Project ASH: Numismatics Professors

This article contains information about paleography professors and the reading material they recommended for beginners. If you know of any paleography professors that I did not list below, please notify me so I can reach out to them. Please do not misuse the information provided below.


Alan Stahl
Curator of Numismatics @ Princeton University

Anna Morelli
Assistant Professor of Numismatics @ the University of Bologna
Aggregate Professor of Greek and Roman Numismatics @ First Cycle Degree in Cultural Heritage (campus of Ravenna)

Daniele Castrizio
Full Professor of Numismatics @ Department of Ancient and Modern Civilization of the University of Messina

Hubert Emmerig
Associate Professor of Numismatics and Monetary History @ Vienna University

Jens Christian Moesgaard
Professor @ Stockholm Numismatic Institute (The Gunnar Ekström Chair of Numismatics and Monetary History), University of Stockholm

Peter Planchet
Professor of Numismatics

Suzanne Frey-Kupper
Associate Professor of Numismatics and Classical Archaeology @ the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick

Svein Harald Gullbekk
Professor of Numismatics and History of Money @ Museum of Cultural History, Oslo University


A big thanks goes to the people who responded to my emails.

Professor Suzanne Frey-Kupper gave two recommendations.

1 – Howgego, C. (1995) Ancient History from Coins (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

2 – Metcalf, W. (2012, ed.) Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Alan M. Stahl informed me that the introductory books are geared towards specific fields of numismatics. He recommended Philip Grierson’s Numismatics (Oxford, 1975). He said it was “comprehensive in coverage and methodology” but that it was somewhat out of date in some areas.

Hubert Emmerig responded by telling me my question was too general.

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Project ASH: Bibliography Professors

The people in the list may not be Professors of Bibliography at the time that you’re reading this.

I compiled the original list on 15 Apr. 2021. I listed as many current or previous professors/associate/assistant professors as possible. I limited the results to those who had emails I could find during my brief search. I used Google to find the information. I searched through the first 20 pages that I got from my base search term, which was “professor of bibliography”, quotes included. Some additional searching was required to find contact information and to make sure I was listing the correct person. In total, I listed 24 people in my first list.

If anyone knows of a better way to find professors of a specific discipline, please let me know.

On 19 Apr. 2021, I sent an email to each of the listed professors to ask them what they thought were the best introductory books for getting into the field of bibliography.

Here is the message I sent:


I’m interested learning more about the discipline of bibliography.

Which books do you think are the best introductions to this field?”

After receiving some emails, I wish I had said “books/articles/webpages” instead of just books.


First List

Ann Hawkins
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ Texas Tech University

Anita S. Coleman
Associate Professor of Bibliography and Research @ Louisville Seminary

Bill Bell
Professor of Bibliography @ Cardiff University

Dirk Van Hulle
Professor of Bibliography and Modern Book History @ Jesus College, Oxford

Frank J. Bove
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Ian McCullough
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Jeffrey Franks
Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Johanna Drucker
Bernard and Martin Breslauer Professor of Bibliography @ University of California, Los Angeles

Kathryn Maier-O’Shea
Professor of Bibliography @ North Park University

Kathryn Sutherland
Professor in Bibliography and Textual Criticism @ St. Anne’s

Kerry Magruder
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ University of Oklahoma

Lori Fielding
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Liorah Golomb
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ University of Oklahoma

Marilyn B. Ogilvie
Professor Emeritus of Bibliography @ University of Oklahoma

Michael Monaco
Assistant Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Michael P. Tosko
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Neil Harris
Professor of Bibliography and Library Studies @ University of Udine, Italy

Sarah P. Miller
Professor Emeritus of Bibliography @ Denver Seminary

Sarah Thorngate
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ North Park University

Sean Kennedy
Associate Professor of Practice, Bibliography @ The University of Akron

Stephen D. Crocco
Assistant Professor of Bibliography @ Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Susan Ebertz
Associate Professor of Bibliography & Academic Research @ Wartburg Theological Seminary

Susan DiRenzo Ashby
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron

S. Victor Fleischer
Associate Professor of Bibliography @ The University of Akron


First List Responses

I’m incredibly thankful to all of the people who responded to my email. Everyone was professional and helpful.

Bill Bell responded shortly after I sent out my emails on 19 Apr. 2021. He told me that bibliography is “a very extensive field of study” and asked for additional information on what area of bibliography I was interested in. I again mentioned my interest in an introduction to the very extensive field and he gave me three recommendations:

1 – His first recommendation was Philip Gaskell’s An Introduction to Bibliography.

2 – Second was the journal “The Library: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society”.

3 – Third was The Oxford Companion to the Book.

He concluded his email by saying that the best way to get started in the field is by finding a specific area that appeals to me and then exploring from there.

Ann Hawkins responded on 19 Apr. 2021. She recommended the Tanselle Syllabi and kindly provided a link to it. At the end of the provided link are two pdfs, one to Tanselle’s Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus and the other to his Introduction to Scholarly Editing: Seminar Syllabus.

Johanna Drucker responded on 19 Apr. 2021. She recommended 4 works and listed a number of major figures, namely Robert McKerrow, G.T. Tanselle, W.W. Greg, and Fredson Bowers. Thomas Frognall Disdain was recommended for the early period. The 4 works are:

1 – Philip Gaskell’s A New Introduction to Bibliography

2 – Craig S. Abbott and William Willams’ An Introduction to Bibliographical Studies

3 – John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s ABC for Book Collectors

4 – D.F. McKenzie’s Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. This one she said to read for a progressive view.

Neil Harris responded on 19 Apr. 2021. He recommended I start with Institut D’Histoire De Livre (Institute of Book History)’s 2005 Introduction article: He mentioned that, although it “is slightly out of date”, it is as good a place to begin as any other.

Jeffrey Franks responded on 19 Apr. 2021. He informed me that “Bibliography is what the University of Akron labels the work its professional librarians do”. He went on to say that all of the faculty has a Masters in Library and Information Science and that some have obtained a PhD in LIS. Here are the links he provided for learning more:

1 –

2 –

3 –

4 –

5 –

6 –

7 –

Michael Monaco responded on 19 Apr. 2021 and information me that “faculty librarians are called “professors of bibliography.”” He then mentioned being perplexed about why that is because they all have Library & Information Science degrees. He went on to say that the field is “pretty diverse with different kinds of libraries (school, public, archives, university, corporate, and special (law, art, etc.) and different functional areas within libraries (public service/reference, research, technical services, collection management, and so on)”. As a beginner in the field, I found all this information to be relevant and useful. Beyond that, he recommended I start with this link:


Project ASH: Paleography Professors

This article contains information about paleography professors and the reading material they recommended for beginners. If you know of any paleography professors that I did not list below, please notify me so I can reach out to them. Please do not misuse the information provided below.



Bárbara Santiago Medina
Professor of Paleography and Diplomatics @ Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Daniel Wakelin
Jeremy Griffiths Professor of Medieval English Palaeography @ Oxford

David T. Gura
Associate Professor of Paleography @ University of Notre Dame

Eef Overgaauw
Honorary Professor of Palaeography and Codicology @ Freie Universität Berlin

Jan Just Witkam
Emeritus Professor of Codicology and Paleography of the Islamic World @ University of Leiden

Jesus Alturo Perucho
Professor of Palaeography, Codicology and Diplomatics @ Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Julia Crick
Professor of Palaeography and Manuscript Studies @ King’s College London

Lisa Fagin Davis
Visiting Professor of Palaeography @ Yale University

Marcela Borelli
Professor of Paleography and Ecdotics @ Universidad de Buenos Aires

Marilena Maniaci
Full Professor of Paleography @ Università degli studi di Cassino e del Lazio meridionale

Paola Degni
Professor of Palaeography @ the University of Bologna

Teresa Webber FBA
Professor of Palaeography @ University of Cambridge



Lisa Fagin Davis was the first to respond and gave two recommendations:

1 – The Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography

2 – Virtual HMML School

Teresa Webber:

Best Paleography introduction:

1 – The Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography, ed. Frank T. Coulson and Robert Babcock (Oxford University Press)

For the field of medieval MSS studies:

2 – Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Medieval Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press)

3 – Orietta da Rold and Eliaine Treharne, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Medieval British Manuscripts (Cambridge University Press)

Additional link:

4 – What is palaeography?:

Julia Crick thanked me for my inquiry and then informed me that the answer to my question is dependent “on the kind of date, region, and writing system” that I’m interested in. Regardless of that, she did provide four starting places.

