's voice, and if it works on TV, but every line has a joke, and the jokes bomb harder than the 8th Air Force. It's just groaner after groaner after groaner, like a third-tier Cracked.com article. There's a decent book in here, but it's buried under the textual equivalent of Miracle Whip. Gross.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I enjoyed it, it was interesting, but for some reason I just could not read it for longer than a few pages at a time. It took me three months to finish it!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy Poulter

    Very informative, interesting, AND funny. If I’d read it again, I give a book five stars. I’m giving this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I was reviewing the 000-099 (good old Dewey) area of the nonfiction section when I came across this little gem. The Romneys were right to add “irreverent” to the subtitle. Their asides and running commentary served to lighten up what could otherwise be a very dense subject indeed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    LillyBooks

    I enjoyed this book even though I feel like it was mis-titled. Only the introduction is about true printers' errors (those typos, misspellings, and other errors often found in first editions). Rather, the majority of the book is a collection of quirky and/or quaint stories about the printed word. Sometimes it was a little too nudge-nudge-wink-wink with the jokes, but I still found it fascinating. The chapter on Mary Wollstonecraft was especially enlightening, if for all the wrong reasons. I enjoyed this book even though I feel like it was mis-titled. Only the introduction is about true printers' errors (those typos, misspellings, and other errors often found in first editions). Rather, the majority of the book is a collection of quirky and/or quaint stories about the printed word. Sometimes it was a little too nudge-nudge-wink-wink with the jokes, but I still found it fascinating. The chapter on Mary Wollstonecraft was especially enlightening, if for all the wrong reasons.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    i did not get too far with this book as I only read the Introduction and the first chapter. The writing style completely annoyed me. The excessive amount of snarky comments are NOT funny and totally unnecessary. I guess the authors did this to make the information more palatable, but all it did was made me decide to stop reading the book. It seems as if they are trying to attract a much younger readership because the comments (mostly within parentheses) are juvenile. It's a real shame as there's i did not get too far with this book as I only read the Introduction and the first chapter. The writing style completely annoyed me. The excessive amount of snarky comments are NOT funny and totally unnecessary. I guess the authors did this to make the information more palatable, but all it did was made me decide to stop reading the book. It seems as if they are trying to attract a much younger readership because the comments (mostly within parentheses) are juvenile. It's a real shame as there's plenty of interesting information here. I actually found a mistake in the introduction (page xii) and I don't believe that it's a printer's error, but that instead nobody proofread it. "Modern collectors appear as amused by the error as the the eighteenth-century owners who went out of their way to save their copies for posterity." What could have been a good book was ruined. On the back flap, accomplished authors praised Printer's Error. I doubt that any of them even read it. Don't waste your time with this one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    Some of these chapters/stories are more interesting than others, but they're told (audiobook) in a humorous way that helps make even the less interesting ones bearable and the interesting ones enjoyable to listen to. Overall 3.7 (rounded 4) Some of these chapters/stories are more interesting than others, but they're told (audiobook) in a humorous way that helps make even the less interesting ones bearable and the interesting ones enjoyable to listen to. Overall 3.7 (rounded 4)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marty

    I would like to have heard more stories regarding error's but the over all book was of great interest to a point. I would like to have heard more stories regarding error's but the over all book was of great interest to a point.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Today's post is on Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by Rebecca Romney and J. P. Romney. It is 384 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is white with a printing press and an editor freaking out over the misprinted title. The intended reader is someone who is interested in book history and humorous stories. There is mild foul language, talk of sex, and talk of violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- Since the Gutenberg Bible Today's post is on Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by Rebecca Romney and J. P. Romney. It is 384 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is white with a printing press and an editor freaking out over the misprinted title. The intended reader is someone who is interested in book history and humorous stories. There is mild foul language, talk of sex, and talk of violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead. From the back of the book- Since the Gutenberg Bible first went on sale in 1455, printing has been viewed as one of the highest achievements of human innovation. But the march of progress hasn’t been smooth; downright bizarre is more like it. Printer’s Error chronicles some of the strangest and most humorous episodes in the history of Western printing, and makes clear that we’ve succeeded despite ourselves. Rare-book expert Rebecca Romney and author J. P. Romney take us from monasteries and museums to auction houses and libraries to introduce curious episodes in the history of print that have had a profound impact on our world. Take, for example, the Gutenberg Bible. While the book is regarded as the first printed work in the Western world, Gutenberg’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on it. Today, Johannes Gutenberg is recognized as the father of Western printing. But for the first few hundred years after the invention of the printing press, no one knew who printed the first book. This long-standing mystery took researchers down a labyrinth of ancient archives and libraries, and unearthed surprising details, such as the fact that Gutenberg’s financier sued him, repossessed his printing equipment, and started his own printing business afterward. Eventually the first printed book was tracked to the library of Cardinal Mazarin in France, and Gutenberg’s forty-two-line Bible was finally credited to him, thus ensuring Gutenberg’s name would be remembered by middle-school students worldwide. Review- A funny book but I think that some of the modern language will make it dated before it's time. In this book there are many different stories from the 600 odd years that the printing press has been in use. Everything from Ben Franklin making his fortune to the beginnings of the celebrity biography. The language I am talking is current pop culture and slang which does add humor to the events but at the same time, it is fitting and current but in five or ten years it will be outdated and this book with its great and interesting stories will be forgotten. The content itself is good and well written. I would like the Romney's to write more about their experiences in the rare book world with all its quirky characters. I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jason Braatz

