Writers: Beware Muphry’s Law

Muphry’s Law is the editorial application of Murphy’s Law. It dictates that:

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written; (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book.

John Bangsund wrote about it in The Society of Editors Newsletter several years back and gave some delicious examples.

“Muphry’s Law is no respecter of persons. The editor of the English translation of the Jerusalem Bible … lists the “principal collaborators in translation and literary review”, among them such eminent people as J.R.R. Tolkien and James McAuley. My copy is not just a first edition — it is a copy that got through before the press was stopped to correct a little mistake in Genesis, chapter 1:

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s siprit hovered over the water.’ “

God’s siprit and His spirit are are equally holy, I presume.

Unh…that double are are in the previous sentence was NOT an intentional irony. Muphry!

There have been other misprints, Bangsund  wrote. “The original King James version of 1611 was riddled with them. In an edition of 1823 Rebekah’s damsels (Genesis 24:61) inexplicably became ‘camels’.”

And, he reported The Wicked Bible of 1632 left out one little word from the seventh commandment, thus instructing believers: “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

Muphry’s Law

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31 Day Blog Challenge, #9

WORST HABITS

Procrastination, generalized anxiety, succumbing to self-doubt and from thence sliding into darker things that serve to hobble and paralyze me until I can fight free of them again…

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Book of Kells Now Online

I remember, one rainy Irish morning, ducking into the Trinity College Library, and making my way towards its heart – its heart being a climate-controlled, illumination-controlled room with two glass cases in which, glowing like jewels, two medieval manuscripts lay open to the adoring gaze of those who filed past, struck into awed silence at the sight — The Book of Kells.

book-of-kells

The Book of Kells – the four Gospels, plus additional ecclesiastical impedimenta and addendums – was created by Celtic monks from the Abbey of Kells (from whence in draws its name) in (they think) approximately 800 AD.

It is, quite simply, EXTRAVAGANT. Saints and Christian symbology vie with intricate Celtic knots and images of mythical beasts. It is Christianity melded and fused with myth and legend, a twining of the worlds of faith and imagination, done in glowing hues of inks extracted from lapis and gold leaf, and royal purple, and scarlet, many inks costly imports from faraway places, lavished on this book with full hearts and minds full of faith and inspiration.

You can’t really stand and stare for as long as you might want to – because others are following in your wake and it seems churlish to deny them the opportunity of being as dazed and humbled as you’ve just been by the merest sight of this book. So you pass on. And some, like me, actually close their eyes as they walk away, trying to trap and preserve the memory of that glow, to imprint it on the inside of their eyelids, so that they can find it there again when they drift into sleep, so that the glow and the glory might come into their dreams that night and give them strength, and courage, and inspiration. A glimpse of this book is a sip from a well of holy water – and blessed is the house that holds it, the library, the museum, the guardian of one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures.

I remember walking outside again, into the rain. And the world seemed transformed to me. Seeing what the monks saw made me look on my own surroundings with new eyes – and the rain was silver, and the sky was pewter gray, and the grass was a sparkling emerald green, and red bricks glowed warm russet against the gray. The world was full of colour.

It has faded, a little. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the wonder of that book. But even just the memory of it serves to light it up in mind’s eye. It is dark outside as I write this, and the night hides the world – but had it not been, had I written this in the daytime and glanced out into my cedars, I feel certain that I would have seen the glitter of gold as the weak winter sun filtered through the dark green of my cedars, the deep brave blue of the Steller’s Jays in the branches, the apricot belly of the little Douglas squirrel sitting up on its haunches right outside my door, the faded jewel colours and shrivelled browns of the remains of the autumn leaves on the ground. The Book of Kells illuminates, like that. Even in memory…

As part of the general celebration of St Patrick’s Day at Trinity, the Book of Kells in its entirety is now viewable online.

Book of Kells online

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