History, Irony, Typo’s and Prophesy

In the late 15th Century, William Caxton was at the forefront of England’s printing revolution that was set in motion by Gutenburg’s invention around 1450.

As the printing press allowed books to be printed at a much greater pace (as opposed to having to scribe each one), Caxton hit an issue – the English language had yet to be standardised.  This meant that regional dialects and differences in the way the English spoke across the country threatened to impact on his streamline production, citing an example of what people called eggs of all things (eggys).

To get around this, Caxton had a great idea.  As his printing shop was in London and (obviously) the most educated people were in London, he would settle on using the ‘exclusive’ London standards.

(Apologies for the boring bit but it places the typo and irony into context.)

Caxton supported this decision by saying, ‘this booke is not for euery rude dna vnconnynge man to see / but to clerkys and very gentylmen that vnderstande gentylnes and scyence’.

(this book is not for every uneducated and ignorant man to see, but for clerks and true gentlemen who understand courtesy and learning).

However, it seems that the compositor misplaced the letters of ‘and’ and they came out as ‘dna’ – and therein lies the irony – for a printer to say his books are only for the educated and learned men to misspell ‘and’ is very much lol (not sure they had that phrase in 1490).

However, it is possible that Caxton was trying to tell us something.  It won’t be lost on most people that he mentions ‘scyence’ in his original text and that ‘and’ backwards is ‘dna’ DNA??!!?

Maybe he was hundreds of years ahead of his time after all.

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