Thursday, November 12, 2009

Art of the Silent Correction

If you’ve ever changed copy in a colophon to go full measure or to lead gracefully into a decorative tailpiece, then you’re not that far removed from the copywriter who works directly with an art director and revises copy on the fly to fit available space.

Years ago, while reviewing page proofs for a book of my poems I was surprised to find a couple of errors that could not really be called typos. Instead they were word changes.

When I asked the printer—in this case the eminent private printer Harry Duncan—about them he said, “Yes,” in that wry tone one uses to acknowledge the self-evident.

Gently admonished by what is known in the trade as a “silent correction,” I had sense enough to let several stand.

And that, by the way, is exactly what stet., as used by proofreaders means: Let Stand. Literally that type has feet on which it stands, and that the form should remain intact.

Pictured Above: PLANTIN’S PROOF-READERS AT WORK. (FROM A PAINTING BY PIERRE VAN DER OUDERA, NOW IN POSSESSION OF FELIX GRISAR, ANTWERP.) As cited in A Printer’s Paradise, T. L. De Vinne. Click on the title bar of this post to read the original essay.

And my thanks to Patricia Kolsteeg, Registrar–Loans–Photo-orders, of the Plantin-Moretus Museum, whose kind search indicated that I was incorrect in thinking that the painting was in the collection of the Plantin-Moretus Museum.

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