We have a mystery on our hands. OK, a pretty small mystery but nevertheless, it's a mystery that begs answers. Path buddy Tim Fowler, from here, here and here, sent his copy of Forster's 1908 classic (well, actually, the 1955 Penguin edition).
But look at the title. Odd "A"s.
Now you can imagine how this might happen. Way back in 1955, Penguin's jobbing typesetter, momentarily distracted by thoughts of lunch and a rather tasty swan sandwich his wife had lovingly prepared for him the evening before, lifted a Gill Sans "A" out of the type tray and slipped it into position, not noticing that it didn't match the other he'd slotted into place just a few seconds earlier.
Hardly his fault. His job was to assemble the lead, he didn't put the wrong "A" into the tray. Perhaps a cleaner had found it kicking around the floor and thinking he was being very helpful and thinking that there's nothing to this type matching lark, dropped it into the little wooden compartment along with all the other "A"'s. They looked the same. An "A" is, after all, an "A".
Fast forward fifty seven years and there's a bunch of saddoes (myself and Tim inlcuded) scratching their typographically interested heads wondering about the anomaly. Of course, identifying the rogue "A", the second one, is one challenge.
What I would really like to know is whether this error really went unnoticed. It must have been printed in its thousands. Curiously, the peculiarity has been reproduced on modern deck chairs and canvas prints - perhaps it was never corrected.
The investigation continues in ernest.