In March 2012, our journal published a posthumous excerpt of a book by a prestigious scholar, who had died before completing the book. We chose to publish because the unfinished book represented the scholar's life work, and would not find another publication venue. The excerpt included a number of large figures, which we also published.
At our publisher, we had a new production team, and they had a very difficult time getting the issue out, but there were an exceptional number of errors introduced to the posthumous excerpt during the layout process. (Our upload to the publisher was free of errors, and we have documentation to establish that this was the case. It appears that a considerable amount of information was stripped from the file during our file export process. We had used the publisher's software to do the upload, and followed their procedures throughout the production process. We forwarded documentation establishing the fact that our upload was clean to our production editor.)
We received the first set of proofs and made all corrections. At that time, because of the extensive number of changes required, we requested that we have the opportunity to review a second and third proof. When we received the second proof of the excerpt, some corrections had been made, but other, new errors appeared. We made all of the required corrections and forwarded them to our publisher's production editor. The production editor acknowledged receipt of the corrections to the second proof. When we repeated our request to see a third proof, the publication editor assured us that all corrections would be made before publication.
When the excerpt was published, some corrections appeared, but new errors were added to the earlier problems. Figures were out of order. Some captions were incomplete, others were incorrect. Paragraphs of text were scrambled and appeared as gibberish. We contacted our publication editor immediately, and requested that we be allowed to correct the article, and have the corrected version appear in the electronic version. Our publisher said that it was impossible to change the electronic version (?!).
Since that time, we have found a new publisher, in part because of the quality control problems we experienced with our original publisher. Now we need to publish an erratum for the excerpt, which will go on for a number of pages. Since our intention was to honour a deceased colleague, would it be appropriate to 'republish' the entire excerpt free of error, so it can appear in the form the author originally intended? My board feels that the extent version of the excerpt is an insult to the author and her family (who kindly edited and prepared the excerpt for publication). The excerpt was originally presented as part of the editorial (non-peer reviewed) content of our publication.
The Forum agreed that a new, error-free, version of the paper should be available but it is essential that this is linked to the old version so that readers are aware of the correct version. Hence it would not be appropriate to “re-publish” in another issue. The Forum suggested contacting the former publisher and asking them what they can do to correct the article. Failing that, another suggestion was to retract the article, naming the publisher as the reason for retraction, and publishing the correct version in the retraction notice. Or the editor could publish an erratum, effectively reprinting the article in the erratum notice.