University of Delaware Library

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Thomas J. Wise and H. Buxton Forman:
the Two Forgers

Thomas J. Wise The most heavily researched and thoroughly documented case of literary forgery in history centers around the series of pamphlets forged by Thomas James Wise and his collaborator Harry Buxton Forman. The Wise forgeries have been the focus of numerous books, countless articles and papers, entire symposia, and dozens of exhibitions. Since the publication of John Carter's and Graham Pollard's An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (1934), the Wise forgeries and the persons and events surrounding them have been subjected to continuous analysis, discussion, and debate which should continue unabated well into the next century. The Wise forgeries have also served as the collecting focus of hundreds of bibliophiles, beginning, of course, with those collectors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who unwittingly assembled the first major collections of the pamphlets Wise and Forman  Harry Buxton Forman

Frank Tober regarded his collection on the Wise forgeries to be the centerpiece of his library. With his longstanding interest in the chemistry of paper and ink, and in the technical analysis of forgeries, Frank was drawn inexorably to the Wise forgeries. Knowing that he had arrived rather late in the game in terms of building a major collection of Wise forgeries, Frank Tober expanded his purview to include a broad range of topics. He still tried to collect as many examples of the Wise forgeries as he could and by the end of his life had managed to acquire over half of the more than one hundred known Wise-Forman forgeries and piracies. He also collected books, magazines, scholarly journals, clippings, offprints of articles, exhibit catalogs, ephemera, and a host of other sources relating to Thomas J. Wise, H. Buxton Forman, and the circle of individuals associated with them. He acquired auction catalogs featuring copies of the forged pamphlets for sale prior to the publication of the Enquiry, as well as catalogs offering the libraries of private collections containing Wiseiana.

Frank Tober also collected manuscript and archival material. His collection houses eighty-five of Thomas Wise's letters, as well as correspondence and other archival materials pertaining to such pivotal figures as H. Buxton Forman, Maurice Buxton Forman, Edmund Gosse, A. Edward Newton, Clement Shorter, Theodore Watts-Dunston, Gabriel Wells, and Louise Wise. In addition, he managed to locate unique research materials by or relating to such scholars as John Carter, Wilfred Partington, Graham Pollard, Fannie Ratchford, William B. Todd, and others for his collection. No item was too peripheral for his attention and the result is a unique assemblage of primary and secondary sources offering numerous research opportunities for the Wise student, scholar, and enthusiast.

Wise autograph note Thomas James Wise, 1859-1937.
Autograph notes, undated, 1 p.

Much of Wise's correspondence in the Frank W. Tober Collection concerns the bibliographic research queries presented to Wise by collectors and scholars. This query is part of a small group of letters from Wise to Charles Dealtry Locock, the distinguished Shelley editor. On this sheet, Wise's writes his replies to the left of Locock's questions; the document also contains Wise's rubber-stamp signature.

Thomas James Wise, 1859-1937.
Autograph letter signed, to "Dear Sirs," July 7, 1888, 3 pp.

In this letter written on stationery bearing the embossed letterhead of his employer "H. Rubeck," Wise discusses the sale of pamphlets from his collection to unidentified individuals. In the course of the letter Wise makes reference to the small limitations and consequent scarcity of pamphlets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in which his correspondents are interested.

Wise letter to Forman Thomas James Wise, 1859-1937.
Autograph letter signed, to "Dear Mr. Forman," Aug 2, 1886, 2 pp.

In this early letter from Wise to H. Buxton Forman, Wise makes reference to his edition of Shelley's Hellas (1886).

Thomas James Wise, 1859-1937.
The Ashley Library: a Catalogue of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Autograph Letters. Volume One. London: Printed for Private Circulation Only, 1922.

This initial volume of Wise's Ashley Library is from the set formerly owned by the British collector George Charles Williamson. It contains a presentation inscription from Thomas Wise and a carbon of a congratulatory letter, dated 29 April 1922, Williamson wrote Wise upon receiving the volume.

