Moral Precepts and False Spelling

This is from a mid-19th Century spelling textbook entitled Exercises in Orthography, by   John Epy Lovell. It was issued by New Haven publisher Durrie and Peck in 1847. The purpose of the book is made reasonably clear in lesson 1:

This littel book of lesons in falce speling, has
bin made to help boys and gurls to spell rite. It
is hoped that it will be usefull to menny. It con-
tanes sum pleesing facs and a stoar of good pre-
septs. Let the pupel try to ficks thees in his mind
wilst ho takes grate panes to korrect evry mispelt-
word.

Or in facsimile if you prefer.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 3.10.44 PM

It’s interesting to me that the student is expected nonetheless to “ficks” the “facs” and the “presepts” in mind despite the “grate panes” of correcting all the misspelled words. I suppose no one worried that the student would suffer from delusion that the great precepts and facts were gathered by a bunch of dunces. I cannot imagine the children were supposed to write in the book. Maybe copy it out in corrected form? Or, more likely, copy it out in incorrect form and then re-copy it corrected. That would keep the little urchins busy.

On a more advanced note, consider were one editing the book whether one could apply Walter W. Greg’s distinction between the accidentals (forms, such as spelling and punctuation) and the substantives (words themselves). In this case, making note of the accidental departure from a standard spelling is the point of the exercise, so that can’t be a difference, at least I don’t think so.  When typesetting the book, would any criterion render a word misspelled in the sense of a spelling error in the copy? Must the compositor follow copy, or can he (or she) misspell with impunity and fulfill the intention of the author? Would any change in a subsequent printing be considered a correction? On one hand, a difference in a later copy might well be considered a correction. But how would one know? Boggles the mind.

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