098: Great Forgers and Famous Fakes by Charles Hamilton

by Gerard


098.3: Hamilton, Charles. Great Forgers and Famous Fakes: The Manuscript Forgers of American and How They Duped the Experts. New York: Random House, 1988. 268 pp ISBN 0-5175-4076-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 000: Computer Science, Knowledge, and General Works
  • 090: Manuscripts, rare books, or other rare printed materials
  • 098: Prohibited works, forgeries, and hoaxes
  • 098.3: Forgeries and hoaxes

There are innumerable people in this world who are just looking to make a quick buck, no matter the ethics or consequences. In the literary world, there are those who try to sell stolen rarities that they’ve pilfered from museums and private collections. Others still, simply create them from thin air. Thousands of autographs and letters are “found” every year and released onto the market. For every ne’er-do-well, however, there is somebody trying to call them out for it. For a while, the one of the world’s best authenticators was Charles Hamilton. He recounts some of his more interesting cases in Great Forgers and Famous Fakes.

Hamilton’s whirlwind tour of almost every known famous forger in history is thoroughly entertaining (if you’re into that sort of thing). At times, he seems a bit pompous and conceited, but I guess that comes with dealing with all forms of deceit and fakery (even jailing a few of them). The book has an incredible number of illustrative examples and comparisons between authentic and forged writing samples and signatures. He takes the reader through accounts of faked Frost poems, presidential autographs, and other tales of chicanery. He’s not perfect, though: one forger did manage to slip one past him. All in all, this book makes for a nice, light weekend read.