Friday, September 21, 2012

Shephard* + Shepard* (for Shepard* or Shepard*)

Creator of the iconic nanny Mary Poppins, although not the coiner of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (nor, frankly, very much at all in the Walt Disney version, which she personally disdained), P. L. Travers wouldn't have been pleased with today's careless typo. Travers, who was born in Australia in 1899, wrote the "practically perfect" children's book in 1934. While not the author's first choice, a young, inexperienced person called Mary Shepard ended up doing the drawings for it—of course, now we can't imagine Mary Poppins looking any other way. Mary was the daughter of Ernest Shepard (who famously drew Christopher Robin and friends, as well as the riparian habitu├ęs of The Wind in the Willows) and was just twenty-three when her father found himself too busy to make the pictures for Mary Poppins. Travers then noticed Mary's sketches on a Christmas card of an acquaintance (they had "a happy imperfection, a sense of wonder") and invited her to take his place. (Such a marvelous present from Papa Shepard, an unintended push toward professional immortality. As the verbally challenged Oxford don William Archibald Spooner might have said: "The Lord is a shoving leopard.") The author of Mary Poppins was  a great admirer of J. M. Barrie and her first publisher was actually Peter Llewelyn Davies, the childhood model for Peter Pan. Travers enjoyed several careers during her lifetime: she dabbled in poetry and performed in the theater before turning to journalism and settling into a routine that would culminate in more than twenty books, written over a span of almost fifty years. There were 59 instances of today's combined typos in OhioLINK, and over 400 in WorldCat.

(P.L. Travers, appearing in the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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