Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

The “Wicked Bible”

Posted in History, Technology by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on November 23, 2007

I thought of my wife’s work at the National Library of Medicine today as I learned about the “Wicked Bible“. This was one disastrous printing of the King James Version of the Bible:

“Wicked Bible”, “Adulterous Bible” or “Sinner’s Bible” 1631: Barker and Lucas: Omits an important “not” from Exodus 20:14, making the seventh commandment read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The printers were fined £300 (a lifetime’s wages) and most of the copies were recalled immediately. Only 11 copies are known to exist today.

My wife is currently creating summaries of evidence-based literature about a variety of clinical scenarios. For example, which beta blockers are better, for which conditions, and by how much? As she wades through 200 pages of clinical papers to create each 2-page summary she must guard against the possibility of leaving out a “not” in a statement or a decimal point in a drug dosage.

This is why I had such high hopes for Citizendium. In early podcasts its founder spoke of developing a new version of the MediaWiki wiki software that allowed sentence-by-sentence certification of accuracy. In other words, there would be a draft and a certified version of each page. The certified version would be a subset of the sentences from the draft version and the only sentences that made it through would be ones that individual expert authors had certified as accurate and put their names as the certifiers. Such software would be great for science, technology and medicine publishing efforts where the writing is increasingly dependent on the collaboration of an increasing number of authors but for whom wiki software’s CVS user interface is not sufficiently granular.

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