Have you ever feared that, while publishing yet another edition of a popular classic, a tiny part of the text is deleted/changed and no one notices? And that that mistake is replicated in yet another e- or paper-edition, like a game of Chinese whispers?

What’s the most reliable digital source of a classic? Is there a central organization that holds a version taken by academics from the author’s own papers that becomes the basis for all editions thereafter? Something similar to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France that holds the prototype meter bar and kilo?

The things that keep me awake at night…

But you know what they say: just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not really after you. And I’ve found proof there are differences between editions of our beloved classics. Pride and Prejudice none the less!

For my birthday this year I received four beautiful editions of P&P: one in Chinese and one in French for my collection and two in English: an illustrated edition by the Collector’s Library and a gorgeous pink “faux leather” Canterbury Classics edition.

Here’s what I found in this last one:

not original

(Canterbury Classics edition)

What are young men to rocks and mountains?

If you’re a Janeite you’ll see immediately a word that doesn’t belong. It should simply be “What are men to rocks and mountains?” I probably would never noticed if it hadn’t happen in such a famous sentence.


(Collector’s Library edition)

This makes me ask a lot of questions: how many of these go unnoticed? Who decided to add that word and why? Did he/she feel that older men should be excluded from the comparison? “Let me make it better”?

I have to admit it’s pretty fascinating the thought of someone out there tweaking the classics. Like something out of a Saramago novel. Reminds me of the Spanish lady who “restored” the 19th century church painting. Like many others, one day I’ll make a big detour just to admire her art work.