Thomas J. Wise in the Original Cloth Wilfred George Partington, 1888-
Thomas J. Wise in the Original Cloth: the Life and Record of the Forger of the Nineteenth-century Pamphlets; with an appendix by George Bernard Shaw. London: Robert Hale, [1946].

Wilfred Partington's biography, originally published in an earlier version under the title Forging Ahead: the True Story of the Upward Progress of Thomas James Wise, Prince of Book Collectors, Bibliographer Extraordinary, and Otherwise (1939), was the first full-length treatment of the life and career of Thomas J. Wise.

 Centenary Studies Thomas J. Wise, Centenary Studies, edited by William B. Todd. Austin: University of Texas Press; Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, [1959].

William B. Todd has been one of the chief investigators into the bibliographic puzzles presented by the Wise forgeries. This collection of essays published in conjunction with the centenary of the birth of Thomas J. Wise includes Todd's "A Handlist of Thomas J. Wise" which remains the most comprehensive checklist of books forged, pirated, and edited by Wise. This copy of Thomas J. Wise, Centenary Studies is from the library of John Carter and bears his signature and autograph notations.

The Two Forgers John (John F. R.) Collins.
The Two Forgers: a Biography of Harry Buxton Forman & Thomas James Wise. Aldershot, [England]: Scolar Press, 1992.

John Collins provides a detailed examination of the lives and careers of Wise and Forman. This copy is one of fifty-seven, specially-bound, numbered, and signed copies, each of which contains an original pamphlet written by Forman's brother Alfred who at one point was thought to have been involved in the forgeries.

The Forgeries

Since the publication of the original Carter-Pollard Enquiry, more than one hundred of the Wise-Form forgeries and piracies have been identified. Carter and Pollard identified two basic categories for the forgeries which Wise and Forman produced: counterfeit or "binary editions," which were simply fabrications of earlier editions; and "creative" forgeries which purported to be original imprints which preceded previously-known editions of an author's work. As Carter and Pollard pointed out in the Enquiry, this sort of creative forgery was previously unknown. Wise and Forman, both together and sometimes independently, would take a piece by a well-known author which had appeared previously in a periodical or other collection, and issue it in a pamphlet printing with an imprint date which preceded any known separate printing. Since there were no originals against which these creative forgeries could be compared--the usual means of detecting a forgery--Carter and Pollard developed new techniques to identify these forgeries.

Carter and Pollard compared the texts with later printings and sometimes found that the suspicious texts followed demonstrably later versions. They scoured auction records to determine when the suspect pamphlets first appeared for sale. In addition, they would search for presentation copies of the suspected forgeries or glean through authors' correspondence for references to these alleged publications; seldom did they find any such examples which suggested the publications were actually authentic. Finally, they analyzed the chemical composition of the papers and the history of the types used in the suspected pamphlets. They were able to demonstrate convincingly that many of the pamphlets could not have appeared at the time of their alleged imprint dates because either the paper or the type was not yet in existence. At the time of his death in 1995, Frank Tober had acquired nearly half of the more than one hundred known Wise-Forman forgeries and piracies. In addition, he focused his collecting on other books which Wise or Forman had either written or edited and acquired one hundred sixty individual titles.

R. H. (Richard H.) Horne, 1802-1884.
Galatea Secunda, an Odaic Cantata, Addressed to H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, on His First Arrival in the Colony of Victoria; the music composed by J. Summers. Melbourne: Printed for Private Circulation, 1867.

Although the imprint date states that this piece was printed in Melbourne, in 1867; in reality it is a forgery which H. Buxton Forman had printed sometime between 1873 and 1884 which predates the first known Wise forgeries.

Matthew Arnold, 1822-1888.
Saint Brandan. London: E.W. & A. Skipwith, 1867.

The first known appearance of this forgery was at an auction at C.F. Libbie's, Boston, Mass., in December, 1889. This copy is accompanied by a Scribner's Bookstore envelope with autograph notes in the hand of John Carter.

Carmen Saeculare Alfred Tennyson, Baron Tennyson, 1809-1892. Carmen Saeculare: an Ode. London: Printed for Private Distribution, 1887.

