Literary Forgery

…no one seems to have studied in a comprehensive way epigraphical forgery and the methods which are employed in detecting it…” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 22.

It was so easy two or three centuries ago to compose an important inscription, and to win distinction by publishing it to the world, and so difficult to detect its spurious character, that many scholars yielded to the temptation.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 22.

…Borghesi was so indignant at the large number of forgeries from Naples that he was inclined to hold all Neapolitan inscriptions under suspicion.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 23.

…all the principle continental peoples of Europe – the Italians, the Germans, the French, and the Spanish – have had representatives in the art of forgery…” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 23.

We have now a systematic collection of inscriptions; critical principles are well established, and interest in classical antiquities is so general and all parts of the Roman world are reached today with such comparative ease, that a forgery, or the attribution of a forged inscription to a particular place, would be readily detected.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 24.

…many of the critical principles upon which the science [of detecting forgeries and interpolated inscriptions] rests today were formulated and applied by Mommsen…” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 25.

The most prolific forgers in the period from Felicianus to Chabassiere were Boissard, Gutenstein, Ligorio, Lupoli, Roselli, and Trigueros.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 25.

…the people of Grumentum regarded Roselli as their most distinguished citizen, and they gave their visitor all the help they could to make the fame of their fellow-townsman known as widely as possible.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 26.

Gutenstein’s motive was more altruistic. He was Gruter’s amanuensis and not only reported authentic inscriptions to his master but also forged others to gratify Gruter’s intense desire for additions to his collection.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 26.

Lupoli, a bishop at Venusia, was to take inscriptions from the collections of Gruter and Fabretti, add a few genuine ones of his own, and forge others to complete his collection.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 27.

The conduct of the Spanish epigraphist [Trigueros] was peculiarly and ingeniously perfidious, because he attributed his own forged inscriptions to a scholar of a previous generation who was probably a creation of his own imagination.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 27.

Not infrequently, forgers have been deceived by the inventions of other forgers.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 29.

The motive which actuated most forgers was a desire to win distinction by the number or importance of their discoveries; some of them wished to prove a point, or to establish the antiquity of their own families.” – F. F. Abbot (1908), page 29.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Stats from Abbot (1908);
Spurious/Suspected Inscriptions: 10,576 out of 144,044. 1 out of 13.619.
Vol. VII: 24/1,355. 1 out of 56.458.
Vols. IX and X: 1,854/14,841. 1 out of 8.004.

“As modern scholars have established, over half of the surviving texts in the names of the Merovingian rulers of early medieval France and Germany (c481–752) are fakes; a third of those in the names of the Lombard rulers of northern Italy (568–774) are suspect; and similar figures hold true of the nearly 2,000 documents of pre-Conquest England. The vast majority of these texts were forged in the Middle Ages, in most cases between the 10th and 13th centuries. Those responsible were not a small cadre of recalcitrant rogues, but leading figures within the church – men such as Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg and Gilbert Foliot, abbot of Gloucester and later bishop of Hereford.”
– History Extra (2021)[2]

“The subject of literary forgery by monks has been strongly commented on upon by Milman, Sir Harris Nicolas, M. Giry, Isaac Disraeli, and others. See also Arbuthnot, “Mysteries of Chronology,” pp.24, 25, 37.”
– Edward A. Petherick (1904)[pp.xxv-xxvi]

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~


[1] – Abbott, Frank Frost. “Some Spurious Inscriptions and Their Authors.” Classical Philology, vol. 3, no. 1, 1908, pp. 22–30. JSTOR, Accessed 6 June 2020.

[2] – Anonymous. “The forged texts of the Middle Ages: why Europe’s holy men turned to counterfeiting” (4 Feb. 2021). Accessed 21 Feb. 2021.

[3] – Edwin Johnson. “The Rise of English Culture” (1904). Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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