Pawn Stars Reboot: Beethoven

I’m taking you behind the scenes today. Did you know that the close-up shots in my scenes are actually filmed after the scene itself? When we’ve finished an entire scene, one of the cameramen takes focused shots of the book in our hands, or our fingers pointing out specific characteristics. This is called B-roll, and it is filmed without sound, meant to be woven with our speech from the scene just filmed.

As with printing, the reason you are getting this glance of how it works behind the scenes is because of a mistake. Recently an episode aired in which I evaluated a copy of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68. At one point I said that it was printed in German. However, in the final edit of that scene, unfortunately this comment was placed alongside an image of me pointing at the title page—which was in French.

This symphony, known as the Pastoral Symphony, was meant to depict a day in the country. As such, Beethoven added little descriptions to the beginning of each movement. For example, the second movement is described as “scene by the brook” (Szene am Bach) and Beethoven uses triplets to imitate the sound of running water. I was referring to these descriptions when I said it was printed in German.

The sound was put with the wrong B-roll footage, quite simply. But it’s your gain: you’ve gotten to hear a bit about how things work behind the scenes as a result.

One of the other reasons I wanted to write about this, and also why I think it’s rather fascinating, is that these are the types of mistakes that you see in the world of printing. Moreover, such mistakes can be crucial to teaching scholars about books and print. You see, if something is identified as an error, it also therefore identifies the standard that error has departed from.

Shakespearean scholar Tiffany Stern recounts many instances of printing errors in Shakespeare’s texts that have changed our readings, and incidentally teach us a bit about printing. In Antony and Cleopatra there is a line in which Cleopatra says that death “rids our dogs of languish.” However, as Stern says, “‘Anguish’ would undoubtedly make more obvious sense in this context, and what seems to have happened is that a space (which was also a piece of type) has been accidentally inked.” Did you know that spaces in letterpresses weren’t just the absence of type, the way we tend to think today? They were not empty space at all, but thin slivers of type meant to sink far enough down so as not to be inked and printed on the page. If they were inked, however, they would look a lot like a lower-case L—thus creating “languish” for “anguish.”

We are human. In the case of television or print, many intelligent and capable people must accidentally miss an error in order for it to make it through to the public. Such mistakes happen all the time and, while sometimes embarrassing, they are inevitable.

Some authors have felt rather strongly about them, however, and their recorded reactions can be rather entertaining to read. Here’s an excerpt from Robert L. Patten’s Dickens and his Publishers:

“Exasperation with his printers, who had set ‘Dark’ for ‘Deep’ in the Christmas number of Household Words, temporarily interrupted his writing: ‘I declare before God that your men are enough to drive me mad!…I don’t know where there is a beastly unstamped newspaper in London in which such a flagrant and unpardonable mistake would be made. I am so disgusted by it, that I throw down my pen in absolute despair, and could as soon paint an historical picture as go on writing.’”

While I must admit I wasn’t quite so upset by the mistake, I also admit that I’m no Charles Dickens. No Sturm und Drang: I just read French and some German. And if you noticed the mistake in the scene, you might just make an excellent bibliographer.

Further Reading

  • The Stern quote about anguish/languish is from her book Making Shakespeare, page 155. It is full of interesting tidbits like this.
  • The Patten quote is from page 223 of Dickens and his Publishers. Patten also recently came out with a biography of Dickens called Charles Dickens and ‘Boz’: The Birth of the Industrial Age Author.

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing, Rebecca.

  2. Steve Cattell says:

    Very interesting especially the Cleopatra printing error.

    I always enjoy your spots on the show.

    Steve England


  3. Rebecca,
    I saw that episode, both when it originally aired and most recently in a late night rerun. This explanation was enlightening because I did not pick up on the French-German discrepancy on either occasion. That’s why you’re you, I’m me and you get paid the “big” bucks. (smile)

  4. chris says:

    Rebecca any close shot of you Is a good shot ,,, so they can take as many as they want . and you make books interesting for once ,,thank you

  5. Rudolf Zaras says:

    Thanks for the clarification on the B-roll of the Beethoven symphony. Unfortunately the myriad of viewers of Pawn Stars who are not privileged enough to read your post will never know this.

  6. awax1217 says:

    With editing anything can be done or undone. I expect one day to see a John Wayne movie with alternate endings. Humphrey Bogart after Casablanca with clips of editing. Pretty soon we will not know what is real and what is manufactured behind the scenes. Welcome to spin.

  7. Dale Millar says:

    I often check the information I hear from Rebecca Romney when she is on Pawn Stars. I have found there to be very few mistakes but being a music major had I seen this one I would most definitely caught it. I have always studied music and the authors and the meaning of music but up until watching Rebecca on Pawn stars I did not read much else. I do now. I also found that studying history from the beard of knowledge I have acquired a great deal more knowledge than I ever thought I would. Credos to these two individuals for their ability to not only explain an item but for their ability to make me and most likely others interested in searching out other items. The knowledge I receive is, to me, the best part of the show. I do wish you’d cut Chum lee though. He is in no way a good example to anyone.Thank you Dale

  8. Doug Bruner says:

    It is always nice to see you make an appearance on “Pawn Stars.” Rick should make you a regular and have you on every week. Have a great day!

  9. Neil Goheen says:

    Very interesting. You are the type of professor I would always hope to get while back in my collegiate days. I enjoy your blog as well as your appearance on pawn Stars.

  10. Cristina says:

    What ^^^ he said! I didn’t catch it either and I’m an opera singer. Just happy when there are books on the show!

  11. Thomas L. Jones says:


    Thank you for your amazing intellect, your informative studies and being very captivating. You really influence your audience to read more. The Discovery Channel should offer you your own show. Rick and Chum are ugly. I’m a hugh Fan of a very stunning, brilliant lady. Please continue your appearances and continued success.

    Thomas L. Jones

  12. Luis Enrique Sánchez says:

    saw the episode, I must confess that I did not realize

  13. Jim Grayson says:

    Dear Rebecca,
    Thank you for revealing something of which I was completely ignorant (ignorance is a lack of knowledge, is it not, whereas stupidity is just that…LOL). I’m sure I’m old enough to be your father and being thus, still have the need to learn something new every day. Today, you have taught me something new, and I thank you.
    I always enjoy seeing you on the show. The guys don’t do much to brighten the show, especially the younger ones. Any time you come on the show, it’s like a breath of spring time.
    Many blessings to you and your loved ones…
    Jim Grayson

  14. Tom Rothwell says:

    Rebecca, You are so darn special. I scan future shows of Pawn Stars to see if there are any books on the show. If there are I watch it, if not probably I don’t view the show. Put on some weight, the more of you the better.

  15. Tom Rothwell says:

    Can’t you and Mark come up with some kind of a program of your own????? The Pawn Stars four are nice guys, of course, but you and Mark give television a culture boost.

  16. The title of one of the most famous mass communications books of all time, Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Massage,” was the product of a typo by the typesetter. But when McLuhan saw the mistake, he exclaimed, “Leave it alone! It’s great, and right on target.” I really enjoy your work on Pawn Stars. Your fun to watch and very knowledgeable. Good luck to you in all you do in your career.

    1. Tom Rothwell says:

      Rebecca, You mentioned that you read French. I have read quite a bit of Voltaire’s fiction and non-fiction writings translated in English. What am I missing by not being able to read him in French.

      1. Mostly his style. My feeling is that he comes off more light in French, while retaining the acerbic foundation. In English those touches aren’t as obvious and he feels less whimsical, which is a shame.

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