Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lost Faith

I began Lost Illusions yesterday. It opens auspiciously in a print shop, and Balzac describes who was called a ‘monkey’ in the printing industry in those times, and who a ‘bear.’ The distinction had to do with a person's motions, which reminded me of Apollinaire’s poem “At the Santé:” Every morning I pace my pit like a bear.

The narrator talks about the transformation of printing, and how equipment then becoming obsolete had once brought "the beautiful books printed by Elzevir, Plantin, Aldus Didot, and the rest..." Wow, I thought. I like the typeface Didot - I will have to look up Aldus Didot.

I looked up Didot, indeed the name of a family of French typesetters, though none of them named Aldus. Well, I thought, maybe Balzac invented him, this being a work of fiction. But that would be weird since the Didots were real, and Elzevir and Plantin were also breathing people who now have typefaces named after them, and in fact, Aldus, too, is a typeface in and of itself..... ummm….

Helped by Amazon’s “Look Inside” function, I read the first page of Illusions Perdues in French, which said: "...les beaux livres des Elzevier, des Plantin, des Alde et des Didot…"

One needn’t be a French scholar to see the “and” separating Alde/us from Didot. In other words, there should have been a comma between them, or an “and.” Aldus Didot wasn’t meant to be a first and surname. I was so dismayed by this glaring error on the very first page - whether the translator’s or the proofreader’s - that I was unable to read any more of this untrustworthy edition, published by the way by Modern Library Classics!

And that is how I began The Pickwick Papers.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

So THAT'S what was going on! Happy reading of THE PICKWICK PAPERS.

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