Is this a real book?
April 21, 2016 7:17 PM   Subscribe

There's a book used as a prop on the tv show Elementary and I'm wondering if it's real or not.

I've googled the name and have only found one reference to it...a tweet by someone else wondering about it. I have googled what looks to be the name; I have tried both Sceaxiquso and Sceaxiouso. Is it real? Who did that artwork on the cover? This is the screenshot I just now took of this past week's show, so the book has been used at least twice that I know of.

I was just immediately drawn to the art, rewound the show to get the name, googled it, and found nothing except that tweet.
posted by the webmistress to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
If you edit the image down to just the book cover and google image search it, it comes up on a royalty free image/vector graphics website, so probably something mocked up by the production design team for the episode.
posted by bluecore at 7:23 PM on April 21, 2016 [13 favorites]

Mr. BlahLaLa is a Hollywood prop man and I used to work in production...doing legal clearances, among other things. And while we can't know for sure because neither of us works on that show, it's quite unlikely that this is a real book.

Some thoughts: you say you've seen it twice. Is that because it's used in a set that repeats? Like, Sherlock's home? (I don't watch the show.) Okay, in that case that might be one clearance for all future uses, so it might be an actual book.

Or it's been featured in two different sets, like it's just a prop that the prop guy has on his truck, so they can throw it in wherever they need it? In those cases, it's just pretty much guaranteed that it's a manufactured prop.

If it's something very featured -- like this is THE clue that the entire mystery revolves around -- it's probably a prop.

Lastly, yeah, your googling pretty much guarantees that it's nothing. If it was a real book it would show up somewhere, I'd imagine. And since bluecore found the cover art as a royalty-free image, I'd say that's the last clue you need to say that the prop department created it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:49 AM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

You marked bluecore's answer as a Best Answer, but it's actually a lot more complicated than that.

I used to design prop book covers for a TV show. (Among other types of TV related graphic design.) One recurring issue that would happen is that the writers would include a real book -- often one still under copyright -- in the script. Which meant we either had to clear the real book, at which point the prop master would go buy a few copies of the real thing, easy peasy. Or, more likely, the book they mentioned in the script was read and discussed at length by the murderer in the episode (this was a crime procedural), used as a murder weapon, or otherwise depicted in a potentially negative light. And the publisher of course wanted nothing to do with that.

Initially, we thought we were up shit creek, but we found out via the studio legal representatives that book title text is actually not protected by copyright. You can mock up a book cover that says "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling" and have the actors display and verbally discuss it, and there's nothing Scholastic can really do. It's the book cover design itself that is proprietary, not the title or author's name. So the upshot is that I used to make all kinds of book covers of actual books using vector art from stock photo websites, to get around this problem. The books really existed, but not with my cover designs.

Occasionally the "fake cover design for real book" would end up in the back-stock of the prop department, and could be subsequently dressed into a set like the one in your photo.

On the other hand, I used to have to mock up book covers for "deep background" placement in bookstore and library scenes all the time. Those were almost never real books (though sometimes I'd do a cover for a public domain literary classic like Pride And Prejudice or Hamlet or something), and, yes, this photo looks exactly like that sort of thing. The title, especially, to me implies that it's a prop book designed by the show's graphic designers, and not a real book. We were always trying to come up with nonsense titles for things like this, and "Sceaxious" is perfect on that count.

Elementary being shot in New York, I'm almost positive that I know the graphic designer who created that book. It's down to two or three people, all of whom I know, for sure.
posted by Sara C. at 9:05 AM on April 22, 2016 [15 favorites]

« Older How to best record a Skype call?   |   How do I deal with these thoughts of quitting... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.