This pamphlet was proven to be a forgery by its use of a type ornament on the front cover--Primrose 2-line Pica Border No. 2--which had not been designed until 1903. This copy bears a presentation inscription from Thomas J.Wise in which he notes the pamphlet was "issued by Tennyson himself."

Brother and Sister George Eliot, 1819-1880.
Brother and Sister: Sonnets, by Marian Lewes [pseudonym]. London: For Private Circulation Only, 1869.

This collection of George Eliot's sonnets is regarded as the first of the creative forgeries. It was not an attempt to replicate a genuine book which had appeared previously, but was instead an alleged first separate printing of a piece which had appeared elsewhere. This copy of Brother and Sister is from the library of the American composer and book collector Jerome Kern.

Love Letters of Charlotte Bronte Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855.
The Love Letters of Charlotte Bronte to Constantin Heger. London: Printed for Private Circulation Only, 1914.

This collection of Charlotte Bronte's letters is an unauthorized piracy which Wise published in an edition of thirty copies.

The Enquiry

John Carter and Graham Pollard have justifiably received the major credit for proving that the group of pamphlets now known as "the Wise forgeries" were printed under false pretenses. The publication of An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets in 1934 brought the forgeries to the attention of the public and placed Thomas J. Wise, one of the most respected bibliographers and collectors of his time, squarely in the center of the controversy.

Carter and Pollard were very much aware they were continuing an investigative tradition that hearkened back to their predecessors who exposed Chatterton, Ireland, Macpherson, and Collier, even so far as the usage of "Enquiry" in their title. But the Enquiry has become recognized as one of the landmarks of modern bibliographic methodology. Carter and Pollard employed state-of-the-art techniques to analyze the typography and composition of the paper and ink used in the suspect pamphlets. Their procedures for establishing proper collation of the texts and accounting for other circumstantial evidence such as provenance, condition, and contemporary auction and publishing records laid the groundwork for all subsequent bibliographic investigation. Frank Tober was fascinated by the Carter and Pollard investigations and collected virtually anything related to the Enquiry or to their subsequent research. He also began to collect John Carter's work in depth and even managed to acquire books and research material formerly owned by Carter, some of which is featured in this exhibition.

An Enquiry John Carter, 1905-1975.
Graham Pollard, 1903-1976.
An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets. London: Constable & Co., Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934.

Although Carter & Pollard took care not to accuse Thomas J. Wise outright of forgery in the Enquiry, the mass of evidence they accumulated pointed directly to him.

John Carter, 1905-1975.
Graham Pollard, 1903-1976.
An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets. London: Constable & Co., Ltd.; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934.

This copy of the Enquiry was formerly owned by A. Edward Newton, one of Thomas J. Wise's closest friends, and contains a three-page letter from Wise to Newton, dated January, 27, 1925, tipped onto the front free endpaper.

The Gullible Papers (1934)

The English collector Richard Jennings (1881-1952), who knew Thomas J. Wise and had been duped by him, wrote a series of parodies shortly after the publication of the Carter and Pollard Enquiry which were printed in five single-sheet publications and circulated to a small circle of friends. Jennings chose the pen name Richard Gullible and the publications have been termed The Gullible Papers ever since. All five of The Gullible Papers are quite scarce and Frank Tober's collection includes two of the five pieces.

Gullible letter

Single sheet, folded: The Boskage, Kensington. "My Dear Sir, I hear that you desire to print the sonnet by E.B.B. ..."
Imprint: Printed for Carter, Pollard and Gullible, by R. Clay & Sons, and Rigidly Reserved for Private Circulation. [The Gullible Papers, no. 2.]

Gullible letter

Single sheet: July 1, 1934. "My Dear Pollard, I shall be delighted to present myself at the appointed place and hour on Tuesday..."
Imprint: Printed for the heirs and assigns of Clement Stunter by R. Clay & Sons, 1934. [The Gullible Papers, no 4.]

