To Err Is Human - Modernist Cuisine

To Err Is Human

MCApril 21, 2011

The second printing of Modernist Cuisine started rolling off the presses at the end of March. Customers will start receiving the first books from that new print run in July. Our current order is 25,000 copies. We hope that satisfies demand, but we were wrong once before, and we may be wrong again. We are monitoring the situation and will order more books if it seems warranted.

In our original plan, we thought that the 6,000 copies of the first printing would give us some time and extra eyes to find any typographical errors. We had many copy editors and proofreaders to help us pore over the book, but after the nth reading, you become blind to any further errors. Ultimately, the way that remaining errors in a book are found is by readers.

Unfortunately, the enormous demand for MC and the unexpected delays in shipping the books to customers meant that we had very little time, with very few readers, to find errors. By the time we had to send our final files to press for the second print run, fewer than 2,000 copies were in customers’ hands.

I posted on eGullet that I was interested in finding errors. We received several responses from Chris Amirault, Chris Hennes, and others in the thread, “Cooking with Modernist Cuisine.” These responses were very helpful.

But then we started getting emails from Larry Lofthouse. Like so many people I’ve met on eGullet, I don’t know much about him personally. What I do know is that Larry is an error-finding machine—he started sending me an email almost every hour with mistakes he had found. Some weren’t really errors, but just appeared so. Others were cosmetic issues or wording changes that are a judgment call, but some were real, honest-to-goodness goofs. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by some of them, but I’m glad they were found.

Finding errors caused a dilemma. The second printing was just about to start; we had a couple days at most to make the final changes. So I emailed Larry to let him know about our situation. He went into high gear, as did the whole MC team. We worked night and day and wound up scrubbing the entirety of MC. Then we corrected and reproofed everything Larry and the others had found and (just barely) made our press deadline.

Larry did all of this work because it seemed to him like the right thing to do. He never asked for anything in return, but we are so grateful that we’re giving him a copy of the second printing, and we have invited him and a guest over for dinner at the lab later in April. Thousands of people will have a better experience with MC due to Larry’s efforts.

That’s not to say that we have now corrected every last error, however. Indeed, in the days since the presses started running again, we, Larry, and other readers have identified a few more mistakes. If and when we undertake a third printing, we’ll correct those, too.

In the meantime, we are making available here a list of corrections and clarifications for the first printing. We’ll update this list whenever new goofs are spotted. It’s available in PDF format as well, in case you want to print it out or have a handy searchable version on your computer. If you spot a mistake in your copy that isn’t already mentioned here, please send it in.

17 Responses to “To Err Is Human”

  1. Jon Palmer Claridge

    I just got my copy at noon today and spent the entire day just flipping through. MC is as SPECTACULAR as all the press–and thanks for the corrections. It was fun to see the unpacking video as a reminder of my own initial discovery. Now . . . the journey begins. Profound thanks to the entire team.

  2. eliane franc

    err is human … to what point ? … in this case it’s to much, to many errors … so many, and i believe there is still a lot to discover .. how much should we pay to have the right recipes ??? you are self indulgent … to say “to err is human” is indecent … eliane franc

  3. Errata to the errata: in the correction to the Carbonated Mojito Spheres, the page is listed as 4•189; it’s actually 4•188.

    (and eliane… find me a cookbook with fewer errors per page! And a huge number of these errors are typos in the scaling percentages, if you are careful they won’t affect you at all.)

    • eliane franc

      and chris … again your answer is light to my eyes and doesn’t fit with the rest of your purpose … you take years and many people to make this book and it’s scientific and so this so that so so expansive and etc etc …… and i not someone able to spot the errors easily, i mean i am not suppose to be careful, you do … and again i might said to err is human … not you … you would never have those words during the advertising period ………. you present yourself and the book as something different, as “THE BOOK” of the modernity … and in my point of vue and for many many reasons, it’s not, it’s another product, made in china ……….. just another book … with many errors as in any other book … tagliatelle and spaghetti are two differents things …… have a nice day

  4. I’ve got the first edition, but will soon forget this blog entry. A lot of the corrections are minor, but some are important. Would you be kind enough to also create a pdf file with just the important changes? That would be a document more useful to print out.