General principles:

1 – Teresa Webber’s What is palaeography?:

2 – Julian Brown’s What is paleography?:

The standard work on European Latin palaeography:

3 – Bernard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity & The Middle Ages:

Daniel Wakelin expressed a similar difficulty to that of Julia Crick. He offered two general recommendations but mentioned at the end of his email that even these only cover about a millennium of Western European history, meaning they are limited in scope.

1 – Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600

2 – Ray Clemens and Timothy Graham, An Introduction to Manuscript Studies

Jan Just Witkam responded by telling me that my question was so wide that it is impossible to answer.

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Reliability & Validity

My interest in reliability and validity is mainly centered around their relevance to chronological studies. How can the reliability of a dating method be tested? How can the validity of the results be checked? A dive into the basics of the terms is a good place to begin answering those two questions.

Reliability and validity are similar to precision and accuracy. In some cases they are synonymous.


The four graphs above help to show what precision/reliability and accuracy/validity look like. The goal of a dating method is to get it as accurate/valid and precise/reliable as possible, as is seen in the top right target. If the results of a method appear as the bottom left target, that method needs refining.

Top right shows results that are all very close to the bullseye, if not on it entirely. This is ideal.

Top left shows results that are kind of hitting the mark but are still scattered. The precision here can be improved.

Bottom right shows results that are all very close to the same spot but are not anywhere close to the bullseye. The accuracy here can be improved.

Bottom left shows results that are all over the place. This shows low reliability for hitting the same mark each time and low accuracy in hitting the bullseye.



There are four types of reliability that I’ve heard of so far:

1 – Test-restest Reliability

2 – Parallel Forms Reliability

3 – Inter-rater Reliability

4 – Internal Consistency Reliability

Alternatively, I’ve heard of five types of validity:

1 – Face Validity

2 – Construct Validity

3 – Criterion-Related Validity

4 – Formative Validity

5 – Sampling Validity


Four Types of Reliability

1 – Test-retest Reliability: measures reliability by conducting the same test multiple times over a period of time.[1], [3]

Also known as: retest reliability.[3]

Synonyms: coefficient of stability; repeatability; reproducibility of test results.[4, p.6622]

2 – Parallel Forms Reliability:

3 – Inter-rater Reliability: measures the amount that two or more raters/observers agree in the assessment of the same object.[1], [2, p.1348]

Synonyms: concordance; inter-observer reliability; inter-rater agreement; scorer reliability.[2, p.1348]

4 – Internal Consistency Reliability: see[1]

4a – Average Inter-item Correlation: see[1]

4b – Split-half Reliability: see[1]

Five Types of Validity

1 – Face Validity: see[1]

2 – Construct Validity: see[1]

3 – Criterion-Related Validity: see[1]

4 – Formative Validity: see[1]

5 – Sampling Validity: see[1]

Annotated Bibliography

This annotated bibliography is based on the references used for this article. I only include the reference number so as to not repeat the text here and there. The references follow directly after this bibliography.

[1] – This reference is a webpage on the College of Humanities and Fine Arts’ Student Outcomes Assessment website. Phelan & Wren provided a simple and useful guide to the main types of reliability and validity. The main point of their paper was to give a brief overview into how to gage reliability and validity in the realm of academic assessment. The examples used for each type were usually about how students respond to test taking. In this way, I think they offered some interesting perspectives on how academic comprehension is tested. I think this is a good reference for anyone who is completely new to this area of scholarship because it is a short read and has a lot of useful information.

[2] – This reference is from a section in the Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. It’s a really paragraph with only seven sentences that talks about inter-rater reliability. The first six sentences gave a general overview of what inter-rater reliability is and the final sentence gave three examples of how it is applied to the field of clinical neuropsychology. I found this reference useful not only for its summary but also because it included synonyms for the term “inter-rater reliability”.

[3] – This reference is a short webpage that concisely summarizes Test-retest Reliability.



[1] – Colin Phelan & Julie Wren. “EXPLORING RELIABILITY IN ACADEMIC ASSESSMENT” (2005?). Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

[2] – Lange, R. T. (2011). Inter-rater Reliability. Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology, 1348–1348. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-79948-3_1203. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

[3] – Stephanie Glen. “Test-Retest Reliability / Repeatability” From Elementary Statistics for the rest of us! Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

[4] – Vilagut, G. (2014). Test-Retest Reliability. Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, 6622–6625. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_3001. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

[5] – Glossary for Reliability. Accessed 30 Apr. 2021.

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The Flight Of The ‘Alalā: A Call For Studies Into Literary Fraud

This work focuses on various aspects of fraud and its relation to historical studies. With a core focus on literary fraud, it serves as an introduction to this field and as a guide for relevant future studies.



1 – The Eighth Circle of Hell

2 – Limbo For Semantics

3 – The ‘Alalā

4 – Recommended Reading

I’ve prepared this presentation mainly to raise awareness of the role fraud plays in historical studies. I will start by touring the territory that fraud occupies and commenting on some things to keep in mind. I then discuss the inhabitants and their descriptions.

1 – The Eighth Circle of Hell

Falsifiers (also known as fraudsters) are placed in the lowest level of the eighth circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno for they knowingly deceive. Fraud is committed when a party intentionally deceives another party. Party here being defined as a person or a group of persons. Fraud comes in many forms and plays a serious role in historical studies.

In Canto 17 of Dante’s Inferno, Dante and Virgil are brought to the eighth circle of hell by Geryon, a chimerical beast symbolic of fraud. This creature is not to be confused with the three-headed Geryon that was slain by Hercules. Dante’s Geryon was depicted with the body of a winged serpent, the paws of a lion, the tail of a scorpion, and the face of a kind, gracious, and just man. This creature, looking like a cousin to the manticore, does well in portraying the life and anatomy of fraud. Imagine walking through the dark corridors of historical scholarship when a trustworthy and inviting face emerges from the shadows. As you approach this welcoming visitor, it steps out from the fog to reveal a body composed of potentially dangerous animals. Fraud is like snakes, lions, and scorpions in the sense that it won’t always hurt you, but it has the potential to. Knowledge of these animals is important when observing them or interacting with them. Some snakes are harmless, but others can deliver enough venom in one bite to kill a hundred people. Lions and scorpions can be deadly too, although they are not always so. Knowing where they live and how they hunt can help prevent ever becoming their prey. The same goes for fraud. Knowing where and how fraud thrives can allow you to avoid becoming a victim and allow you to help others do the same. However, even though the idea of safety is attractive, it is to be noted that we all have our limitations, and we can all be taken in by deception given the proper circumstances.

Unidentified fraud posing as historical evidence is a problem for historical studies because it distorts our perception of the past and it acts as a mirage of things we think happened. While fraud has been long studied, it has mostly been studied in relation to economic activity, such as credit card fraud, or in relation to political activity, for example, voting fraud. Lesser so, these studies have been applied to art, mostly for the purpose of valuation. Even lesser than that, they have been applied to historical studies.

Fraudulent activity is by no means absent from the professional world at large. There are many people alive today who possess the motives, means, and opportunities to commit the type of fraud that is especially problematic for historians, and they do commit it. Oscar White Muscarella is an archeologist who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for about 45 years, from 1964 to 2009. From what I know about him, I think he’s a great scholar who is worthy of attention. In 2016, Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and History, Daniel T. Potts, complimented Oscar by saying, “Muscarella has been a vocal and tireless champion of ethics and the exposure of criminal and unethical behavior on the part of collectors and museums for decades, and more than any other scholar, he has underscored the damage inflicted upon scholarship by the naïve incorporation of unexcavated artifacts alongside excavated ones in studies that seek to elucidate the past”.[6, p.528] Oscar’s life is fascinating but I don’t have the time here to go into the depths of his background, education, activism, scandals, and censorship. I do have an article up on my website titled Oscar White Muscarella that talks about all that for anyone interested in learning more (

To help describe the world in which fraud thrives, I’m going to briefly focus on the 25 anecdotes Oscar provided in the introduction to his now classic book The Lie Became Great, published in 2000. The anecdotes serve to give an impression of the range of what he calls “the forgery culture”. While his book, and these stories, are centered mainly around the art world, I think it would be interesting and useful, to compile a collection of similar anecdotes for the presence of the forgery culture in the literary world. Find the anecdotes at The Ecosystem of Forgery:

With these short stories, we can get a glimpse of the forgery culture in the art world. Common are the fears of harming reputations, and common are the attempts to suppress scholarship. Large efforts have been made to minimize the scope of fraudulent activity, but it has thrived throughout the centuries and it still thrives today. Oscar presented the results of reports estimating how many forgeries are in existence. He mentioned Hall (1990), which reported 600 objects each year are determined to be forgeries at Oxford University; Low (1993) estimated half of the “Marlik-like vessels on the market are forgeries”[1, p.9]; a powerhouse among the world’s largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, and collectibles, Sotheby reports about half of the objects brought to them are forgeries; and he tops it off with Norick (1993), which reported that about 25,000 pre-Columbian art forgeries enter the market annually.

