University of Delaware Library

Smith, Alexander Howland.

Alexander Howland Smith papers regarding his forgery of Robert Burns's The Jolly Beggars

circa 1888-1892


Descriptive Summary

Identification: MSS 099, F945


Creator: Smith, Alexander Howland.


Title: Alexander Howland Smith papers regarding his forgery of Robert Burns's The Jolly Beggars


Inclusive Dates: circa 1888-1892


Extent: 4 items


Abstract: Alexander Howland Smith, also known as "Antique Smith," was a Scottish law clerk known for the literary forgeries he produced circa 1888 to 1892. Many of Smith's dealings involved Edinburgh bookseller James Stillie, who may have been complicit in passing the forgeries. The collection comprises Smith's sixteen-page forgery of Robert Burns's cantata "The Jolly Beggars," along with documentation attempting to verify its authenticity.


Language: Materials entirely in English.



Citation

MSS 099, F945, Alexander Howland Smith papers regarding his forgery of Robert Burns's The Jolly Beggars, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Shelving Summary

Box 65, F945: Shelved in SPEC MSS 099 manuscript boxes

Location

Special Collections, University of Delaware Library / Newark, Delaware 19717-5267 / Phone: 302-831-2229 / Fax: 302-831-6003 / URL: http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/

Source

Purchase, May 2013.

Processing

Processed and encoded by Dustin Frohlich, March 2014.


The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, http://www.lib.udel.edu/cgi-bin/askspec.cgi


Biographical Note

Alexander Howland Smith, also known as "Antique Smith," was a Scottish law clerk known for the literary forgeries he produced circa 1888 to 1892. Around this time, Smith frequented the bookshops of Edinburgh, collecting books for their contemporary fly leaves on which he would produce his forgeries. Many of Smith's dealings involved Edinburgh bookseller James Stillie, who may have been complicit in passing the forgeries. Though Smith reproduced an array of literary works, he forged the letters and manuscripts Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns most frequently. Eventually discovered and arrested for the crime of obtaining money by deceit, Smith was sentenced to one year in prison in 1892.

Sources:

Fergus, David. "Antique Smith: The Affable Forger." http://textualities.net/david-fergus/antique-smith-the-affable-forger/ (accessed March 12, 2014).

McDonald, Gerald. "Forgeries in the Library."The New York Public Library Bulletin 41 (1937): 623-628.

Additional biographical information derived from collection.


Scope and Content Note

The collection comprises Smith's sixteen-page forgery of Robert Burns's cantata "The Jolly Beggars," along with documentation attempting to verify its authenticity.

The documentation includes a certificate from John Maitlan[d] stating he received the manuscript from Burns, as well as a dealer's description by James Stillie.


Selected Search Terms

Personal Names
Smith, Alexander Howland, 1859-
Maitland, John.
Burns, Robert, 1759-1796.
Corporate Names
Stillie, James, bookseller, Edinburgh.
Topical Terms
Literary forgeries and mystifications--History--19th century.
Form/Genre Terms
Forgeries (derivative objects)
Certificates.
Cantatas.
Occupation
Forgers (criminals)
Personal Contributors
Smith, Alexander Howland, 1859-

Corporate Contributors


Detailed Contents List

Presentation letter, circa 1888-1892   [Box 65 F945]

1 item

Smith's forged presentation letter signed by "Burns."

Certificate, circa 1888-1892   [Box 65 F945]

1 item

"The Jolly Beggars" forged manuscript, circa 1888-1892   [Box 65 F945]

1 item (16 p.)

James Stillie dealer's description, circa 1888-1892   [Box 65 F945]

2 items

Dealer description (of the forgery) by James Stillie; also includes an undated statement in an unknown hand describing the composition of the cantata and the provenance of Burns's original manuscript.