From Shady Characters

Errata for The Book

The following errata apply to the first hardcover and electronic editions of The Book, published in 2016 by W. W. Norton. Factual errors are addressed here, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes are not.

In alphabetical order, my thanks to Violetta Budzicz, Caleb Crain, Jay Criostomo, Matt Garvey, Christopher M. Mislow, Fred Schreiber, Lawrence Silver, Richard Swearingen, Daniel Woolf, and John Wyndham for pointing out the errors given below.


For “modern-day ancient Israel”, read “modern-day Israel”.
Charles Martel was Charlemagne’s grandfather, not his father.
The cuneiform sign here is not gi for “reed” but rather a for “water”.
Germany did not exist in Gutenberg’s time. Mainz was part of the Holy Roman Empire and its archbishop elected an emperor, not a king.
Ottmar Mergenthaler demonstrated his Linotype at the New York Tribune, not the Chicago Tribune.
Ammonium chloride would not have been used in solution to etch iron, although it was used to make stronger acids suitable for that purpose.
Herodotus was Greek, not Roman. (Other references to Herodotus made throughout The Book specify this correctly.)
In a linguistic sense, Aramaic is Semitic rather than Persian. However, some inhabitants of the Persian Empire spoke it or derivatives thereof.
The pages of the Gutenberg Bible match Pythagoras’s constant, not the Golden Ratio.
Warren G. Harding succeeded Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States on the 4th of March, 1921. Both the “Permanent Conference on Printing” and the “Committee on the Simplification of Paper Sizes” were established after that date, and so it would have been the Harding administration, not the Wilson administration, that established them.
Herbert Hoover was Secretary of Commerce, not Secretary of State.
Each 17×22″ folio will have eight printed pages per side, not sixteen.


The images of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible shown here are not facing pages but rather the two sides of a single leaf. They should be swapped to correct their reading order.
The caption for Colard Mansion’s De casibus gives a copyright date of 2015; the credit on page 400 states 2016. The former is correct.
The term “4/c” here refers to a four-colour printing process.


Note 104 is missing. It should refer to Gerald W. Lundeen, “Preservation of Paper Based Materials: Present and Future Research and Developments in the Paper Industry,” Conserving and Preserving Library Materials (1983): 80–81.
Note 87 refers to the British Museum’s description of its undated copy of Lovers Surprised by Death. The version of the image reproduced on page 197, however, is that held by the National Gallery of Art, which is dated to 1510.
The contents of notes 66 and 67 are transposed.

If you come across an error in any edition of The Book, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! I’d appreciate it very much, and I’d be very happy to acknowledge you in future editions.