Even Oscar’s enemy, the once director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Thomas Hoving, apparently wasn’t shy about the number of fakes in existence. In 1996, Thomas reported that out of some 50,000 works he had examined over the course of 15 years, 40% or more of them were forgeries or at the least questionable. That’s over 20,000 forged objects. As for the literary field, and traveling back in time a bit, Anthony Grafton reported that an estimated 66% of all documents given to the clergy prior to 1100 were fakes.[7, p.24] There’s really no shortage of fakes in the world, and all the major collections possess them.

Oscar’s introduction has quite a bit to say about fraudulent provenances too. A provenance is the history of an object from its inception to our present day. Forging provenance is creating a fake narrative about an object’s history. So while an object may be authentic, the historical narrative accompanying it might be a fantasy. I mention this here because I have a special interest in the provenances of the world’s most important historical manuscripts, many of which who’s provenances are either non-existent or incredibly shallow. In the words of the papyrologist and ancient historian Roberta Mazza, “Museums and researchers often describe the origins of a particular object … with only a few words and a date. This is a huge problem”.[7]

Concerns have also been raised about to what extent any of this information about fraud should be made accessible to wider audiences. It is a double-edged sword. On one end, the information is useful for scholars and lay-people alike who want to expose and avoid fraud. On the other, the information is useful for the fraudsters in that it educates them on the methods of exposure which are most valued, prompting them to figure out ways to avoid detection, similar to putting false blips on a radar, or avoiding being seen at all. The stories from Oscar are good for those who wish to deter the forgery culture but they also give ideas on how you can add to it.

Fundamentally, fraud involves mislabeling. Mislabeling occurs when false labels are attached to a creation, and this can be an issue for historical studies. Unlike fraud itself, mislabeling is not always intentional. If the goal of labeling something is to label it accurately, then mislabeling is an error, a mistake. Thus arises the sin of mislabeling. It’s a sin that can get you sentenced to the eighth circle of hell, but not always.

I invented the term sin of mislabeling in reference to a quote that I’ve seen used in a number of publications. Read the discussion at The Sin of Mislabeling:

The lesson to be learned from that story is that mislabeling is to be avoided and corrected whenever possible. In the way that the methods of attack from dangerous animals can be dealt with through study, the various creations which cause mislabeling can be studied in order to evade being damaged by them. What is necessary for this is proper identification. Approaching a lion in the wild and believing it to be a sheep can get you killed. Similarly, approaching a forgery believing it’s the real deal is an action best not made as it can have negative results, albethey typically not death.

This brings us to the next section of my presentation, semantical limbo, the place where creations and their definitions are suspended until being judged worthy or unworthy by whoever chooses to pluck them from the pool. I’ve included this part to discuss the various definitions of words related to fraud. This will help with determining exactly what type of creatures we are dealing with.

2 – Limbo For Semantics

I’ve compiled a list of 20 terms relevant for this field. I’ll be going through them one by one to paint a picture of the terrain and its inhabitants. I recognize two types of fraud. One kind is meant to deceive forever while the other is designed to deceive temporarily. These are known as forgeries and hoaxes, respectively. Getting down to the roots of those, forgeries and hoaxes are both creations. This brings us to the first item currently on my list: a creation.

See the full discussion @

You might not agree with the definitions I have chosen to ascribe to relevant terms, but if anyone has any doubt about what exactly I’m referring to, this collection of words and meanings is available. Additionally, if anyone wants to use these definitions, they are free for the taking. The main point of going over the definitions is to generate precise meanings for discuss, so that work of a higher quality can be produced.

3 – The ‘Alalā

Let’s take a step out of limbo and focus on a close relative of the birds of paradise, the ‘Alalā. ‘Alalā are part of the crow family and are native to Hawaii. Hence its nickname, “the Hawaiian crow”. There were less than 150 ‘Alalā known to be alive in the entire world in 2017. This makes them one of the rarest birds on Earth. For perspective, in 2013, there were an estimated 5 million Canadian Geese in North America alone.[5] That’s about 33,300 geese per one ‘Alalā. The Hawaiian crows also belong to a small group of bird species which naturally create and use tools, the fact of which undoubtedly adds to their rarity.[3] They possess high intelligence, build forests, and are deeply respected in Hawaiian culture.[4]

Now, you may be wondering why I’ve bothered mentioning this bird. Aside from my fascination with the life on Earth, I chose this bird as the mascot for my future studies into literary fraud. I was inspired to do this by a quote in a chapter by Earle Havens titled Babelic Confusion, published in 2018.

“…what still seems a rare bird is any sustained attempt to analyze the literary enterprise of forgery more broadly across time and through many different media.”
Earle A. Havens (2018)[1, p.37]

Earle Havens is the Nancy H. Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University. I agree with him and also think that even sustained attempts to analyze the enterprise of forgery more generally, beyond that of only literary, in such a way are still rare. Writings about forgeries are plenty in number, but the bulk of them focus on specific cases of forgery or on the life of a particular forger or multiple forgers. The writings on the general history of forgery are far less in number, and books on the history of literary forgery are even fewer.

4 – Recommended Reading

I have compiled a list of 5 recommended books for beginner’s in the field of fakes and forgeries.


[1] – Stephens, Walter, et al. Literary Forgery in Early Modern Europe, 1450–1800. Illustrated, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018. Accessed 30 May 2021.

[2] – Jones, Mark, et al. Fake? The Art of Deception. First Edition, University of California Press, 1990.

[3] – Rutz, C., Klump, B., Komarczyk, L. et al. Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow. Nature 537, 403–407 (2016). Accessed 30 May 2021.

[4] – The ‘Alalā Project. Accessed 30 May 2021.

[5] – Leonard, Pat. Where Did All Those Canada Geese In Town Come From? (17 Sep. 2013). Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

[6] – D. T. Potts (2016) – review of O. W. Muscarella, Archaeology, artifacts and antiquities of the Ancient Near East (Brill, 2013). Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

[7] – Mazza, Roberta. The Illegal Papyrus Trade and What Scholars Can Do to Stop It (1 Mar. 2018). Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

A Lecture On Chronology

On June 4th, 2021, John Coleman of Apocatastasis, an institute for the humanities, invited me to give a 60-90 minute lecture on chronology during his Medieval history class. I happily accepted and we scheduled for July 8th at 2pm EST. This article contains the notes which I used for the lecture.




The word “chronology” (chrono + logy) can be defined as “the science of time”. In this sense, it provides the foundation for time-keeping and the ordering of events through past, present, and future. It provides the necessary knowledge for determining when events occurred. It has long been clear that the writings about history would be chaotic without chronology. Rhyme and reason would be absent from the historical canon.

Despite its importance, chronology has not been given adequate attention in contemporary times. It is often grouped in with a number of disciplines collectively known as the historical auxiliary sciences (also called the auxiliary sciences of history or the ancillary sciences of history). The members of this group can vary depending on which source you’re consulting but there are some which are much more common than others. These popular members include paleography (the study of writings), archeology (the study of material remains), genealogy (the study of familial history), numismatics (the study of coins), and chronology (the study of time). Some other popular members are heraldry, epigraphy, geography, philology, and anthropology. Some of these have wider applications for history than others, but college degrees have been established for all of them, with one exception, that exception being chronology. There are professors for anthropology, for archeology, for paleography, and for geography, but none for chronology.[1]

To emphasize the severity of this neglect, among the historical auxiliary sciences, only one of them have been styled as “the soul of history”. Keeping in mind the studies I just listed off, can anyone here guess which one has been called the soul of history? The correct answer is chronology.