Gabriel Wells, 1862-1946.
The Carter-Pollard Disclosures. Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1934.

This pamphlet by the American bookseller Gabriel Wells, which he issued shortly after the publication of the Enquiry, was the only published defense of Wise to appear. A close friend of Wise, Wells was unrelenting in his defense. He sent copies of The Carter-Pollard Disclosures to booksellers, collectors, and librarians in England and in the United States in an effort to win support for the disgraced Wise. Frank Tober acquired Wells's personal archive of this correspondence which includes more than fifty letters from such figures as Charles Heartman, Mitchell Kennerley, W.A. Marsden, A. Edward Newton, Wilfred Partington, and a host of others, with supporters of Wise and critics divided fairly equally.

Mitchell Kennerley, 1878-1950.
Typed letter signed, to "Dear Gabriel," November 1st 1934, 1 p.

In this response to Wells, the American publisher makes it clear that he does not believe in Wise's innocence.

Wilfred George Partington, 1888-1955. Typed letter signed, to "Dear Gabriel Wells," 9th May 1939, 1 p., accompanied by a typed transcript, signed and dated "J. Haley 9/5/39," 1 p.

In his biography of Wise, Forging Ahead (1939), Wilfred Partington claimed that Gabriel Wells informed him that Wise agreed to confess to the forgeries. Prior to the book's publication, Wells denied that he had used the word "confession" in describing his conversation with Wise. This letter and accompanying affidavit presents Partington's account of his conversation with Wells.

Letters of Thomas J. Wise to John Henry Wrenn: a Further Inquiry into the Guilt of Certain Nineteenth-century Forgers, edited by Fannie E. Ratchford. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1944.

The American book collector John Henry Wrenn acquired a substantial portion of his massive collection from Thomas J. Wise. Included in Wrenn's collection was a near-complete set of the forgeries which he had bought, unwittingly, from Wise. Wrenn's collection was eventually acquired by the University of Texas where Fannie Ratchford served as rare book librarian. Using documents in the Wrenn Papers, Ratchford sought to prove that Harry Buxton Forman, Edmund Gosse, and others were participants, along with Wise, in the forgeries. This copy contains two letters from Fannie Ratchford tipped in.

John Carter, 1905-1975.
The Firm of Charles Ottley, Landon & Co.: Footnote to an Enquiry. London: Rupert Hart-Davis; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948.

Only four titles bearing the imprint of the publishing firm Charles Ottley, Landon & Co are known to exist. All four are forgeries of works by Algernon Charles Swinburne and the only bibliographical documentation of the firm's existence is in Wise's 1920 bibliography of the work of Swinburne. This copy bears the author's presentation inscription "for John & Alexie Russell from that old pedant John Carter 26 Nov 1948."

John Carter, 1905-1975.
Graham Pollard, 1903-1976.
Working Papers for a Second Edition of An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, by John Carter and Graham Pollard. Oxford: Distributed for the authors by B.H. Blackwell Ltd., 1967-1970.

Although John Carter and Graham Pollard would not live to see the publication of an updated second edition of their Enquiry, they continued their research, alone and together, and published their results in a variety of outlets, including this series of four Working Papers. This copy of Working Paper No. 2: The Forgeries of Tennyson's Plays is from John Carter's library.

Clays of Bungay Moran, James.
Clays of Bungay. Bungay: Richard Clay & Co., [1978].

One of the critical breakthroughs in the Carter-Pollard investigation occurred with the discovery of a specific type--Clays No. 3 Long Primer--which was present in many of the suspected pamphlets and which had been introduced in a re-designed form by the London printing firm of Richard Clay during the early 1880s. The evidence showed that quite a few of the suspect pamphlets had been printed by Clay, who had done other printing for Wise, and that the use of this distinctive type in pamphlets with imprint dates much earlier than actual introduction of the type helped identify them as forgeries. This history of the printing house includes a chapter on Thomas J. Wise.

Psalmanazar Macpherson Chatterton
Hoaxes Index Collier
Prokosch Fortsas
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