“Erotica? You sell erotica?”
“Not erotica; erratica. Prurient misprints. Printer’s slips that make something staid into something, well, smutty!”
“Like what? How does that work?”
“Well, like the Wicked Bible, say. Published in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, official printers of King Charles; they neglected to print the word ‘not’ in the seventh commandment.”
She pursed her lips, rattled her fingers on the side of her glass.
“Adultery,” he said. “Thus: thou shalt commit adultery. The run was recalled and suppressed and Misters Barker and Lucas were fined £300 by the courts. Incidentally, the courts ordered them to publish six ‘redeeming’ works in Greek, and that kind of grew into Oxford press.” He drew slow shapes on the table with water drops. “But, you know, a few copies always survive such demolitions. There are five or six Wicked Bibles still extant.”
“And people pay money for this?”
“Thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands of dollars, if you sell them the right way. A lot of these, I suppose you’d call them characters, they don’t just want the book, they want the frisson of thinking they’re doing something clandestine and wicked.”
Under the table their feet slid across each other.