More commonly than being called the soul of history, it has been called the eye of history, for it allows us to see the order of past events. However, in this latter stylization, it is not always portrayed alone, and it is not always without competition. When two eyes are identified, they are always chronology and geography. When only one eye is identified, chronology is most often in competition with geography, and less often with truth. These two eyes of history, geography and chronology, allow us to not only see the order of past events, but the locations in which those events occurred. Hence, geography and chronology are among the most important subjects for historical education. They can also be seen as space (geography) and time (chronology), the natures of which are investigated in the field known as the philosophy of space and time.[2]

Where chronology and geography supply the “when” and “where”, history (especially archeology and paleography) supplies the “who” and “what”. Here we can start to see the give and take between these fields of scholarship.

Types of Chronology

Aside from chronology being the study of time, “chronology” can also be defined as “an order of events”. In this sense, a chronology is synonymous with a timeline. Each of these two definitions has two different types. For chronology as the study of time, the two types are (1) mathematical and (2) historical.[3, pp.240-241] For chronology as an order of events, the two types are (1) relative and (2) absolute.[4, p.62]

Mathematical chronology, also known as theoretical or astronomical chronology, or calendariography, focuses primarily on establishing laws for chronometry, time-measurement. In this category, chronology is largely indebted to metrology, the science of measurement, which itself is indebted to mathematics, from which it derives its name, mathematical chronology. Chronology is also highly indebted to astronomy, the science of celestial phenomena. While chronology has been called “the eye, the light, the life, and soul of history”, astronomy has been called “the eye, the light, the life, and soul of chronology”.[5, p.4] It is in mathematical chronology that the length of days, months, years, and other units of time are determined.

Historical chronology, also known as technical chronology or chronography, focuses mainly on establishing dates for events, such as when a war occurred, or when an object was created. This is by far the most popular type of chronology. It’s within this category that we find relative chronologies and absolute chronologies. A relative chronology is an order of events that occurred at an unknown time before this present moment. For example, this sequence: our solar system formed, our earth formed, and then our moon formed. This sequence positions events in relation to each other but does not precisely indicate when these events occurred in relation to where we are today. Did they occur last Thursday? Or perhaps the Thursday before that? The relative chronology does not answer these questions.

An absolute chronology fixes events to our current day. For example: our solar system formed 13.8 billion years ago, our earth formed 4.543 billion years ago, and our moon 4.53 billion years ago. We could also say: our moon formed 4.53 billion years ago and our earth formed about 130 million years before that. These times are significantly greater than merely a week or two ago. Any chronology that is linked to our current year is an absolute chronology. Any chronology that is unconnected is relative.

Here’s another example of turning a relative chronology into an absolute one. God created the universe, the Great Flood occurred, and then God came to earth in the form of a human. By assigning dates to these events in relation to our present day, the relative chronology transforms into an absolute chronology. God created the universe about 7500 years ago, the Great Flood occurred about 5200 years ago, and He came to earth in the form of a human about 2000 years ago.

A relative chronology can have standard units of time in it as long as they are not related to the present day. Here’s what that looks like: God created the universe, after about 3300 years the Great Flood occurred, and about 3200 years after that He came to earth in the form of a human. Here we can plot out a timeline of three events using standard units of time, but no information is given as to when any of this happened in relation to where we are temporally today. Did the final event in that sequence occur a century ago? a millennium ago? two millennium? There is not enough information here to answer those questions, and so we call this a relative chronology.


With this talk of relating events to our current year, it’s appropriate to discuss what year it currently is, and also some other basic units of time. Years are typically counted out from a specific event, and group of these years can be called an era (or age). The two most popular eras in use today are the Common Era and Hijri Era. The common era (or Anno Domini) was determined by the traditional dating of Christ’s birth, which placed this event some 2,021 years before our present year. Because of this dating, the current year has been given the numerical value of 2021, last year was 2020, and the year before that 2019. This sequence continues all the way back to the year 1, at which point it begins going into the negatives, meaning three decades before the birth of Christ would be about 30 BCE, and about 2051 BP. This is the basis of the Christian calendar known as the Gregorian calendar. In this system, the year zero is skipped. It goes straight from 1 CE to 1 BCE.

These abbreviations are common for today’s datings:
CE = Common Era, the secularized version of AD = Anno Domini
BCE = Before Common Era, the secularized version of BC = Before Christ
BP = Before Present
AH = Anno Hegirae
AM = Anno Mundi
AUC = Anno Urbis Conitae

The Hijri era, known as Anno Hegirae, was determined by the traditional dating of Mohammed’s flight from Mecca to Medina, which places this event some 1,442 years before present. This is the basis of the Islamic calendar.

Thus, the current year is simultaneously 2021 CE and 1442 AH. However, if the era goes unspecified, the year becomes more difficult to determine. For it cannot be 2,021 years out from the start of an era and also be 1,442 years out from the start of the same era. There are other ways of determining the year in this case, such as checking the document for other dates and seeing if any of those fit into a system of chronology with which we are familiar. Another way would be to check how letters and numbers were composed. Were they composed by hand or by press? The answer might be able to help us narrow down what year is being referred to.

We would be blessed if only two era systems were in existence, but this is not the reality we are dealing with. The Gregorian calendar places us in 2021 and the Islamic calendar in 1442, as I’ve already mentioned. But the Assyrian calendar places us in 6771, the Coptic calendar around 1737, and the Korean calendar in 4354. These are only a handful of the calendars in existence and the differences span about 5300 years.

Further complications arise from eras of the same name starting from different points. The most robust example of this can be seen in Anno Mundi datings, those datings that attempt to pinpoint the year in which God created the world. I’ve compiled a list over the years of all the Anno Mundi datings that I’ve come across. They range a span of about 3800 years from 7388 BCE to 3616 BCE. Between those two points on my list are 93 other unique datings. Hence, at face value, a document dated 4000 AM could hypothetically have been written anytime between about 3400 BCE and 400 CE. This is a massive window of time, but still not as large of a window as that between the Islamic and Assyrian eras.[6]

There are three variations of the Tibetan calendar that span about 11 and a half centuries. These place our current year in 994, 1766, and 2147. The Chinese calendar has two variations separated by about 60 years and those place us in 4657 and 4717.

Years, Days, Months

The start of the era is not the only difference between calendars. There are also differences between how long a year is and when it begins. As per how long the year is, the Gregorian year has 365 or 366 days in it, the Ancient Egyptian and Roman years had 360 days in them, and the Islamic year has 354 or 355 days in it.

A solar year is the amount of time it takes for the sun to return to the same spot in the sky. As the year goes on, the sun continues to cross the same imaginary line in the sky with each complete rotation of the earth. This is what we call a day. However, it moves from one extreme point on that line to another and back again. The time it takes the sun to do this is known as a solar year, a seasonal year, or a tropical year. It is 365.24219 mean solar days long, in other words, 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and about 46 seconds.

The Gregorian calendar follows a 4 year system that has 3 years of 365 days followed by a forth year with 366 days. This system isn’t perfect and so eventually this empirical calendar will fall out of sync with the solar year. The Islamic year, consisting of 354 or 355 days, falls further and further behind the Gregorian year because the lower number of days. This means that the Islamic calendar stacks up years faster than the Gregorian one, and after about 33 solar years, the Islamic calendar will have gone through an entire calendar year more than the Gregorian one. Over the course of 330 solar years, it has gone through an extra decade, and over the course of 3300 solar years, an extra century in comparison with its Gregorian counterpart.

The difference in days between these two calendars is due to the various types of calendars. These types include solar, lunar, lunisolar, and empirical calendars. Solar calendars are based on the solar year. The Gregorian calendar is an example of a solar calendar. Lunar calendars are based on the lunar year. The Islamic calendar is an example of a lunar calendar. Lunisolar calendars make use of the sun and the moon, and include the Chinese and Hebrew calendars as examples. An empirical calendar is a set amount of days.

Intercalation is the reason why the number of days in a year can be different in the same calendar. This is when a day is or days are added into the calendar in addition to the normally included number of days. The Gregorian calendar intercalates a day every four years. This fourth year is commonly known as a leap year. Months are groups of days and can also be intercalated. Knowing when days or months have been intercalated into calendars is useful for chronology because it helps us determine when exactly certain events occurred.

