"@Dan Smith: Well, nuts, I just happen to have Penguin UK editions of Steinbeck, Capote, Fitzgerald, Nabokov...now I have no idea whether I'm reading the authentic texts or not!"
Amazon "Look Inside the Book" on the UK site is not showing the ludicrous "gallon a petrol."
But what is an "authentic text?"
For example, modern editions of even the most classic works are often "brought into conformity with modern usage."
There is a story by Jack London whose title is <em>always</em> rendered as "All Gold Canyon." But when it was published in 1906, originally in a magazine, the title was "All Gold Cañon."
And the question of textual accuracy is always a puzzle. Often the first appearance of a work contains errors, or changes made that the writer didn't authorize. So, should later editions reproduce the first published form, or not?
A story by Stephen Crane, "An Experiment in Misery," which is a story contained within a short framing narrative. Two men, talking, wonder how it feels to be a tramp. So one of them dresses up in shabby clothes and goes out to live like one for a night. The next paragraph begins with the man's experience: "It was late at night, and a fine rain was swirling softly down..." At the end of this narrative, we return to the two men: "Well," said the friend, "did you discover his point of view?" "I don't know that I did," replied the young man; "but at any rate I think mine own has undergone a considerable alteration."
Believe it or not, about half the time the story is reproduced completely, and about half the time the framing narrative simply lopped and the first words are "It was late at night..."
The logical Lewis Carroll insisted on using two apostrophes in <em>ca'n't</em> and <em>wo'n't</em> on the grounds that there were two places where letters had been left out, and his publisher agreed. Some editions reproduce his punctuation, some don't. But that is unfaithful to Carroll, because his innovative punctuation was obviously important to him.