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Examining the minutiae

Studying texts involves examining the way books look and feel, how pages are designed and laid out, the arrangement of the text, collation of pages, and many other aspects, including book plates, signatures, and provenance. Now and again, researchers stumble upon books that look authentic but aren’t. These cleverly created forgeries force librarians and scholars to scratch their heads and examine very carefully all the clues embedded in the book. The same is true for works of art that are later deemed forgeries.

This week, two articles crossed my desk that deal with forgeries. The first is Galileo’s Sidereus  which a professor at Georgia State University studied and determined was a forgery. http://homer.gsu.edu/blogs/library/2012/09/26/gsu-faculty-member-uncovers-fake-book-sold-by-corrupt-library-director/    A longer article was published in the New Yorker (Dec 16, 2013) http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/12/16/131216fa_fact_schmidle [Note, KSU provides access to the article through their catalog.] The scholars worked with Owen Gingrich, author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus who studied most copies of Copernicus’ work, examining marginalia. In the case of this Galileo forgery, they looked at library property marks, bibliographies, and other textual clues.

The second article is about the Oath of the Freedman. There’s a short article about the forgery here:

Rare Book Crime Capers: Forgery, Theft, Murder and the Holy Grail of American Printing

http://www.themillions.com/2014/01/rare-book-crime-capers-forgery-theft-and-the-earliest-american-imprint.html?goback=%2Egde_2608822_member_5826714873064603649#%21  And a longer discussion in  The APHA Newsletter (American Printing History Association) Nov/Dec 1987.
These article discussion the study of type, layout, and typography to determine the forgery. 

Bibliography is all about the book. Look for clues as to their construction and pay attention to how they differ. This skill takes practice and requires attention to detail. Can you spot a reprint amongst the books you are studying?

About mbkcons

I love research, books, reading, and learning new things.


2 thoughts on “Examining the minutiae

  1. When I hear and read stories like this about forgeries I'm always amazed that many experts can be fooled. I suppose it attests to the skills and knowledge of the forger since they know it has to not just look good, but also pass the muster when it comes to chemical analysis. As in the case of the Freeman's Oath, the find seemed too good to be true and that alone made people immediately suspicious.

    Posted by Chad | January 18, 2014, 11:16 pm
  2. I'm always amazed that forgers can fool even the experts. I suppose it attests to their expertise since they know what the experts look for and can taylor their forgery to cover those bases. However, it's one thing to make it look good, but it also has to pass muster chemically when they look at the ink and paper content. As in the case of the “Freeman's Oath” it looked too good to be true and that was what really tripped up the forger.

    Posted by Chad | January 18, 2014, 11:21 pm

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