    • Each reader will have a different view of what is important. Those who are concerned primarily with corrections to recipes should focus on the pages in volume 6 (the Kitchen Manual) with changes, as that is where nearly all the recipes in the book are collected.

      • mats l

        A team sits down and goes through the list. Spelling and grammar are minor. Temperature, ingredients, etc. are major. Seems like most errors are minor. If people stopped doing work just because there are differences in opinion, not much would be done in this world. I honestly, think my suggestion would be very useful for most readers.

  5. Pamela Capraru

    Gross! That list of corrections stinks like a turducken left out on the counter in a heat wave for a week. The so-called writers, editors, and publishers of that book should be force-fed Kraft Dinner with cut-up boiled wieners and microwave pizza pops for a year. (OK, KD lovers, please don’t write to me about that comment—I enjoy KD once in a while, too, but not with weiners or for a whole year.)

    “Modernist Cuisine is the product of human beings. And like all human creations, it contains imperfections.” Are you kidding me? For a book about cooking to be so riddled with factual errors is inexcusable, and the telephone directory of corrections hardly makes up for it. I mean, if I were cooking a dish and had to refer to the errata or risk flame-broiling it instead of warming it…

    Thanks for posting this, Jeanne. It points up the need for rigorous copy editing and fact checking. Where the hell did you find it? These days, amateurs can cobble together bad content and publish it, and this list illustrates the point perfectly. In this case, they’re publishing under the tony banner of “modernist cuisine,” even citing Monet/Manet, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Linnaeus—yet, rather than reassuring readers, the errors blare: “crap,” “tripe,” and even “raw.”

    And Mary, thanks for your well-taken observation about “waste.” Ugh!

    I’m no great fan of MSWord, but it’s obvious that the “editors” didn’t even bother with a basic spelling and grammar check, which would have caught many of these infelicities, including word duplication (at least with the words beside each other).

    I have to go throw up now.

    • Pamela Capraru

      Thank you, Modernist Cuisine, for having the egg yolks to post a rant from a hard-core copy editor with three decades’ experience. If you ever again find yourselves short of time or copy editors and cookbook specialists, I can assemble a crack team that could down that submarine of errors in a microwave minute and make you look like a five-star chef. Just say the word.

  6. Pamela Capraru

    No matter how comprehensive the content or how beautiful the photography, such sloppiness is akin to a gentleman in a bespoke suit with a ketchup stain on his silk tie, or a lady in a couture gown with a huge run in her stocking: it ruins the overall impression for discerning readers.

  7. lasereye

    OK there are errors, but did anyone ever buy “French Cooking” by Paul Bocuse (1977)? unreadable, proportions not based in reality, gross measurement errors, translations that make no sense
    It was donated to Goodwill–someone will enjoy the dozen photos.

    This book is commendable; with the internet the authors and readers can share corrections quickly. And, thanks for adding the bean sprouts to the Pad Thai.

  8. MC is published without the support infrastructure of a traditional publisher. Just to get this mammoth book to the printer is a real achievement already.
    It just shows that if you can self-publish MC one can publish anything!

  9. This amount of errata is pretty good for a work of such size. I’d be amazed if a book like The Joy Of Cooking didn’t have at least as many errors per page in its first printing. It’s usual for scientific book publishers to release errata lists and that’s what Kitchen Lab has done here. Cookbook readers not used to this practice might think there are a lot of errors but compared to typical textbooks it’s really not that many.

    It’s unfortunate that quite a few are in vol. 6, the kitchen manual. Maybe the Lab can offer corrected versions of vol 6 for sale to people who have bought the full set. That volume probably should be offered separately anyway since it will be the volume most vulnerable to kitchen accidents, so people may need to replace it once in a while.

  10. A link on the home page to the errata pdf would be helpful. I imagine it will be updated multiple times, and it’s frustrating to have to find this blog post each time I want to check for updates.