The Slatest

The New York Times Corrects 161-year-old Spelling Error

The New York Times (C) and other newspapers are displayed at a newsstand in the Times Square subway station in New York City.

Photo by Michael Brown/Getty Images

The New York Times has occasionally become famous not just for its reporting, but for reporting its errors. Today the Times published a correction to a 161-year-old article about Solomon Northup, whose memoir served as the basis for the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.

The story, published on January 20, 1853, misspelled Northup’s last name. Here’s the Times’ correction:

An article on Jan. 20, 1853, recounting the story of Solomon Northup, whose memoir “12 Years a Slave” became a movie 160 years later that won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, misspelled his surname as Northrop. And the headline misspelled it as Northrup. The errors came to light on Monday after a Twitter user pointed out the article in The Times archives. (The errors notwithstanding, The Times described the article as “a more complete and authentic record than has yet appeared.”)

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That Twitter user was science writer and best-selling author Rebecca Skloot, who tweeted about the spelling discrepancy on Monday.

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Originally typing 1953 instead of 1853, Skloot later corrected herself, “Uh, make that 1853.”

Elsewhere in Slate: What’s it like to work at the New York Times?

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