Ghost storties [sic] of Henry James

This was on my shelf a while before I spotted the intruder:

Ghost storties (sic) of Henry James - Wordsworth Editions, typo on spine

I love a good ghost storty, and since it’s Henry James I don’t expect these will be very gorty. The book was published by Wordsworth Editions in 2001: not their crowning glorty.

Imagine their fright, though, when they finally spotted it. I’ll be glad if there’s anything in the book as scary as that.


19 Responses to Ghost storties [sic] of Henry James

  1. Editor not doing his job. Also, thanks for telling me about this. Looking for it now.

  2. fromcouchtomoon says:

    I guess someone forgot to inspect the inventorty :-)

  3. astraya says:

    A useful resource for anyone wishing to make further puns:

  4. Stan says:

    sanrockreviews: You’re welcome. I wouldn’t single out one editor, though: several parties must have overlooked it.

    fromcouchtomoon: Clearly a regulatorty lapse. :-)

    astraya: Thanks. I use that site sometimes too: it’s like a factorty of permutations.

  5. marc leavitt says:

    I fully sympathize with the guilty party (ies). Years ago, on a Thursday afternoon, I put my 28-page tabloid entertainment magazine to bed. When I got to work the next morning, I opened the newspaper to look at it; I had misspelled a three-letter word in the hed on the cover page. Didn’t someone, somewhere, write about “casting the first stone?”

    • Stan says:

      Marc: I’m much more forgiving of newspaper slips, given the pressures of that environment. Printing literature in book form is different: it allows more care and attention to be paid to proofreading. And though I often catch a few typos in the text of a book, one on the spine is unusual.

      But your story reminds me of something John E. McIntyre wrote in The Old Editor Says: “Mistakes lurk in the big type.” Among his examples of real headlines are:


      Missippi’s literacy program shows improvement

      Would She Climb To The Top Of Mr. Everest Again? Absolutely!

  6. Brendano says:

    The stuff of nightmares (speaking as someone who has often passed covers for press). No point in claiming that ‘storty’ is meant to combine ‘short’ and ‘story’, I suppose.

  7. marc leavitt says:


    I don’t disagree with you at all; I relayed the anecdote as an illustration of my own fallibility (I always pride myself on strict attention to the minutest detail, and section covers aren’t in that category.)

    Seveal years ago I read a historical novel by a young writer who is also a commentator on Public Radio in New York.

    The book had more than two dozen errata, which I carefully jotted down. I intended to contact the publisher, but in the spirit of putting aside an angry letter, I let it slide.

    There was a time in America when a publisher woulde insert a three-by-three-inch sheet of errata in each volume of a new book – and there were usually no more than two, or at most, three mistakes; in the computer age, those days seem to be relics of a quaint past.

    Publishing a book with a mistake in the title on the spine is fairly close to inexcusable; at the least, I’m sure it produced a few red faces, and a lot of self-justifying blather, down at the pub after work.

  8. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Perhaps as puzzling to the reader would have been ‘Ghost Sorties of Henry James’?

    Beware of ghosts bearing arms, old chap, or… oh, don’t get so bloody defensive.

    But seriously folks, that “Storties” ‘spinal’ boo-boo was a real corker, to be sure. At least a handful of editors and proofers were sleeping at the switch on that one. Mercy!

  9. Stan says:

    Brendan: If storties appeared on the cover and inside, it might almost be plausible. But it’s just the spine.

    Marc: I see huge variation in the number of errors in books, even from reputable publishers. Some have few or none; others are littered with them. (I haven’t read enough self-published texts to compare, but I suspect it’s considerably worse there.)

    Alex: Ghostly sorties has a pleasing ring to it. Sorties are the sort of thing they seem inclined to do anyway.

  10. fmonk says:


  11. wisewebwoman says:

    I just picture a snortling (sic) sub-editor, quitting on Friday to go to a rival publishing house for a better position, leaving this tasty tidbit to remember her by.


  12. Stan says:

    fmonk: “Gory”, following the same pattern.

    WWW: She deserves a fresh stort.

  13. Mel Healy says:

    I’d blame the dtesigner.

    “Oh yeah, it’s ready for the printers.”

    “You checked everything?”

    “Oh yeah.”

    “What about the ‘About the Author’ page?”

    “Yeah, of course.”

    “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim…????”

    See? Dtesigners.

  14. hissmonster says:

    That’s what happens when you get rid of the proofreaders…

  15. languagehat says:

    Stan: I just e-mailed you a horrifying example from the Loeb Library (!) which I spotted the other day in a local bookstore; I don’t know how to show it here, so I’ll let you do the honors if you choose.

  16. Stan says:

    Mel: I’d be curious to know just how and when it happened.

    hissmonster: It may have been introduced after proofreading.

    Hat: Oh no! Thanks for sending the photo; I’ve uploaded it below:

  17. […] Cover blurbs are late additions in book production and may not be subject to the same level of review as the body text. The same goes for book spines, where egregious typos can creep in. […]

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