When a specific calendar’s year begins is also useful to know because one calendar’s year can be half-way through while another calendar’s year is only just beginning. The Gregorian new year begins on the first of January but the Chinese new year begins on a day between the twenty-first of January and the twenty-first of February, depending on the year. Additionally, some Roman new years began in March or September, and the Jewish new year begins in September or October.

Like years, the start of a day has varied. The British, French, German and Americans have all begun their day at midnight. The Greeks and Persians begin theirs at dawn. Astronomers across the world begin their day at noon, and the Austrians, Chinese, Florentines, and Jews have begun theirs at dusk.

As previously mentioned, the situation is not entirely hopeless. There are ways of calculating the difference between the multitude of calendars, given enough information is provided. I think the best work on this topic that I’ve read is Calendrical Calculations: Ultimate Edition, written by Reingold & Dershowitz, published in 2018. This book contains algorithms for modeling calendars on a computer as well as a lot of technical and historical information about those calendars.

So far, I have talked about chronology’s place in the academic world and in historical studies, I briefly covered the types of chronology, and I spoke about some aspects of calendars and units of time.

History of Chronology

Humans have made use of chronology since time immemorial. The study of chronology is vital for the survival of our species. Aside from the fact that we know our ancestors had some concept of time (because we are still here today), the earliest potential evidence we have for people engaging in chronological studies comes to us in the form of a flat bone with circles and crescents engraved into it. This bone was found in France and was dated to around 30,000 years before present. If the symbols depict phases of the moon, this makes the bone our oldest known physical evidence of timekeeping.[7]

During the 5th millennium BCE, that is, the 4000’s, European populations constructed megalithic sites across their continent that helped them with tracking time. In the mid-4th millennium BCE, Egyptians kept time with the help of obelisks. In the mid-3rd millennium BCE, Sumerians had a calendrical system consisting of days, months, years, and intercalations. Around 2100 BCE, Egyptians priests began dividing the days into 24 sections, a system familiar to all of us today. The oldest known water clock was found in Egypt and was date to around 1600. About a hundred years after that, Egyptians were using water clocks, sundials, and merkhets.[7]

Writing developed alongside timekeeping and it gave way to recorded history. The birth of writing is generally placed during the 4000’s BCE. Our earliest known examples of historical narratives typical date to the 500’s BCE and later. In the 400’s is where the fathers of history, Herodotus and Thucydides, are placed. These two Greek historians were the first to get major recognition for their methods of collecting historical information and organizing it into a historical narrative. It was also during their century that Greek scholars began compiling lists of Olympic victors, an important task for determining how many Olympiads had occurred since the first one.[8] Lastly, the 5th century BCE is when Meton became famous for pointing out that the cycles of the moon repeat with the start of the year every 19 years, although it was discovered by the Babylonians earlier in that same century. This cycle has long been known as the Metonic cycle and it played a key role in ancient Greek calendars.

The 300’s BCE gave way to Berossus, a Babylonian historian, and Manetho, an Egyptian historian. Both of their works were not products of rigorous study aimed at portraying the truth, but products aimed at proving that the antiquity of their ancestors was greater than that of their masters. This biased approach to history is typically discouraged today.

The Romans got progressively more interested in timekeeping during the 200’s and 100’s BCE. Varro, in the first century BCE, obtained the popularly used date for the founding of Rome by consulting an astrologer, 753 BCE. In China during the C1st BCE, Sima Qian wrote his Records of the Grand Historian, a work which earned him the title “the father of history”. It was during this century that Cicero supposedly initiated the trend of titling people as “the father of history”. Also during this time was when the Antikythera mechanism is believed to have been created, the oldest known analog computer. It was used for predicting eclipses and horoscopes.

The next major development for chronology occurred in the 300’s CE when Eusebius wrote his Chronicon and his Church History. Jerome followed Eusebius’ example and was rivaled him for popularity. The both of them were writing apologetic history, not scientific history. The works of these two authors served as models for all future Western historians until the time of Scaliger in the late 1500s, early 1600s.

The most notable event that has been placed between Eusebius and Scaliger was the calculation of Christ’s birth in the 6th century. This was done by Dionysius Exiguus but there is some debate about when it was first used for dating events. Supposedly it was used for dating in France and Italy during the 600’s, but some argue that its use for dating was introduced in the 700’s by Venerable Bede. The original calculation is also largely considered incorrect today. Scholars typically place Christ’s birth between 12 BC and 9 AD, but I have seen his birth placed as early as 33 BCE and as late as 1152 CE.

Dionysius was especially concerned with calculating the Easter date, which marked the resurrection of Jesus. He published an Easter table that the majority of medieval scholars used for determining when Easter occurred. Bede was also notably concerned with Easter and his work on calculating its date earned him the spot of top authority until the late 16th century when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. Today, we have hundreds of manuscripts that have been dated in and between the 600’s and 900’s that are devoted to computing the Easter date.[9, pp.32-33]


[1] – Sorensen, Stephen. “Auxiliary Sciences of History”. Accessed 9 Jun. 2021.

[2] – Sorensen, Stephen. “The Eyes of History”. Accessed 9 Jun. 2021.

[3] – “Part I: The Auxiliary Sciences. II. Chronology.” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 2, no. 2, 1916, pp. 240–243. Accessed 3 Oct. 2020.

[4] – Bickerman, Elias Joseph. “Chronology of the Ancient World” (England, 1968). Accessed 30 Jan 2021.

[5] – Kennedy, John. “An Examination of the Reverend Mr. Jackson’s Chronological Antiquities” (1753). Accessed 19 Sept. 2020.

[6] – Sorensen, Stephen. “Anno Mundi Reference List”. Accessed 9 Jun. 2021.

[7] – Sorensen, Stephen. “The History of Timekeeping”. Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

[8] – Sorensen, Stephen. “Chronology”. Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

[9] – Sorensen, Stephen. “Anno Domini”. Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

[10] – Nothaft, Philipp. Dating the Passion: The Life of Jesus and the Emergence of Scientific Chronology (200–1600) (Time, Astronomy, and Calendars). Brill, 2011. Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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Deliberate or Accidental Fabrication?: Fomenko’s Interpretation of Historical Evidence

This article is about whether Anatoly Fomenko (1945-present) claims that the majority of historical records are authentic or if they are intentionally fake. Fomenko argues in his New Chronology that human civilization dawned around 1200 years ago and that all events of recorded history fall between then and now. I have seen it asserted time and time again that Fomenko claims the majority of records are intentionally fake, produced to cover up the true history of humankind, but I have never seen a citation accompanying those claims leading to where he says this.

During 2016 through 2018, I made my first read through the main books of Fomenko’s New Chronology. It’s mid-2021 now, so my initial reading was about 3 to 5 years ago. I didn’t remember seeing claims about intentional, organized, large-scale forgery, and to complicate matters further, I did remember seeing a claim specifically against this.

I’ve gone back to try and find Fomenko arguing for a large-scale forgery and the closest I’ve gotten to finding anything remotely along those lines is in his History: Fiction or Science? Volume 7, Book 1, Chapter 1, Part 13. There are more details about this whole discussion below, but to summarize, Fomenko argues for a large-scale destruction of authentic documents more than he does for the large-scale invention of false documents. He argues that some record are authentic and others are fake but I haven’t seen him provide specifics as to how much of either exist. Are 50% true, 50% false? Maybe 20/80? Please let me know if you have relevant information that can help improve this article.


In 1994, Fomenko published his book Empirico-Statistical Analysis of Narrative Material and its Applications to Historical Dating, Volume I: The Development of the Statistical Tools. In it, on page 196, Fomenko remarks,

“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.”

Nine years later, in 2003, Fomenko’s History: Fiction or Science? Volume 1 was published. The forward, authored by Alexander Zinoviev, begins on page xv and states,

“…what A. T. Fomenko and his colleagues had learnt over the course of their research was the fact that the entire history of humanity up until the XVII century is a forgery of global proportions (“old history” in their terminology) – a falsification as deliberate as it is universal.”

In the same book, on page 467, Fomenko has a short section titled Was the Artificial Elongation of Ancient History Deliberate?. In this part, Fomenko repeats almost verbatim what he said in 1994;

“According to the results obtained by the new methods of dating, virtually all of the old documents that have reached our age are copies from ancient originals, presumed lost. These originals were written in order to reflect the current events of the XI-XVI century A.D., and not for the purpose of confusing future historians.”