    One of the best reads for a bibliophile! I read. A lot.. That puts me into a category of being a reclusive cat person too, I suppose, but there are other weirdo's like me out there, including the authors of this book, Rebecca Romney and J.P. Romney. As antiquarian booksellers, they are aquatinted with little-known stories about some of the best novels written since the printing press. Surprisingly, there was a lot in this book (in terms of anecdotes) that I didn't know. If you are looking for a cr One of the best reads for a bibliophile! I read. A lot.. That puts me into a category of being a reclusive cat person too, I suppose, but there are other weirdo's like me out there, including the authors of this book, Rebecca Romney and J.P. Romney. As antiquarian booksellers, they are aquatinted with little-known stories about some of the best novels written since the printing press. Surprisingly, there was a lot in this book (in terms of anecdotes) that I didn't know. If you are looking for a critical narrative of Milton or Twain, you won't find it here; this is a light read (breezy, very relaxing to the senses) and it's chock full of funny and sometimes downright hilarious information about the books we all love to read. If you have a bibliophile in the house, this makes a great gift for them. I am not sure that someone who isn't spending their free time reading (like I do) would enjoy the stories of Shakespeare's misspelled name or the fact that the Hamlet that we read today isn't his. Those who love writing and reading as a craft will be pleased to know that - unlike other creative endeavors like painting or recording music, authors get mulligans on their works. Mark Twain, with a great sense of humor, wasn't pleased when his printer carved a phallus into a plate for the first printing of one of his greatest works. Benefactors (like William Shakespeare and others) had their works essentially edited and written for them by proxy. It's what we - as readers - often suspect (like: "is this really the original work?") that the Romney's confirm here. To reiterate, this is a very fun read for a book-lover like myself, and a quick read as well. I finished it quickly not because it's short; it's quite interesting and ends up being an unexpected page turner.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John J Questore

    I first heard of Rebecca Romney when she appeared as a book expert on the TV show Pawn Stars. At the time, I thought to myself, “OK, the show is edited for content, so she probably looks at the book, goes home and then Googles as much information as possible. It wasn’t until I actually Googled Rebecca that I found out she’s the real deal. From that day forward, I have been a fan. So when I found out she wrote a book (and had signed copies available), I immediately got my hands on one. As an avid I first heard of Rebecca Romney when she appeared as a book expert on the TV show Pawn Stars. At the time, I thought to myself, “OK, the show is edited for content, so she probably looks at the book, goes home and then Googles as much information as possible. It wasn’t until I actually Googled Rebecca that I found out she’s the real deal. From that day forward, I have been a fan. So when I found out she wrote a book (and had signed copies available), I immediately got my hands on one. As an avid reader and bibliophile, this book was perfect. Using humor, and anecdotes, Rebecca takes us on a brief (sadly) history of the publishing industry – from the first printing press, to copyright issues, up to showing that the current debate about eBooks killing print is no different than people thinking the mass production of books was going to ruin the book binding industry. Is this book for everyone? Most certainly not. Only people with a true love of books or a love of history will appreciate this book. The average “reader” will find a lot of what is contained within these pages, dry and unrelatable. However, I loved it. My only problem with it was that it was too short. What I liked the best, was the chapter on Dickens and his fight for international copyright laws. If you even have the slightest interest in the history of the publishing industry, then check this one out.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brad Bell

    I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I’m a book nerd and I love book history and book stories so this book was already right up my alley when I heard about it a few years ago but I was unprepared for how funny and absorbing this book would be. Covering the beginning of the printing press to the lawsuits and deviant dealers of the creators of a now infamous type, this book has charm coming out the butt. Usually when you tell someone your reading a book about book history there’s a yawn already I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I’m a book nerd and I love book history and book stories so this book was already right up my alley when I heard about it a few years ago but I was unprepared for how funny and absorbing this book would be. Covering the beginning of the printing press to the lawsuits and deviant dealers of the creators of a now infamous type, this book has charm coming out the butt. Usually when you tell someone your reading a book about book history there’s a yawn already ready in their mouths but J.P and Rebecca Romney do a amazing job making these subjects both entertaining and informative so that when you finish a chapter you really are compelled to search out more books about these people and inventions that led to the world of books and reading we know now. Is the book always thrilling? No, sometimes it has to trudge through the boring facts in order to get to the good character stuff underneath but it’s worth the slow parts for the history lesson you get, especially because its history most people have never heard. This book is made for the book nerds out there, like the hardcore book nerds, printing and words and typeface nerds, which is a slimmer audience but if you have even a sliver of curiosity about these things this book is for you!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mehdi

