University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Miscellaneous Forgeries and Hoaxes

Frank Tober assembled a fascinating collection of examples of forgeries from all periods as well as secondary works about them. He also developed an interest in such related topics as hoaxes and imaginary books and libraries and collected a substantial amount of material pertaining to them. The following section presents a sample of Frank Tober's collection of miscellaneous forgeries and hoaxes.

Truth Brought to Light Edmund Ludlow, fl. 1691-1692.
Truth Brought to Light: or, The Gross Forgeries of Dr. Hollingworth in His Pamphlet Intitlued, The Character of King Charles the First, from the Declaration of Mr. Alexander Henderson, &c., Detected. Being a Vindication of Mr. Henderson and Dr. Walker, from the Aldgate Chaplain's Vile Scandals .... London: [s.n.], printed in the year 1693.

This attack on the royalist figure Richard Hollingworth was the work of a former officer in Cromwell's army and republican pamphleteer who wrote under the name of General Ludlow. One of the focal points of his attack is an attempt to prove that the Eikon Basilike, one of the most popular works of the seventeenth century, was not the pre-execution meditations of Charles I, but rather a forgery.

William Stukeley, 1687-1765.
An Account of Richard of Cirencester, Monk of Westminster, and of His Works: with His Antient Map of Roman Britain, and the Itinerary therof; Read at the Antiquarian Society, March 18, 1756 .... London: Printed by R. Hett: And sold by Charles Corbet ..., 1757.

Dr. William Stukeley was a noted antiquary who in this paper discusses the important discovery of an early manuscript history of Roman Britain by a fifteenth century monk. The manuscript revealed numerous new details about Roman Britain; however, it was later revealed to be a forgery produced by Charles Bertram, one of the most notorious literary imposters of the eighteenth century.

A Detection of the Love-letters A Detection of the Love-letters Lately Attributed in Hugh Campbell's Work to Mary Queen of Scots; wherein His Plagiarisms Are Proved, and His Fictions Fixed. London: John Murray, 1825.

This pamphlet exposes a series of letters, purportedly by Mary Queen of Scots, as forgeries.

Major Byron Theodore G. (Theodore George) Ehrsam, 1909-
Major Byron: the Incredible Career of a Literary Forger. New York: Charles S. Boesen, 1951.

Major George Gordon de Luna Byron (ca. 1810?-1882) maintained for his entire life that he was the illegitimate son of Lord Byron. Although he was never able to assert a legitimate claim as Lord Byron's heir, he capitalized, whenever possible, on the alleged connection, often with schemes involving fraud and forgery. His skilled forgeries of manuscripts and letters by Shelley, Byron, Keats, and others continued to plague scholars well into the twentieth century.

Constantine Simonides, 1824?-1867.
Fac-similes of Certain Portions of the Gospel of St. Matthew, and of the Epistles of Ss. James & Jude, Written on Papyrus in the First Century, and Preserved in the Egyptian Museum of Joseph Mayer, Esq, Liverpool, with a Portrait of St. Matthew, from a Fresco Painting at Mount Athos, edited and illustrated with notes and historical and literary prolegomena ..., by Constantine Simonides. London: Trübner & Co., 1861.

Constantine Simonides was one of the most controversial figures of his time in museum and scholarly circles. Already a convicted forger, Simonides issued this manuscript facsimile of papyri texts which he claimed to have discovered in a private collection. It was denounced immediately as a forgery because of his controversial past; however, it has never been definitely proven to be one of Simonides's forgeries.

Une fabrique de faux autographes Henri Leonard Bordier, 1817-1888.
Une fabrique de faux autographes, ou, Récit de l'affaire Vrain Lucas, par Henri Bordier et Émile Mabille. Paris: Léon Techener, 1870.

Vrain-Denis Lucas (b. 1818) was arguably the most successful forger in history. He produced tens of thousands of forged manuscripts and documents, selling over twenty-seven thousand alone to Michel Chasles, a mathematician and prominent member of the French Academy of Science. Looking back at the Vrain-Lucas case, it is hard to imagine how Chasles and others were deceived. The forgeries were allegedly the work of some of the most famous figures in history, including Galileo, Cleopatra, Charlemagne, Mary Magdalene, and Alexander the Great, to name just several, and all were written in Modern French.

Spectra Arthur Davison Ficke, 1883-1946.
Witter Bynner, 1881-1968.
Spectra: a Book of Poetic Experiments, by Anne Knish and Emanuel Morgan. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1916.

This collection of modernist poetry was a hoax perpetrated by the American poets Arthur Davison Ficke and Witter Bynner, who wrote under the respective pseudonyms Anne Knish and Emanuel Morgan. Ficke's and Bynner's parodies of contemporary poetry received favorable reviews as the work of serious poets. This copy is inscribed "To Michel Farano through Witter Bynner from Emanuel Morgan."

