Monday, October 14, 2013

Publishers Will Understand

The German newsmagazine, Spiegel, first published the story. The official coin commemorating Pope Francis’ pontificate went on the market with the name of Jesus misspelled as Lesus. The coins were immediately withdrawn, but four had already been sold.

I first heard about this story from Brigitte. She’d seen it as a snippet without an illustration. When I asked her if the L in question had been lower- or upper-case, she did not know. I asked that question because the Roman alphabet did not (indeed still doesn’t) have a J. Rome’s first would-be-emperor was Iulius Caesar; he came from the Iulia family.  If the name of Jesus were rendered in the Latin alphabet, we would have Iesus, and the accidental substitution of an l for a I might be understandable. Alas. Herewith the picture:

As the picture shows, the L used was a capital. Ordinary people laugh at this sort of thing, but if you lived in the tribe of publishers long enough, stories like this make your hair stand on end, sweat breaks from your brow, and color drains from your face. My own horrific memory of a failure of effective proofing came when a massive reference book I was responsible for, of a geographical type, omitted the entire segment on the state of Texas. Word came well after the book had reached its public when a Texas librarian notified us—indeed in very kind words. And she ended her letter by saying: “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Reprinting then, restamping in the Vatican now. But it would be very nice indeed to own one of the four coins with Lesus at two o’clock.


  1. Good going on the uppercase versus lowercase L

  2. Thanks, Montag. I knew that you are well aware of these arcane changes in letters. I expect, say a 1000 years from now, someone explaining the origin of what we now call emoticons.