    A delightful foray into some of the most exciting episodes in the history of the Book. Mr and Mrs. Romney bring joy, laughter and irreverence to a subject that - much to our chagrin - has too often been the exclusive domain of dour, austere, old white men. We learn much about luminaries like Johannes Gutenberg, William Blake, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens. But other less known - to your truly anyway - yet fascinating figures are also discussed: Occultist monk Trithemius, who A delightful foray into some of the most exciting episodes in the history of the Book. Mr and Mrs. Romney bring joy, laughter and irreverence to a subject that - much to our chagrin - has too often been the exclusive domain of dour, austere, old white men. We learn much about luminaries like Johannes Gutenberg, William Blake, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Dickens. But other less known - to your truly anyway - yet fascinating figures are also discussed: Occultist monk Trithemius, who entertained an ambivalent relationship to the printing press, is one of them. The style is really what makes this book shines, with hilarious modern-day comparisons and snarky comments peppering the text. My only quibble is around the tasteless-looking dust jacket and the crude way in which Rebecca and JP are presented to us. However, I also know these choices were made by the publisher, not our authors. A rather interesting twist, I would say, for a book that discusses authorship and the relationship between printers, publishers and writers to such great extent. But certainly not enough to change my opinion and preclude a 5-star rating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book would make an excellent show on PBS or the History Channel (if the History Channel could get back to making shows about, you know, history). Each chapter covers an entirely different aspect of books and book culture... from printing technology to copyright, from the importance of illustrations in a work's context to how an advertising campaign got America to read more. It can get a little muddled because there's just so many topics, but each chapter is fascinating on it's own. And the This book would make an excellent show on PBS or the History Channel (if the History Channel could get back to making shows about, you know, history). Each chapter covers an entirely different aspect of books and book culture... from printing technology to copyright, from the importance of illustrations in a work's context to how an advertising campaign got America to read more. It can get a little muddled because there's just so many topics, but each chapter is fascinating on it's own. And the material is presented in a fun, lively and most of all passionate way. The writing style reminds me a lot of Cracked... irreverent and rude, but knowledgeable. And it's obvious how much the authors love books and literature. I would definitely read another book by them, or watch a show by them. I listened to this as an audiobook, and I do have 2 caveats. The narrator (JP Romney) is great, but he can get to be a little much over long periods. And 2, the audiobook didn't come with any illustrations - which are often included in a separate PDF if you get an audiobook. And the chapter on William Blake relies heavily on them.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennybeast

    Full disclosure, I'm a printer and book artist with a particular interest in early printed books, so... there wasn't a lot of ground I've never covered in this book. However, I think the authors did a good job of breaking the many strands of printing history into manageable chunks, and of highlighting significant philosophical and cultural developments as well. Sometimes the irreverent tone was grating and will, I suspect, make this book exceptionally dated very quickly, but I did snort with lau Full disclosure, I'm a printer and book artist with a particular interest in early printed books, so... there wasn't a lot of ground I've never covered in this book. However, I think the authors did a good job of breaking the many strands of printing history into manageable chunks, and of highlighting significant philosophical and cultural developments as well. Sometimes the irreverent tone was grating and will, I suspect, make this book exceptionally dated very quickly, but I did snort with laughter a few times as well. Where the book really shines is in the conclusion, where suddenly they lay out parallels to this moment in time specifically, as we make our way to a possibly all-digital future -- it's quite brilliant, and pulls together all the different themes incredibly well. I wish that thoughtful commentary had been more apparent earlier in the book. Advanced Reader's copy provided by Edelweiss.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Porter

    Non-fiction, Printing history and Printer's history I love well written non-fiction. Each chapter brings alive some point in printing history. Engaged writing. Chapters include: the printing of the Bible, Mercator and the printing of his map, Benjamin Franklin and printing, Shakespeare and the printing of his plays, Wallace Blade-illustrator, Mary Wollstonecraft and her book "A Vindication of the Rights of Women", Charles Dickens and copyrights of his books, and the Doves Typeface, and more. Some Non-fiction, Printing history and Printer's history I love well written non-fiction. Each chapter brings alive some point in printing history. Engaged writing. Chapters include: the printing of the Bible, Mercator and the printing of his map, Benjamin Franklin and printing, Shakespeare and the printing of his plays, Wallace Blade-illustrator, Mary Wollstonecraft and her book "A Vindication of the Rights of Women", Charles Dickens and copyrights of his books, and the Doves Typeface, and more. Some very interesting topics and perspectives about history and the history of printing. The subtitle includes "irreverent stories from book history", is should better read "irreverent comments about book history." This is why I didn't give this book a higher rating. The authors' side comments where sometimes funny, sometimes pun worthy, sometimes good, but some also where also in poor taste, so hence the lower rating.

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