Haywood, Ian. Faking It: Art and the Politics of Forgery. First Edition, St. Martin’s Press, 1987.
Aside from the information on forgeries, my favorite part of this book was the vocabulary. A lot of the pages had words which compelled me to gain a greater understanding by consulting the dictionaries.
Chapter 1 – Pages 1-18 (18)
2 – 21-69 (48)
3 – 71-88 (18)
4 – 91-103 (13)
5 – 105-129 (25)
6 – 131-143 (13)
Chapter 2 makes up about a third of the book.
The Concept of Forgery
The book opens by talking about the fraudulent Hitler Diaries and then it moves onto the broader realm of forgery by diving into a review of some definitions of forgery throughout time. On page 7, he lists these “three qualifications for something to be a forgery”:
1 – “the fabrication must be of an authentic document (which includes the alteration of a document rather than the wholesale reproduction”
2 – “the authentic document must have legal or commercial significance”
3 – “the intention must be to defraud”
This limits forgery to documents and I don’t see a reason for imposing such a limit. He gives some examples of what’s forgery and not on page 7 which I don’t agree with. However, I do agree with the part where he says “Without a forger’s confession … [their intent to defraud] is very difficult to prove”.
The definitions he provides from other sources are useful. I do like the comparative analysis of the definitions he uses throughout this part of the book.
The definition which I favor the most for forgery is “something created with the intent to have it indefinitely deceive a person or a group of people”. Haywood has me questioning the utility of this definition because of the idea that an artist could make a work intended to deceive all who look at it. The first type of art that comes to mind for me is hyper-realistic art. Would it be appropriate to call their work a forgery? If it looked so much like its model that you could not tell the “real” from the “fake”, and that’s what the artist wanted? I’m not so sure it would be appropriate. At what point does the deception become criminal?
There is a decent section on the status of the Apocryphal Biblical texts and their history. It uses them as the focus point for discussing issues of authenticity.
The Eighteenth Century: A Prolific Age of Literary Forgery
Chapter 2 opened by listing some famous forgeries and a couple I wasn’t as familiar with, namely Fingal and Temora. Here are the forgeries he names in the opening paragraph:
(1704) – George Psalmanazar’s An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa
(1750) – Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw’s ‘Hardyknute’
(1750) – William Lauder’s An Essay on Milton’s Use and Imitation of the Moderns
(1763) – James Macpherson’s Fragments of Ancient Poetry
(1762) – Fingal
(1763) – Temora
(1777) – Thomas Chatterton’s forgeries
(1790’s) – William Henry Ireland’s Shakespeare forgeries
The chapter then continues into the specifics of some 18th century cases, starting with Psalmanazar’s activity.
“…the early eighteenth century lauded imitation, distrusted fictional pretense, and was rife with piracy and misattribution.”[p.21]
On page 24, Richetti is cited as saying, “many narratives of the period, presented as fact and accepted as such by many, were sheer fabrications”.
The idea of novels being fictitious histories was mentioned on page 27, citing the Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at Edinburgh, Hugh Blair (1783).
“The value of a forgery is that it forces one to consider the conventions one is judging by.”[p.29]
Next, it focused on Alexander Pope’s shady business practices. This section of the chapter briefly illuminates some of the early 18th century copyright laws and concepts of authenticity.
William Lauder’s forgery is the focus of the next part.
“The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century is often called the Augustan or neo-classical period, implying a great reverence for Greek and Latin authors… All educated people were expected to turn to the Ancients for models.”[p.39]
The “manuscript and history” is discussed in the next part. It is reiterated that manuscripts gained tremendous authority in the 18th century. The closer to the time a MS was allegedly created, the better and more authoritative it was considered. I haven’t seen any mention of Jean Mabillon (1632-1707) in this book yet, but if my memory serves correctly, Jean was the one who really spearheaded the importance of having sources that witnessed the events they were reporting, and popularizing the notion of “the earlier the source the better”. Hence a MS from the C4th talking about C4th events would be considered more authoritative than a C6th MS talking about C4th events.
