My friend Nick Trefethen, in his book Trefethen’s Index Cards, says that “before computers articles and books went through one or two or three drafts before publication. Authors had to be skilled at envisioning how copy would look in print that was splattered with corrections and reorderings and insertions. Nowadays, if the author is finicky, articles and books undergo endless revision. At each step an excellent typescript manuscript is polished so that it becomes still more excellent. It is not too great an exaggeration to say that the process works like this: the author keeps reading through the text endlessly until, at some iteration, not a single correction is made. Then the loop is exited and the text is published.”
I do not know how things work in mathematics, but this is NOT the way things work in publishing a trade history book. I received three sets of page proofs to correct. I only received the third set because I insisted upon it; and I obtained it under strict instructions that I was not to make any optional changes, that I was only allowed to correct errors. So although, in reading through the third pages, there were a number of places where I thought a different word or word order would be better, I did not make such changes. I only corrected errors.
There were, I regret to report, a number of errors to correct. On page 22, in the prior draft, I gave the wrong age for Lafayette; he was sixty-seven when Seward met him not seventy-three. On page 116, in the prior draft, I referred to a fort as being in Arkansas; in fact it was in the Indian Territory, what we now know as Oklahoma. On page 307, in the prior draft, I referred to the HMS Trent. That was wrong, because the Trent was a merchant ship, not a part of Her Majesty’s Navy. Thank you to Keith Poulter for pointing that out.
I sent these corrections to the publisher somewhat reluctantly, because the book is now out of my hands. It is hard: it is rather like seeing a child graduate from high school, knowing that there is still so much that he has to learn, but that you can no longer teach it to him. You have to have faith that your young graduate is on the right course, that he will fend for himself. So Seward will have to fend for himself from here on in, although (if you notice errors when you read the book in print) please bring them to my attention. I will try to have them corrected before there is a second printing of the book.