Fomenko continues on in that section to summarize his findings, mainly that;

“Most of the documents that have reached our age – the ones referring to pre-XVI century events – are based on old originals. However, nearly all of the latter went through the hands of the tendentious editors of the XVI-XVII centuries.”

Tendentious is a curious word. It comes from the 19th century when it was used in the sense of “having a definite purpose”.[1] It has since commonly been used to mean “biased” or “marked by a tendency in favor of a particular point of view”.[2] Arthur Freeman uses this word (in my opinion erroneously[3]) as a category for forgeries. I maintain that the intent to deceive is what qualifies something as a hoax or a forgery, and so while “tendentious editors” could be aiming to deceive, this is not always the case.

I don’t think Fomenko clearly answers the question posed in the section title. He says:

1 – Most original historical records are authentic, not written to confuse.

2 – Historical confusion was amplified by deliberate deception.

3 – Most of the confusion was created by the “tendentious editors” in the 1500s and 1600s.

These editors were not always editing with the intent to deceive. Some could have seen their work as fixing corrupt texts. Others could have believed they were channeling the voices of the dead or of a god or gods. These are biased approaches but they are innocent of ill-will.

All in all, Fomenko argues that some of the mistakes in historical writings were made accidentally and others were made intentionally. He isn’t clear here as to how much of either of those occurred. Alexander’s quote seems to me to be sensationalized and I’m not sure why it’s included. I wonder to what degree Fomenko had authority on what made it into the book and what didn’t. The same wonder goes for their website. I also wonder if Fomenko supports Alexander’s summary.

The end of that section mentioned that the accidental and deliberate deceptions are discussed more in volumes 5 through 7. Unfortunately, these three are not available on the Internet Archive and so I cannot search their full text for keywords, as I was able to do with volumes 1 through 4. However, I did skim through the tables of contents for the final three volumes and found one section which was titled in a way that made it clear it mentioned falsifying history.

This section is in volume 7, book 1, chapter 1, section 13 and is titled Falsification of History in the 17th-18th Centuries. The discussion of the falsification is scattered among their reconstruction of historical events. He does accuse the Western-European states of destroying real historical records and creating fake ones for the purpose of covering up the true history of the fractured and fallen Empire.



[1] – Online Etymology Dictionary. Tendentious. Accessed 26 Jun. 2021.

[2] – “Tendentious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jun. 2021.

[3] – Sorensen, Stephen. Establishing Semantics For Mimesiology and Illusology. Accessed 26 Jun. 2021.

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A Bibliography of Forgery

This article contains a collection of works dedicated to the topic of forgery. I have split the list into categories. Some works can be attributed to multiple categories and so I have had to make decisions on which category to place them in. This bibliography is a work in progress. Recommendations for more works to add to it are welcome.

Forgery is a broad term that has been used in a number of ways. While I typically define a forgery as “a creation made with the intent to deceive forever”, there are works on this list that do not define it as such, and some works which deal with related phenomena, like hoaxes.


Art Forgery

Amore, Anthony. The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World (ST. MARTIN’S GR). Reprint, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016.

Jones, Mark, et al. Fake? The Art of Deception. First Edition, University of California Press, 1990.

Spencer, Ronald, and Eugene Victor Thaw. The Expert versus the Object: Judging Fakes and False Attributions in the Visual Arts. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2004.

Wood, Christopher. Forgery, Replica, Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art. University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Nickell, Joe. PEN, INK & EVIDENCE. University of Landon, Richard. Literary Forgeries and Mystifications : An Exhibition at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, 17 June to 29 August, 2003. First Edition, Montreal, PQ, Canada: National Film Board of Canada/Office National du Film du Canada, 2003., 1990.

Nickell, Joe. Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents. University Press of Kentucky, 2005.

Nickell, Joe. Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication. University Press of Kentucky, 2009. JSTOR, Accessed 19 May 2021.

Osborn, Albert S. Questioned Documents. Rochester, 1910.


Bell, Suzanne. Fakes and Forgeries (Essentials of Forensic Science). Checkmark Books, 2009.

Boese, Alex. Hippo Eats Dwarf. 1st ed., New York-United States, United States, Macmillan Publishers, 2009.

Burke, Tony, and Andrew Gregory. Fakes, Forgeries, and Fictions. Wipf and Stock, 2017.

Craddock, Paul. Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries. 1st ed., Routledge, 2009.

Copeman, Jacob & da Col, Giovanni. Fake: Anthropological Keywords. (HAU Books, 2018).

Farquhar, Michael. A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History’s Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds. 1st Printing, Penguin Books, 2005.

Pyne, Lydia. Genuine Fakes: How Phony Things Teach Us About Real Stuff. 1st ed., Bloomsbury Sigma, 2019.

Tattersall, Ian, and Peter Névraumont. Hoax: A History of Deception: 5,000 Years of Fakes, Forgeries, and Fallacies. Illustrated, Black Dog & Leventhal, 2018.

Literary Forgery

Abramson, Julia. Learning From Lying: Paradoxes Of The Literary Mystification. 2nd ed., UNKNO, 2005.

Becker, Daniel, et al., editors. Faking, Forging, Counterfeiting: Discredited Practices at the Margins of Mimesis. Transcript Verlag, 2018. JSTOR, Accessed 24 June 2021.

Ehrman, Bart. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2012.

Farrer, James Anson. Literary Forgeries. New York, 1907.

Freeman, Arthur, Bibliotheca Fictiva: A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery, 400BC – AD 2000, London: Bernard Quaritch Limited, 2014

Garcia-Arenal Rodriquez, Mercedes. The Orient in Spain: Converted Muslims, the Forged Lead Books of Granada, and the Rise of Orientalism (Numen Books: Studies in the History of Religions). Illustrated, BRILL, 2013.

Grafton, Anthony, and Ann Blair. Forgers and Critics, New Edition: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship. New, Princeton University Press, 2019.

Havens, Earle [ed.], Fakes, Lies and Forgeries: Rare Books and Manuscripts from the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection, Baltimore: The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, 2016

Hiatt, Alfred. The Making of Medieval Forgeries: False Documents in Fifteenth-Century England (British Library Studies in Medieval Culture). Revised ed., University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2004.

Higbie, Carolyn. Collectors, Scholars, and Forgers in the Ancient World: Object Lessons. 1st ed., OUP Oxford, 2017.

Landon, Richard. Literary Forgeries and Mystifications : An Exhibition at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, 17 June to 29 August, 2003. First Edition, Montreal, PQ, Canada: National Film Board of Canada/Office National du Film du Canada, 2003.

Malton. Forgery in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture: Fictions of Finance from Dickens to Wilde. 1st ed. 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Martínez, Javier. Fakes and Forgers of Classical Literature. Brill, 2014.

McNicholas, Mark. Forgery and Impersonation in Imperial China. Amsterdam-Netherlands, Netherlands, Amsterdam University Press, 2016.

Mheallaigh, Ní Karen. Reading Fiction with Lucian: Fakes, Freaks and Hyperreality (Greek Culture in the Roman World). 1st ed., Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Miller, Christopher. Impostors: Literary Hoaxes and Cultural Authenticity. First, University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Myers, Robin, and Michael Harris. Fakes and Frauds: Varieties of Deception in Print and Manuscript (Publishing Pathways Series). Reprint, Oak Knoll Pr, 1996.

Olds, Katrina. Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain. Yale University Press, 2015.

Peirano, Irene. The Rhetoric of the Roman Fake: Latin Pseudepigrapha in Context. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Rebillard, Éric. The Early Martyr Narratives: Neither Authentic Accounts nor Forgeries (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion). University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

Ruthven, K. Faking Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Stephens, Walter, et al. Literary Forgery in Early Modern Europe, 1450–1800. Illustrated, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.

Near East

Muscarella, Oscar White. The Lie Became Great (Studies in the Art and Archaeology of Antiquity). Brill, 2000.