Moving on, the chapter delves into James Macpherson’s Ossianic forgeries, which were forged poems. He forged Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Fingal, and Temora. These forged poems became popular and resulted in scholars reevaluating their methods of authentication. All of this secured Macpherson’s place as one of the most prominent forgers of the 18th century.
One thing that sticks out to me when reading through these accounts is that otherwise competent scholars are brought in by these forgeries. Macpherson was persuasive to Edward Gibbon and Chatterton won the favor of Dr. Johnson.
The account of Macpherson is followed in this chapter by an account of Thomas Chatterton, the teenage forger.
“Chatterson’s historical vision comprised over a hundred unpublished items, and many genres and forms of discourse: poetry, prose, letters, diaries, proclamations, drama, treatises, drawings.”[p.54]
After Chatterton comes a tale of William Henry Ireland and his forged Shakespeare writings.
On page 67 is a quote attributed to Wellek and Warren from 1963 that made me wonder about Fomenko’s New Chronology. The quote talks about how forgeries and hoaxes spur interest in developing further studies into specific topics. If FNC is a forgery or hoax, then it has had that effect on me. For it has encouraged me to learn more about history and how history is studied. Even if it is not a forgery or hoax, it has still had that effect on me.
“A good forgery is like a shot of adrenaline in the bloodstream of culture.”[p.67]
Scholar Forgers: John Payne Collier, T. J. Wise
Chapter 3 moves us from the 18th century into the 19th century, focusing on Collier and Wise. The chapter briefly discusses Collier’s activities and then moves on to those of Major George Gordon Byron and Thomas James Wise.
The Missing Link: Archaeological Forgery and Fictions of the First Human
“There were no archeological fakes in the eighteenth century because the discipline had not become a central cultural activity.”[p.91]
Were there really no archeological fakes produced in the C18th? I find that hard to believe. Even though the discipline had not been firmly established yet, there was still fakery of virtually every kind taking place. How here are we to define archeological fake? The opening sentence for this chapter says, “Archeology is the study of remnants and artefacts of the past”.[p.91] I’m not as familiar with 18th century forgery as I am with medieval and early modern, but I’d imagine there were some fakes being produced, even though I don’t have an example off the top of my head. Maybe I’ll loop back to these notes to include an example if I find one, or someone can comment here if they know of any.
His first example of C19th forgery was Heinrich Schliemann’s “Troy”.
Three main fakes were discussed. The Moulin-Quignon fake, George Hull’s giant man, and the Piltdown Man.
Edward ‘Flint Jack’ Simpson was forging in the 19th century and was only caught because he confessed unprompted and demonstrated his forgery.
While reading through the story of Dawson faking Piltdown Man I couldn’t help but think about the types of forgeries, in this case extraordinary and mundane. Yes, the oldest human remains ever found is sensational but mundane forgeries exist as well, such as some of the Shakespeare forgeries discussed earlier in the book. I think it’d make an interesting poll to see if people think extraordinary discoveries are more likely to draw skepticism than mundane ones.
Another thing stuck out to me, this time from the end of the chapter. That is the advocate for scientific testing who was apparently long ignored. How many items out there are on display in museums that are fakes, and all it would take to expose them is a scientific test or two?
Crusaders against the Art Market: Hans van Meegeren and Tom Keating
These two forgers are incredibly popular among authors of books on forgery. I’ve read about them from a handful of different sources. Regardless, I like Haywood’s writing style and still enjoyed the refresher on what the two of them did.
The case of Giovani Bastianini was briefly covered, a man who had to prove his works were his because other appropriated them for nefarious uses.
Israel Rouchomowsky’s Tiara of Saitaphernes and Alceo Dossena’s pseudo-Renaissance sculptures were discussed.
Literary Forgery in the Modern Age
Chapter 6 focused on false autobiographies, plagiarism, and copying.
“Plagiarism is the unacknowledged and therefore dishonest borrowing from another text which has copyright protection.”[p.135]
Can non-copyrighted texts be plagiarized? I think so. I don’t agree with the above quote.
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