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I am holding a book (novel) which I wish to cite, and I believe it has a typo. I do not know whether the typo was a spelling mistake in the original manuscript, or introduced during print. Other editions of the book exist, but I do not know if the typo was corrected based on the original manuscript, or in a later edition, or once the book entered public domain. And more importantly, I don't actually have a different copy on hand, I'm just "sure" I saw it written correctly.

How do I cite this novel? Do I follow the recommendations given in this question, but add the details of the particular edition? Or do I just correct the typo, since I'm "sure" it got corrected at some point?

Specifically, I'm looking at an 1853 edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires, (MM. Dufour et Mulat, éditeurs; Paris) which has:

«Think you be easy.» Ce qui voulait dire: Merci; soyez tranquille.

Rather obviously, (both from context, and from the translation of the phrase to French in the same line,) it should have been "Thank you, be easy." But since that's the only copy of The Three Musketeers that I have, do I have any excuse to correct this?

Since people seem to misunderstand, the line is dual-language in the original. It's a note written by an English character to the MC, and translated to French for the sake of the French-speaking readers. That's Dumas's text, as is. And I am interested in citing the original - not translating it.

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    So is your title a commentary on the typo issue, or just an actual typo? :-D – Cyn Nov 16 '18 at 22:35
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    @Cyn :-D My title is a result of it being past midnight where I am. I'm turning into a pumpkin, from the head down. Thanks for the heads-up. :) – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:41
  • I'll also add that my translation of the phrase is different from yours/his (based on my limited knowlege of French, the fact that it's almost the same word in Spanish, and double checking on Google Translator). Thank you, be calm. Or keep calm. Or calm down. Or calm yourself. Not "easy." – Cyn Nov 16 '18 at 22:47
  • @Cyn the correct translation of "soyez tranquille" is "rest easy". The literal translation is "be calm", but literal translations aren't always precise. I'm not sure if "be easy" instead of "rest easy" is a mistake on Dumas's part (not unlikely), or a variation in English usage (it has been over 170 years, English does change). – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:56
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Correcting a translation is something different than just correcting a typo. The difference between what's been printed here and what you think it should be seems more like a misinterpretation on the part of the translator than a simple typo.

In this case I would cite it exactly as it is, but point out that you think the translation is wrong. Unless you know for a fact that it's actually a misprint.


As has been clarified in comments and an update to the question, this is the original work by Dumas in French. Dumas, himself, provides an in-text English translation of the French phrase.

If you are going to cite this edition, you need to cite it as it is—although you can add your own commentary to the effect that you think his own translation is wrong.

Only if you can locate a different edition, one in which the English phrase has been changed, can you then directly quote the changed version (and cite the different edition).

  • It's not a translation. That's the original. – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:09
  • You provide an English version and a French version. One seems to be a translation of the other—that isn't quite correct. Is it a character who is doing the translation? Perhaps the character is meant to get it wrong. If it's what Dumas provided, then maybe he just got it wrong. – Jason Bassford Nov 16 '18 at 22:10
  • The line is dual-language in the original. It's a note by an English character to the MC, and Dumas gives the translation since he doesn't expect his readers to speak English. – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:15
  • @Galastel The only quick reference I could find on Google Books was to an 1856 edition. I'm not sure if it's actually different from yours or not. But this one also has the same English text. – Jason Bassford Nov 16 '18 at 22:32
  • Same edition. Same pages, same fonts, same illustrations. A later print, I guess. Interesting that the error wasn't corrected in three years. – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:38
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Are you citing the French edition? (the original) If so, it's perfectly legitimate to make your own translation.

I'm not sure where the English translation is coming from. If it's a duel language book, you still have the right to do your own translation from the original.

  • Yes, I'm citing the French edition. The particular line is dual-language because it represents a note from an English character to d'Artagnan. So there's the note, and it's translated into French, since the readers weren't expected to know any English. – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:08
  • And for the sake of keeping the question general enough, let's say I'm citing the original - I'm not interested in making a translation. I mean, my example happens to be from a French book, but the problem with a typo in a particular edition could arise in an English book as well. Suppose you discovered a typo in a first edition of Jane Austen? – Galastel Nov 16 '18 at 22:25
  • In that case, I'd use [sic]. – Cyn Nov 16 '18 at 22:35
  • @cyn It's not obvious from this one edition if it's a typo or not. Unless a later edition changed the phrase, it's possible that Dumas actually wrote the English phrase as it's presented—that he, himself, provided an incorrect translation . . . (Note that the English phrase is grammatical. There is no error in the English. It's just not an exact translation.) – Jason Bassford Nov 16 '18 at 22:39
  • I do not believe it is your job to do the due diligence of checking later editions and making sure that, if they changed it, they did so because the original publisher was wrong, vs them correcting the author's mistake. – Cyn Nov 16 '18 at 22:41

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