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The Ecosystem of Forgery

“The forgery culture is stratified and multi-facetted. It has a kinship system, a hierarchical structure, systems of gift exchange, laws, a coded language, judges and juries (usually the same), a police force. Its inhabitants include professors, curators, scientists, museum officials and trustees, dealers, smugglers, auction house employees, collectors, and forgers. An imperial culture, it colonizes other, more legitimate, cultures, drawing into its realm scholars, students, and the general public. It controls an extensive physical geography but possesses no moral geography. An appreciation of the spirit of its deeds suggests that many who participate in the culture’s activities function as a fifth column in the archaeological domain. Individuals function in this capacity willingly or as fellow travelers (because of the prestige, power, and financial support granted), some out of a fear (i.e. of losing one’s job or someone’s affection and support); others are more innocent or ignorant, not realizing they perform important tasks that help the culture to thrive.”
Oscar Muscarella (2000)[1, p.1]

This article contains some notes of mine on Oscar Muscarella’s The Lie Became Great (2000). It’s a book about Ancient Near Eastern forgeries that has a polemic introduction against what he calls “the forgery culture”. His book focuses on this culture in the art world (art museums and their staff, private collectors, students, scholars, etc…) but it would be interesting to hear or read about the presence of this culture in the field of literary history, which is a field I’m more interested and involved in. I’d imagine this discussion would focus more on libraries than art museums, but professors, students, scholars, and collectors would still play similar if not in some places identical roles.

The basis of The Lie Became Great was Oscar’s 1977 “Unexcavated Objects and Ancient Near Eastern Art”.[4, p.10]


The following stories only begin to scratch the surface of the forgery culture.

Starting on page 2 and ending on page 6, Oscar gave 25 anecdotes to give an introduction to the forgery culture. Here are my summaries of the anecdotes:

Page 2

1 – The first story he gave was about how the admins of a museum made an attempt to prevent the publication of an article that argued an object, not even in their possession, was a forgery. It belonged to someone who donated money and items to their museum. Naturally, they didn’t want to upset this donor and so made their attempt to suppress the press for this reason.

2 – Next, Oscar mentioned that he was aware of numerous museums that accepted donated forgeries knowing that they were forgeries. The knowledge of these items being forgeries is sometimes kept quiet from scholars and the public. The forgeries provide tax deductions and pose as financial duplicates of the real items, thereby exploiting the tax system.

3 – The next story was about the less common situation where the museum director keeps forgeries on display to assert power. This can also be done as an attempt to flex their unquestionable authority.

Page 3

4 – The fourth story was about the role loyalty plays in the forgery culture. A curator’s loyalty to their hirers, their institutions, or the object’s owner is one reason forgeries are kept on display. They might lose funding if any of these relations are damaged. Hence forgeries remain on display, unknown to be such to the public.

5 – Fifth was about how some collections would be so severely impacted by the removal of their forgeries that their departments and jobs would have to be eliminated. Since removing the forgeries from some collections would lessen their volume by over half in some cases.

6 – Sixth is that private notes are sometimes kept on known forgeries. One or all of the following are common:
a – no examinations allowed
b – the correct age is not to be announced
c – no mention of it being a forgery is allowed

This type of safeguard allows the forgery to survive, at least for those not in on the secret.

7 – Sometimes curators flex their power by refusing non-destructive testing of objects suspected of being forgeries. In this scenario, otherwise harmless scientific test are denied out of fear. There are various reasons for doing this, such as the protection of their reputation or that of someone they know.

8 – A number of collectors, curators, and dealers have all misrepresented laboratory test results to mask their items with false authenticity.

9 – An inscription was called into question and a scholar who otherwise would have spoken about it declined commenting so as to not upset the owner and other scholars who had already commented on it. This peer pressure results in the stunting of the growth of new scholarship, and allows forgeries to go unquestioned.

10 – Some scholars are discouraged from commenting on an object’s authenticity so as to not provoke negative reactions from employers and teachers. “They fear that its owner, exhibitor, publisher, or fellow-travelling scholars will seek revenge – deny jobs, internships, grants, recommendations, or affection, to themselves or their students.”[1, pp.3-4]

Page 4

11 – In one case, a professor threatened to fail a Ph.D student if the student didn’t remove from their dissertation comments about a collection harboring forgeries. You can be happy to know that this student did not have to compromise their interest and still received their Ph.D, albeit from a different school.

12 – In a different case, a student’s fellowship application was threatened by that student’s interest in forgeries. The student was told to abandon their interest but in the end the fellowship was approved and the interest was not abandoned.

13 – There was a time when a professor told their students not to ask a different professor about forgeries. If they didn’t follow the order, they could risk “…expulsion, a poor recommendation, or scorn.”[1, p.4]

14 – Another professor claimed that measures would be taken to prevent employment of any of his students who published about a known forgery that was not public knowledge.

15 – A lesser experienced scholar abstained from publishing about a suspected forgery so as to not upset a big name in their field. Again, this fear slows the progress of scholarship.

16 – A scholar rejected an invitation to write about an exhibition because the curator requested no questions about authenticity were to be raised. A less-knowledgeable scholar was eventually hired and no questions were raised.

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17 – A staff member at a museum was conducting a study on forgeries. The administration of his department attempted to intercept the work for review before publication but the effort was fruitless.

18 – Oscar’s 18th anecdote combined a number of stories. One was about a scholar who offered services to forge letters of authenticity for all types of items, real or fake. Another was a mention of dealers seeking out alleged experts, pseudo-experts for lack of a better term, for authenticating items and raising their perceived value. Lastly, he mentioned that there are people who lie about who exactly authenticated an item. Oscar mentioned hearing his own name inappropriately thrown out numerous times.

19 – Even laboratories will sometimes produce pseudo-scientific authentication reports.

20 – Scholars have defended the purchasing of forgeries as a necessary risk. This protects their creation and distribution.

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21 – Sometimes scholars unwittingly publish about forgeries. This helps perpetuate the culture by creating more content based on undetected illusion.

22 – Museum purchases can be intriguing and different people can have differing opinions about what happened during any particular case. This confusion allows for the culture to prosper.

23 – Oscar told a story about a museum director who did nothing to prevent his colleague from claiming at a symposium that well known item was a forgery. The director knew it was authentic and allowed the claim to be made so that it could be used to discredit his colleague in the future. In this case, the forgery has been weaponized by one person to hurt the future reputation of someone else. This is not helpful for scholarship, but it does remind me of that Napoleon Bonaparte quote,

“In that case,” said Napoleon, “let us wait twenty minutes; when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.”[2]

Basically saying, don’t interrupt your enemy when they’re making a mistake.

24 – The 24th story was the opposite of the previous one. A forgery was claimed to be authentic during a seminar and when this mistake was pointed out, the seminar’s professor said it didn’t matter because it was representative enough. In this way, the presence of the forgery was excused because it was close enough to the real deal that the presenters believed it could be used as an example.

25 – Lastly, an archeological club made up of university professors all agreed that buying forgeries was better than buying items that had been plundered, and also that they shouldn’t inform collectors and museums when they are considering purchasing or have purchased forgeries. This group effort strengthens the forgery culture and harms scholarship.


Apparently even Thomas Hoving is known to have forged at least one provenance. He did this in collusion with Hecht for the Euphronios krater, a beautiful Greek vase dating to c.515 BCE.[4, p.8]

To highlight the impact forgery culture can have, I’ll mention Oscar’s 1977 publication, “Ziwiye” and Ziwiye: The Forgery of a Provenience. In this article, he details the “Ziwiye Problem”.[5]

“Forgers are cognizant of museum practices and tailer their forgeries accordingly.”
Laurie Adams (2018)[4, p.34]


The Museum Ritual

“The Ritual is evoked for the sake of: the reputations of the curator, director, trustees, donor, colleagues, and for the sake of keeping from the public that it is paying the bills through tax deductible money – the latter being one of the best kept museum secrets.”
Oscar Muscarella (2000)[1, p.7]

Oscar began to briefly outline this ritual on pages 6 and 7, and provided a substantial footnote on pages 22 and 23. The Museum Ritual involves not feigning any sign of weakness in a collection.

