Rare-book dealer Rebecca Romney is most famous for her appearances on History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” where she was brought in to appraise any curious tome that came through the door.
Now, the longtime bookseller has become a book writer with the release of “Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History,” a nonfiction ride looking at the birth of the printed word and some of the colorful characters involved that she co-wrote with her ex-husband J.P. Romney.
These days, Romney is living in Philadelphia and working for the Brooklyn rare-book company Honey & Wax Booksellers with Heather O’Donnell, whom she’ll be chatting with at a book signing on Wednesday at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope.
amNewYork spoke with Romney about the book.
Do you have a favorite printer’s error?
That’s hard. The one that I think is the easiest to explain that is endlessly funny is the Wicked Bible. The Wicked Bible [says] “Thou shalt commit adultery” instead of “Thou shalt not.” That’s one of my favorites. That one it’s unclear whether or not it was on purpose, like some sort of sabotage by a fellow printer.
Are there any printer’s errors in your book?
Yes. There are a few. You’ll see some as you go along. It’s funny, we sent a note to our editor and our editor happened to be out when we were going through the final bit of the manuscript, and we sent her a note with a few of the errors that we found as we were going along, and by the time she got it, she said the print run is already gone and off and there’s nothing that we can do. So we have a short list of the errors that we caught, which in the rare-book world is very interesting because often those errors are what you use to determine if the book you’re looking at is a first printing. So that’s what we have here, a number of errors that are going to be fixed in the second printing, so if your book has these errors, you’ll know you have the first printing.
Any tips for would-be rare book collectors in NYC?
There are a number of really great places in New York City where you can look. One of the key things you want to keep in mind, no matter where you are, is that you’ll want to work with a dealer who is experienced and has an established record of knowing their stuff, particularly a problem in the internet age. One of the ways you can tell that is whether they’re a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. ... That is sort of a seal of approval.
Any tips for rare-book collecting on a budget?
In a lot of ways, the books that aren’t the high spots can be both fulfilling and much more cost effective in some ways. The high spots sort of jump in value compared to other works by the same author. [J.D.] Salinger is a great example of that. “Catcher in the Rye” is way more expensive than his other publications. If your favorite publication from him is actually one of the short stories ... it kind of works to your advantage. Creativity definitely works to your advantage.
What are some of the creative collections you’ve encountered?
One collector I know, for example, doesn’t collect a lot of [Charles] Darwin, but collects a lot of books from the 19th century and especially before Darwin on evolution. So you see how Darwin would be expensive, but some of the other books not so much, and it’s really fulfilling to him because he’s a biologist, and that’s really enlightening and he likes to see what people in the 1820s were saying about it.