Correction of Corrections

October 30, 2013 at 10:49 am
filed under misc, research

In the information-poor world, where any table of numbers was a rarity, centuries went by before people began systematically to gather different printed tables in order to check one against another. When they did, they found unexpected flaws. For example, Taylor’s Logarithms, the standard quarto printed in London in 1792, contained (it eventually transpired) nineteen errors of either one or two digits. These were itemized in the Nautical Almanac, for, as the Admiralty knew well, every error was a potential shipwreck.

Unfortunately, one of the nineteen corrections proved erroneous, so the next year’s Nautical Almanac printed an “erratum of the errata.” This in turn introduced yet another error. “Confusion is worse confounded,” declared The Edinburgh Review. The next almanac would have to put forth an “Erratum of the Erratum of the Errata in Taylor’s Logarithms.”

Gleick, James (2011-03-01). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood