Book Review: Bibliotecha Fictiva, A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery 400 BC – AD 2000

I purchased this book about a year ago, in May 2020. I got it for my birthday and had some generous friends, Evan and Dani Benton and Sara Sweet, who donated to help me cover the cost. A thanks goes out from me to those three. This book has been incredibly useful for my studies and has held a prominent spot on my bookshelf ever since I got it.

Review

Arthur Freeman’s “Bibliotecha Fictiva: A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery 400 BC – AD 2000” was published in 2014 and contains an illustrated treasure trove of information about literary forgery. This is a reference book to the largest known library in the world dedicated to literary forgery, currently held at the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins, as it was in 2014. The book is around 430 pages and is split into two main parts. The first part is 82 pages and provides an eloquently narrated overview of the contents of the library. The second part is about 115 pages and is made up of a handlist of the 1,676 specific works in the library.

The overview is split into 11 sections that each focus on a different period of Western history or geographical location, reaching from the oldest times to the most recent. The brief descriptions of different forgeries throughout the ages left me wanting to know more about all of them. The handlist follows the first part in a similar fashion, bearing 13 sections cataloguing their collection of Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern forgeries. Section 13 is comprised of 104 “General Works on Literary Forgery” which are a solid introductory collection for this field. I do think a shorter “beginner’s” list would be useful for those who have never stepped into this territory, as there aren’t really any of those yet, but I also understand that was not the point of publishing this particular compilation.

There was one entry in the handlist that I did not expect to see. It was entry #1592, that is “Fomenko, Anatoly T. History: fiction or science? Chronology 2, tr. from the Russian by Michael Jagger. Paris, London, and New York: Delamere Publishing, [2008]”. Along with it was a footnote that read, in reference to Fomenko’s New Chronology:

“An altogether insane revisionary account of history, in the tradition of Jean Hardouin, rendering nearly every event and text before the late middle ages a conspiratorial forgery. Fomenko is an otherwise distinguished Russian mathematician.”
Arthur Freeman (2014)[p.389]

I’m interested in seeing where exactly Fomenko argues for a conspiracy of that scale. I’ve read those books and don’t remember them being as conspiratorial as people make them out to be. I have a quote from Anatoly Fomenko that is in one of his publications (“Empirico-Statistical Analysis of Narrative Material and its Applications to Historical Dating, Volume II: The Analysis of Ancient and Medieval Records” (1994). http://chronologia.org/en/kw1.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2021.):

“I cannot at all agree with the hypothesis of Morozov, according to which most literary works of antiquity are fabrications of the Apocrypha of the Renaissance, which would mean that what we know today as ancient history is actually the result of premeditated falsification. … My standpoint is different, namely that, due to the results of the application of the new dating methods, almost all surviving ancient documents (of antiquity or the Middle Ages) are authentic and written for the purpose of perpetuating real events rather than leading future historians astray.”
Anatoly T. Fomenko (1994)[p.196]

Maybe this above quote is just a lie from Fomenko. Whatever the case may be, I do want to see someone point to a work and page number where Fomenko advocates for a massive literary conspiracy. I’ll be keeping my eye out for it too when I’m reading through his works again.

All in all, this book is essential for the curriculum of any literary forgery student. The library is still growing and is itself indispensable to scholars in this area. If you want to read more about this book, these three reviews are captivating and informative:

1 – Dunne, Derek. “Book Review” in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Volume 111, Number 2, (June 2017). https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/691544. Accessed 15 May 2021.

2 – Slive, Daniel J., and Arthur Freeman. Textual Cultures, vol. 10, no. 2, (2016), pp. 164–166. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26514872. Accessed 15 May 2021.

3 – Dibbell, Jeremy. Book Review: “Bibliotheca Fictiva” & “Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries” (Nov. 2015) https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/blog/book-review-bibliotheca-fictiva-fakes-lies-and-forgeries. Accessed 15 May 2021.

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2 Comments on “Book Review: Bibliotecha Fictiva, A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery 400 BC – AD 2000

  1. So Fomenkos main point is not that the manuscripts are forgeries, but that they are dated wrong? It’s an important distinction. And more; maybe his theory “rescues” some of the manuscripts who is regarded as forgeries due to anachronisms, because these anomalies can be explained by his theory, so rather than adding manuscripts to the list of forgeries, he’s shrinking the number of books in the Bibliotecha Fictiva.

    Liked by 1 person

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