What is Global History?

Here is a very entertaining error pointed out to me by Liu Wenming 刘文明, the Chinese translator of What is Global History?, who sent this email:

"...in my memory, the book the outline of history was first published in 1919, but in your book is "outline of history, first published in 1901" (P1). Is it a misunderstanding of mine or a misprint of the book?" (August 30, 2008)

I appreciate Liu's courtly suggestion that he might have misread the characters in the text or that it could have been a simple misprint. But the appalling error "1901" of the date of publication is right in the text of What is Global History?, and not just once --it is first invoked on p.1, then comes back on p.5, and is implied on p.2, if not elsewhere. While writing What is Global History, I had a copy of the 1921 edition of The Outline of History on my desk, and I evidently at some point miswrote the publication of date as 1901. Then, I clearly began to believe it in some autonomic way, and incorporated it into my subsequent comments. Despite that, I had the correct publication dates in the notes and bibliography (and the bibliographical entry, in this case, was actually written before the text). I read the manuscript many times, read the proofs, and even read the book after it came out without noticing what I had written in this detail. This is a very eerie experience, realizing in retrospect that I never saw what I had really written, but only saw what I knew I should have written. I have had this experience many times, and fear I wil have it many more.

But wait, there's more.

Liu, remember, stated that the first date of publication of Outline of History was 1919. That is correct in a way, though it is rarely cited. Wikipedia gets the date wrong (as of August 30, 2008) in its article on Wells himself, but gets it right in its article on The Outline of History. This is one of those situations in which a bit of ambiguity can be tolerated. The first publication of the book was as a serial, published every two weeks in 24 parts, starting in 1919 and ending in 1920 (which is also an acceptable citation date). The original title was The outline of history, being a plain history of life and mankind. Written with the advice and editorial help of Ernest Barker [and others], a title that Wells clearly felt dissatisfied with, probably for several reasons, afterward. When the book was reprinted by MacMillan in 1920 and 1921, the subtitle was changed to ...written with the advice and editorial help of Mr. Ernest Barker, Sir H. H. Johnston, Sir E. Ray Lankester, and Professor Gilbert Murray, and illustrated by J. F. Horrabin. A publication date of anything from 1919 to 1921 is clearly acceptable for Outline, but "1901" is at least a digit off from any of the correct dates. I have alerted Polity Press to the error, and am hoping it can be corrected soon in subsequent printings of the book.

[Comment from February, 2012: It was.]

And yes, the Dartmouth rare book room has its own copy of the original 1919-1920 printing of Outline. I've probably passed it a time or two, thinking of something else.

Wells' lecture "Discovery of the future" was published in New York in 1913, ironically only twelve years after he had published Outline of History in the imaginary world of What is Global History?, discovering the future of the book's publication in our dimension in 1919.

There is another known typo on the original What is Global History?, subsequently corrected: Charles Sumner Graham on p.35 should be Charles Graham Sumner.