The Lambiad: a Collection of Leaves from the Offices of Famous Printers, Showing Variations in the Treatment of a Similar Theme. Windham, Conn.: [Hawthorn House], 1936. Keepsake No. 10 of the Columbiad Club.

This collection is a spoof of a leaf book containing fictitious leaves from alleged works by Aldus Manutius, William Caxton, Barbou, Barlow & Babcock, and Bodoni. The hoax was perpetrated by the printers Edmund B. Thompson and William E. Rudge, III, who issued the collection in an edition of twenty-five numbered copies.

The Mainz Diary: 1437-1440 in which New Light is Shed upon the Cradle Days of the Art and Mystery of Printing; translated from the German by Albert Bachaus; edited and with a Note by Arthur W. Rushmore; with a Critical Foreword by Hermann Puterschein .... Madison, N. J.: Golden Hind Press, 1940.

This account of the discovery of a set of diaries from Mainz, Germany, dating from the 1430s, which present a revised version of Gutenberg and the invention of printing, is more of a humorous spoof than a hoax.

Catalogue, no. 1 Herman W. Liebert.
Catalogue. No. 1, February 1955: the St. Ronan Bookshoppe. New Haven, Conn.: [s.n., 1955].

This twentieth-century take on The Fortsas Hoax is an eight-page, mimeographed catalog of imaginary books and manuscripts compiled by the bookseller Herman W. Liebert. Offered for sale are such rarities as a cache of two hundred ten letters from an unidentified correspondent who signs himself variously as "S.J." or "Popsy," to an unidentified younger friend "who appears to have been a lawyer, probably Scotch;" a letter from "T.J.W. (Wordsworth?) To H.B.F. (Unidentified)" expressing regret that "his plan has come to nothing;" and the largest manuscript known, La Morte de Guenivere (ca. 1290) which measures 7 x 9 ½ feet. This copy of the Catalogue is inscribed to the British book dealer Alan Thomas and contains pencil annotations identifying the authors of the individual descriptions.

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary.
Communist Forgeries: Hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate: Testimony of Richard Helms, Assistant Director, Central Intelligence Agency, June 2, 1961. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1961.

This testimony by the future Director of the Central Intelligence Agency attempts to demonstrate that the Soviet government was actively involved in a massive program of documentary fraud in which it produced thousands of forged intelligence reports, news articles, and documents.

Clifford Irving.
Fake! the Story of Elmyr de Hory the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, [1969].

This biography of the greatest art forger of the twentieth century is written by Clifford Irving, who is best remembered for his forgery of the autobiography of Howard Hughes

Stephen Fay.
Hoax: the Inside Story of the Howard Hughes--Clifford Irving Affair, [by] Stephen Fay, Lewis Chester, [and] Magnus Linklater. New York: The Viking Press, [1972].

This trio of journalists presents a fascinating account of Clifford Irving's near-successful attempt to have his forgery of the autobiography of Howard Hughes published.

Hofmann's Confession. Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, [1987]. Three volumes. [Compiled by] and with an Introduction by Jerald and Sandra Tanner.

The Mark Hofmann forgery and murder case was one of the most sensational of the twentieth century. Hofmann's forgeries of the Oath of a Freeman, Mormon documents, and other manuscripts and printed documents were among the most sophisticated ever produced. Hofmann's Confession contains the complete transcripts of the Salt Lake Country prosecutors' interviews with Mark Hofmann.

W. Thomas Taylor.
Texfake: an Account of the Theft and Forgery of Early Texas Printed Documents, with an Introduction by Larry McMurtry. Austin: W. Thomas Taylor, 1991.

During the course of research on early nineteenth century Texas imprints, the bookseller and fine press publisher W. Thomas Taylor discovered a number of forged documents. His research led to the discovery of a systematic effort by several individuals to forge important Texas historical documents. Eventually nearly sixty forgeries were discovered, including some of the most important documents in Texas history.

Sidney E. Berger.
The Anatomy of a Literary Hoax. New Castle: Oak Knoll Books, ([Newtown, Pa.]: Bird & Bull Press), 1994.

This work recounts a hoax which victimized Henry Morris, proprietor of the Bird & Bull Press. Morris had included a false, nineteenth-century bibliographical citation in his edition of Timothy Barret's Nagashizuki (1979) as a means of testing whether anyone ever read bibliographies. The rare book librarian Sid Berger helped orchestrate this hoax in which he and Barrett claimed to have found an actual edition of the book Morris had invented.

Psalmanazar Macpherson Chatterton
Ireland Index Fortsas
Prokosch Collier
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