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Everyone Needs a Proofreader

1968 80 agorot “Fallen Freedom Fighters” stamp 

The story of a philatelic typo

It has been said that every writer needs an editor, to which it should be added that everyone needs a proofreader, especially in the modern era of the mischievous auto-correct feature. However, avoidable printing errors are certainly not limited to the present. I show here an example of what surely was a subtle but avoidable mistake from a few generations ago.

For much of my life I have enjoyed collecting and studying the stamps of Israel. The once thriving hobby of philately is becoming obsolete as traditional postage service in Israel and around the world is fading away. What was once an engrossing way for young collectors to learn about the world from stamps has been replaced by social media and Wikipedia. In spite of this, the stamps of Israel remain a beautiful source of information about our country and its history. However, even stamps can conceal mistakes. What follows is an example of a typo I recently spotted, that a careful proofreader back in the 1960's should have noticed.

In looking for examples of the use of texts from Sefer Tehilim (Book of Psalms) on stamps issued by Israel, I came across the 1968 80 agorot "Fallen Freedom Fighters" stamp (Figure 1), designed by J. Zim and released on June 5, 1968, which shows a burning candle in front of a barred window. 

The tab at the bottom of the sheet of stamps contains the following extract from Psalm 44, verse 23:

כי עליך הרגנו כל היום

Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long

This text is correctly labelled on the tab in Hebrew as coming from 'תהילים מ׳ד כ׳ג' which in the numbering system using the Hebrew alphabet (see Figure 2) represents Psalm 44, verse 23 (40 + 4, verse 20 + 3). However, as can be seen in Figure 1 the citation in English on the tab is given as Psalms 44, 22, which is incorrect.

In searching available back issues of The Israel Philatelist, the excellent journal of the Society of Israel Philatelists (, and on the wider internet I found no mentions of this error. This shows that typos and other mistakes may hide in plain sight for decades, and that you cannot always believe what you see in print, on philatelic material or elsewhere. There will always be a role for eagle-eyed proofreaders, even in such well written and well produced publications such as ESRA Magazine.



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Saturday, 13 July 2024

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