|Titivillus. The Printer's Devil.|
Titivillus, an underling of the horrific demon Belphegor, was said to be responsible for maliciously introducing errors into the work of scribes. But his motivation was said to be pure: to remind scribes to be ever vigilant and concentrate on what they were doing. Also under his purview was recording the idle gossip and chatter of churchgoers so he could report it to his superiors and ensure the guilty would be punished. Not only was he a gremlin saboteur, but a lowly snitch. In medieval times Titivillus was used as a method to teach moral lessons such as remaining respectful in church and staying diligent in one's pious tasks.
But sacred records indicate Titivillus, or an equivalent entity, was active in Egyptian culture, and even the Babylonian culture before that. In these cultures Titivillus performed much the same function, bedeviling scribes and recording the the sins of those who dared transgress in holy places.
Titivillus eventually petered out as a figure taken seriously in the church, but by this time had made his way into the world of literature as his own character. And to this day we can all identify with returning to some long labored over piece of writing we are proud of and considered finished only to find an error that seems to have appeared from nowhere. Is it a lapse in concentration or The Printer's Devil that causes these blemishes on our masterpieces? The world may never know.
Illustration by Jenny MathewsPin It