“The Printer's Error” by Aaron Fogel
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
The Printer's Error
Fellow compositors and pressworkers! I, Chief Printer Frank Steinman, having worked fifty- seven years at my trade, and served five years as president of the Holliston Printer's Council, being of sound mind though near death, leave this testimonial concerning the nature of printers' errors. First: I hold that all books and all printed matter have errors, obvious or no, and that these are their most significant moments, not to be tampered with by the vanity and folly of ignorant, academic textual editors. Second: I hold that there are three types of errors, in ascending order of importance: One: chance errors of the printer's trembling hand not to be corrected incautiously by foolish professors and other such rabble because trembling is part of divine creation itself. Two: silent, cool sabotage by the printer, the manual laborer whose protests have at times taken this historical form, covert interferences not to be corrected censoriously by the hand of the second and far more ignorant saboteur, the textual editor. Three: errors from the touch of God, divine and often obscure corrections of whole books by nearly unnoticed changes of single letters sometimes meaningful but about which the less said by preemptive commentary the better. Third: I hold that all three sorts of error, errors by chance, errors by workers' protest, and errors by God's touch, are in practice the same and indistinguishable. Therefore I, Frank Steinman, typographer for thirty-seven years, and cooperative Master of the Holliston Guild eight years, being of sound mind and body though near death urge the abolition of all editorial work whatsoever and manumission from all textual editing to leave what was as it was, and as it became, except insofar as editing is itself an error, and therefore also divine.
from The Printer's Error, 2001
Miami University Press, Oxford, Ohio
Copyright 2001 by Aaron Fogel.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Miami University Press from The Printer's Error. Copyright 2001 by Aaron Fogel. For further permissions information, contact James Reiss, English Dept., Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056.
About the Poet
Aaron Fogel (1947 - ) was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Columbia and Cambridge Universities, and holds a Ph.D. from Columbia. He is the author of The Printer’s Error, published by the Miami University Press in 2001.
Learn more about Aaron Fogel at Boston University