The Bungay-based book printer produced what has been described as a ‘small number’ of early copies of the new Bridget Jones book, Mad About the Boy, containing a 40pp section of Sir David Jason’s autobiography, My Life.

Both books were published yesterday, the book trade’s ‘Super Thursday’ when major titles that are expected to be Christmas bestsellers are released.

PrintWeek understands that despite St Ives’ use of technology such as Muller Martini’s ASIR system for automatic signature recognition, human error resulted in the mix-up, which affected a small number of copies in the first production run.

The two books are the same format, with the same pagination and imposition, on the same paper, and coincidentally neither has differentiating page headers.

Clays managing director Kate McFarlan said: “Obviously we are very sorry that it happened and we have apologised to Random House. Whether it’s 20 copies or 200,000 copies a mistake is a mistake. We are very embarrassed.”

Sophie Mitchell, publicity manager at Random House imprint Vintage, described the printer as “having a Bridget Jones moment” which resulted in widespread coverage for the story on national media channels.

It was yesterday’s most-read news story on the BBC website.

Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding saw the funny side, and told ITV News that “nothing turns out quite perfectly”.

The incident has resulted in massive additional publicity for both titles. Mad About the Boy is currently number one in Amazon’s bestseller list, with David Jason’s My Life at number 10.