He cited de Pradenne 1932 as a suitable example (the case of the tiara of Saitapharnes) of the Ritual but I didn’t see this listed in his bibliography. Regardless of that, I located the work being mentioned. It’s André Vayson de Pradenne’s Les Fraudes en archéologie préhistorique (Frauds in prehistoric archeology) (1932). This work is available to read for free online.[3] Oscar called this “still one of the best discussions of forgery and the forgery culture”.[1 p.9]

In the same footnote, Oscar provided some responses he’s gotten when telling museum staff that they purchased a forgery. They spanned from defending the forgery because it looks or seems real enough, to saying some people believe it’s genuine, to exaggerating the assertion, to ridiculing him. Quite the smorgasbord. I figure Oscar included this portion because it’s part of the ritual to normalize keeping quiet about or defending forgeries. This part reminded me of the somewhat opposite story related by Wolfgang Felton in chapter 9 (Falscherkunst/Forgery) where a French expert declared something to be fake for an unspecified feeling. I don’t think going with gut feeling is the best methodology, but it does seem to be somewhat common in both arguments for and against authenticity.

Another citation was John L Hess’ The Grand Acquisitors (1974). This book’s circulation was allegedly suppressed, assumedly because it discussed the role of museums in purchasing stolen, plundered, and forged art.

“Many curators of alleged ancient art are less educated than scholars and know and care little about scholarship, let alone archaeology.”
Oscar Muscarella (2000)[1, p.7]

Issue or Non-Issue?

Starting on page 7, Oscar goes into a great discussion about the debate on whether forgeries are an issue or not.

For discussion on the necessity of possessing forgeries, he cited: Pierre Amiet, Art et Histoire de I’Iran avant I’Islam (Louvre, 1978). Reportedly, in it, Amiet attacks the critics who claim that all “antiquities” acquired through the market are forgeries. Oscar points out that Amiet didn’t mention any by name, and that these alleged critics were non-existent.

The “bite-the-bullet, heroic role”[1, p.7] of purchasing forgeries for the greater good was presented by Arthur Upham Pope in 1939. The two works by Pope cited here are:

(1939) The General Problem of Falsifications, in III Congres International, Leningrad: 177-194

(1968) On the Discovery of Falsifications and the Recognition of Authenticity, in SPA XIII: A/1-A/10

Roman Girshman was mentioned as an associate of Amiet. His l’Art animalier aulique Achemenide (1976) was cited for recommended reading on the bite-the-bullet argument.

Oscar asserted that Pope’s publications were made to justify selling and purchasing forged antiquities, of which Pope was a dealer. As well as to pose as quick-guides on how to avoid being fooled. Ghirshman’s publication was made as a sale’s catalogue which denied the fact that forgeries exist at all.

Page 8

At the end of page 8, he begins discussion about those people who claim forgeries are not an issue. He gives names and publications to support his assertions.

Page 9

Oscar presented the results of reports estimating how many forgeries are in existence. He mentioned Hall (1990), which reported 600 objects each year are determined to be forgeries at Oxford University; Low (1993) estimated half of the “Marlik-like vessels on the market are forgeries”[1, p.9]; a powerhouse among the world’s largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, and collectibles, Sotheby reports about half of the objects brought to them are forgeries; and he tops it off with Norick (1993), which reported that about 25,000 pre-Columbian art forgeries enter the market annually.

Even Oscar’s enemy, Thomas Hoving apparently wasn’t shy about the number of fakes and questionable works. In 1996, Thomas reported that out of some 50,000 works he had examined over the course of 15 years, 40% or more of them were forgeries or at the least questionable. As for the literary field, and traveling back in time a bit, Anthony Grafton reported that an estimated 66% of all documents given to the clergy prior to 1100 were fakes.[7, p.24]



[1] – Muscarella, Oscar White. The Lie Became Great (Studies in the Art and Archaeology of Antiquity). Brill, 2000. Accessed 27 May 2021.

[2] – Investigator, Quote. “Never Interfere With an Enemy While He’s in the Process of Destroying Himself” (6 Jul. 2010). Accessed 28 May 2021.

[3] – Pradenne, André Vayson. Les Fraudes En Archéologie Préhistorique. Nourry, 1932. Accessed 29 May 2021.

[4] – Simpson, Elizabeth. The Adventure of the Illustrious Scholar (Culture and History of the Ancient Near East). Lam, BRILL, 2018. Accessed 29 May 2021.

[5] – Muscarella, O. W. (1977). “Ziwiye” and Ziwiye: The Forgery of a Provenience. Journal of Field Archaeology, 4(2), 197–219. doi:10.1179/jfa.1977.4.2.197. Accessed 30 May 2021.

[6] – Hoving, Thomas. False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes. 1st ed., Simon & Schuster, 1996. Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

[7] – Grafton, Anthony, and Ann Blair. Forgers and Critics, New Edition: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship. New, Princeton University Press, 2019. Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.

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Top Five Books About Forgery, Best Nonfiction For Beginners

The sea of books dedicated to the topic of forgery is vast. Some of these books are brilliant, others not so much. My list of top five nonfiction books about forgery helps you navigate into some of the most rewarding literature this genre has to offer.

This list was made for people who have not spent much time looking into the subject of forgery. It largely focuses on literary forgery because that is the type of which is most currently most fascinating to me. However, it there are books included here that deal with the field more broadly, covering general aspects of forgery, hoaxes, and other aspects of deceptive practices.

Grafton 2019

Grafton, Anthony, and Ann Blair. Forgers and Critics, New Edition: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship. New, Princeton University Press, 2019.

This book, originally published in 1990 and based on a lecture from 1988, helped establish the study of forgery as a distinct field within literary studies. Written by the renowned scholar of Renaissance and early modern Europe, Anthony Grafton, it is a short book (composed of less than 200 pages) that beautifully presents superb information. The new edition, published in 2019, has a foreword written by the marvelous Ann Blair and an afterwards by its original author. This book is affordable and is an excellent place for anyone new to this genre to begin.

Nickell 2009

Nickell, Joe. Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication. University Press of Kentucky, 2009. JSTOR, Accessed 19 May 2021.

This book was published in 2009 and is a great introductory work into the work of authentication, determining whether an object is real or fake. The book is split into three main parts, (1) documents, (2) photographs, and (3) other artifacts. Each part opens with a general overview chapter followed by chapters that deal with objects that Joe has personally helped with authenticating. Some of the more popular cases he discusses are the Diary of Jack the Ripper and Lincoln’s Lost Gettysburg Address.

Freeman 2014

Freeman, Arthur. Bibliotheca Fictiva, A Collection of Books & Manuscripts Relating to Literary Forgery, 400 BC – AD 2000. Bernard Quaritch, 2014.

Arthur Freeman’s Bibliotheca Fictiva (2014) is a beautifully composed record of the contents of the library him and his wife amassed over the course of about 50 years. The first half is in narrative form and takes you on a trip exploring 2,500 years worth of different forgers, forgeries, and critics from various parts of the Western world. The second half is a catalogue of the 1,676 items that they had in their library in 2014 when the book was published. This book is a bit more expensive but is well worth the read and the continual reference for this genre.

Becker 2018

Becker, Daniel, et al., editors. Faking, Forging, Counterfeiting: Discredited Practices at the Margins of Mimesis. Transcript Verlag, 2018. JSTOR, Accessed 19 May 2021.

This book is mainly a collection of 13 essays that address numerous aspects of deception. The work is 260 pages and is open-access, which means you can read it for free right now if you want to, just click the link in the citation above to access it. Henry Keazor’s introduction is ideal for anyone who’s new to the concept and reality of forgery because it discusses the difficulties that arise when labeling items as forgeries. Two of the chapters that I found to be particularly entertaining were Jacqueline Hylkema’s account of the montebank and Manuel Mühlbacher’s entry on Voltaire.

Stephens 2019

Stephens, Walter, et al. Literary Forgery in Early Modern Europe, 1450–1800. Illustrated, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.

This book is also mainly a collection of 13 essays. However, the scope is more limited due to it focusing solely on European literary forgery between 1450 and 1800. Both Anthony Grafton and Arthur Freeman (two of the authors listed above) have a chapter included in this approximately 270 page book. Arthur’s bit contains a thought-provoking portion about how to define forgery and Grafton’s an informative section on the sources used for deception by the archforger Annius of Viterbo.


Bonus Mentions

Ruthven, K. (2001). Faking Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511483202

Ehrman, Bart. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2012.

Martínez, Javier. Fakes and Forgers of Classical Literature. Brill, 2014.

Havens, Earle. Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries: Rare Books and Manuscripts from the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection. Second, Revised, Sheridan Libraries, 2014.

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